AGRICULTURAL INFORMATION SOURCES AND THE PRODUCTION CAPACITY OF CASSAVA FARMERS IN AKWA IBOM NORTH WEST SENATORIAL DISTRICT
1.1 Background of the Study
Human race is totally dependent on agriculture and information, and as the world population continues to grow, there must be continuous reassessment of agricultural practices to optimize their efficiency and productivity. In the quest for human capital development especially to help developing countries like Nigeria to reduce poverty and promote food security, improvement of agricultural produce was chosen as a major means of poverty alleviation. Therefore, different programmes were initiated at different times in different locations to provide agricultural information to the rural and urban farmers towards boosting their production capacity. Nigeria was privileged to be one of such chosen countries for these agricultural project, such projects were carried out by different bodies such as the technical centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (TCARC) which was established in 1983 with the mandate of developing and providing services that will improve access to information for enhancing agricultural production (Olawu, 2008). It was aimed at enabling local farmers to access, acquire, exchange and utilize information in all areas of agricultural produce to boost production.
Capacity can be defined as the maximum output that a business can produce in a given period with the available resources. Production capacity is usually measured in production units such as in kilograms. The production capacity of agricultural produce is determined by a plan, in terms of the production list and assortment, as well as quantitative relationships. The plan is based on the fullest utilization of agricultural information, production machines and equipment, planting space, advanced technology and organization of labour. Production capacity in this context can be defined as the maximum output of cassava that a farmer can produce in a given period with the available resources at his disposal.
In recent times, attention has been focused on the provision of agricultural information to all the farmers as well as agricultural information user population and not restricted to research scientists, as is the case in most agricultural libraries in Nigeria. The provision of agricultural information to extension officers and farmers through libraries, extension agent, televisions, radio, neighbors, friends, cooperative societies, posters, newspaper and pamphlets are neglected by the cassava farmers and this also hinders increase agricultural production of cassava in Nigeria and Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District in particular.
Cassava is a popular energy food in most of the tropics where its production and yield are prolific. It has replaced yam and cocoyam as the number one carbohydrate source and is said to provide up to 40% of all the calories consumed in Africa. The International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) collaborate in the development and promotion of the crop in view of its potentials.
Other than being a major staple, cassava is a prime source of starch for both food and industrial purposes. In the form of chips or pellets it is becoming more important in world commerce as a relatively cheap energy feed source for ruminants and other livestock (poultry and pigs). The leaves have been used as vegetables in some parts of Africa, and goats relish it especially. Mass media such as television and radio have assumed a major function of disseminating improved agricultural technologies about farm matters with farmers. Agricultural information sources are necessary if farmers have to advance beyond their present level of production. A steady flow of accurate, understandable, timely, factual information links the scientists with the farmer through the various sources like extension agents, posters, pamphlets and friends that communicate such agricultural information.
Some studies have however revealed that extension officers and farmers in both local and urban communities need updated information just as much as research scientists and policy makers (Lawini, 2009). Nigeria has an elaborate agricultural research system and far reaching innovations that are capable of improving the farmers agricultural production of crops like cassava and boosting the nation’s economic development, unfortunately, most of these innovations do not get to the farmers as a result of lack of agricultural information conveying agent and sources. Agricultural information can enable local farmers adopt modern system of farming as well as apply relevant agricultural tools to improve crop production especially cassava.
Limited access to agricultural information was therefore identified as one of the most serious constraints to agricultural development in Nigeria. According to Okwu and Obime (2008), the problem of agricultural production and development in Nigeria, like many other developing countries of the world, lies with the rate of transfer of improved agricultural technologies and information to farmers and not with lack of the technologies. He further attributed limited access to agricultural information by Nigerian farmers to lack of effective agricultural information dissemination machinery. Due to its initial role, information dissemination to rural farmers should be an integral part of any country’s development initiative and so, appropriate media or means to be used to effectively reach the local farmers must be specified (Yahaya, 2009). Production of cassava in Nigeria can be optimized through effective and sound information sources; this can be realized by using several communication methods, which include television, radio, neighbours, friends, cooperative societies, posters, newspapers and others. These communication methods if effectively used can meet the need of the farmers by promoting the yield of cassava production. They can be used to provide relevant information on planting methods of cassava, improved cassava stems or cuttings, appropriate modern tools of farming, weeds and pest control methods. One other effective method is the use of agricultural extension agents that can go to local communities and provide seminars and workshop on good planting methods and crop breeding, particularly on cassava, since cassava is predominant source of food in Nigeria (William, 2010).
It would be pertinent and achievable for agricultural information to be provided in the local dialects in the respective communities in Nigeria. Those who cannot read and write can receive information from professional agriculturists in their respective local dialects. It has been observed that wide cultural differences between communicators and farmers in local communities act to impede agricultural information sources. Language incompatibility between the information disseminators and the farmers apply not only in terms of dialect, but also in appropriateness and compatibility of words and differences in their interpretations.
It is worthy to note that most rural farming remains largely in the hands of peasant farmers who primarily depend on old traditional ways of farming, whose information needs are not met and also lack relevant strategies, tools and techniques for modern farming, Adomi (2008), observes that these category of farmers live in the rural areas and they lack necessary information and awareness on better tools, and implementation strategies that can improve their means of farming method, marketing and food sufficiency, particularly in cassava. It is therefore believed that useful information dissemination to rural and urban farmers through different media and method will create effective awareness to farmers and set the pace for improving cassava production in Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District, Akwa Ibom State and Nigeria at large. Accordingly, the Agricultural Development Programme (ADPs) in Nigeria which work in conjunction with Agricultural Institutions and Faculties of Agriculture in Nigerian Universities have made available many agricultural technologies (packages) and improved cassava cultivars for farmers to use and adopt for increase production of cassava. Whereas these agricultural technologies have to pass through many sources to reach the farmers, it is evident that most cassava farmers are not in receipt of these technologies and improved cultivars, which is due to a large extent on the speed with which the technologies are transferred from their sources to the ultimate units of their utilization, so that the users clearly understand, accept and apply them to their day-to-day practices. This speed of transfer and adoption of improved cassava varieties and technologies depends on the sources through which information about them are passed.
Jibowo (1992), asserted that in advance countries such as the United State of America, mass media channels are said to be the most important source of agricultural information to the farmers, whereas in Nigeria, which is a developing country, the extension agent is said to be the most important source of information on adoption of innovation closely followed by the mass media, with radio assuming a great importance.
The importance of agriculture in the economy of Nigeria is profound. Despite the growth of industries, oil and commerce it continues to be the principal economic activity of the peoples of Nigeria. Thus 70% of the people are engaged in agriculture but more than 70% of this farm at subsistence level. The Food and Agriculture Organization, FAO (2004) suggested that in order to enhance agricultural development, new commodities and new methods of production must be developed. In Nigeria, there are various agencies, research institutes, agricultural universities/Colleges and non-governmental organizations that generate innovations and improved farm practices or technologies.
The primary function of the dissemination component (agricultural extension, agricultural change agencies, and private extension organizations) is the transformation of the agricultural sector of the national economy through promotion of rapid adoption and utilization of improved farming technologies by the utilization component – the farmers. The quantum of agricultural technology information available in the Nigerian systems developed by research institutes, and faculties of agriculture in universities is quite enormous.
Research institutes must also disseminate their findings through extension agent to the target group; the farmers, while receiving feedback to indicate that communication were successful. The feedback is expected to expose areas requiring modification or further enquiry. Information source is an institution or individual that creates or brings about a message (Statrasts, 2004). The characteristics of a good information sources are relevance, timely, accuracy, reliability, usability, exhaustiveness and aggregation level (Statrast, 2004). The efficiency of technologies generated and disseminated depends on effective communication which is the key process of information dissemination. The development of agricultural technologies requires among other inputs, a timely and systematic transmission of useful and relevant agricultural information (messages), through relatively well educated technology dissemination (Extension) for formal technology generation system (research) via various communication media (channels) to the intended audience – farmers (Ekumankama, 2002).
It is expected that the message from the client (farmer) be passed back to the source or research institution (feedback) for the communication process to be complete. Despite the attempt at technological innovation transfer, the wide gap between the levels of production which research contends is attainable and that which farmers achieve suggests a missing link. In any parts of the developed world such as Europe and the United States of America (USA), agriculture is highly efficient industry and continues to demonstrate annual increase in productivity. In contrast, many developing countries like Nigeria are still not self-sufficient in food, particularly cassava production due to many reasons such as lack of access to agricultural information, practices, hostile climate and others. Many developing societies are intrinsically poor and lack the ability to take advantage of new technologies hence they suffer from food crisis situation.
According to Yahaya (2000) the diffusion and adoption of innovations remains the back bone of the expected development in agriculture. Yahaya (2000) noted that development and production of relevant and appropriate technologies is one of the pre-requisites for sustainable agricultural production particularly, cassava. Others include dissemination of these technologies as well as their eventual utilization. Nigeria government has addressed the issue of development of appropriate technologies through the establishment of research institutes and creation of universities of technologies and agriculture. Over the years, the national and international research institutes have ‘churned out’ numerous publications that are usually intended for extension agents and farmers.
It is now evident from all the Research-Extension-Farmers –Inputs-Linkage System (REFILS) workshops being organized in each of the country’s agricultural zones, that research institutes with mandate of different crops have over time accumulated a lot of technologies for improving agricultural practices in the country, Nigeria. Extension services are essentially communicative. It is therefore recommended that extension services are communication link to create network for sharing knowledge and experience.
According to Akumankama (2010), sustainable agricultural production of cassava and development will continue to elude Nigeria unless appropriate innovations are effectively communicated to the farming population. Communication plays a major role in human development especially in agriculture. Communication includes those situation in which a source transmits a message to a receiver with conscious intent to affect the latter’s behaviour. It is a vital part of personal life and also important in different fields such as business, education, agriculture, rural development and other situation where people encounter each other. Unlike message sending, communication requires response of others. There must be sharing of meaning for effective communication to take place (Baron, 2002).
According to Ekumankma (2002), the poor exposure of farmers to appropriate agricultural information is one of the major reasons for low yield recorded by many Nigerian farmers. This has been of great concern to agricultural communicators, administrators and policy makers in the country over the years. To sustain this development, it becomes imperative that information on improve technologies cassava varieties be provided through mass media, friends, extension agents, pamphlets and other means. This is because information is the driving and sustaining force behind agricultural development strategy.
In agriculture, the role of information in enhancing agricultural development cannot be over emphasized. Information is vital for increasing production and improving marketing and distribution strategies (Oladele, 2006). Information also opens windows of sharing experiences, best practices, sources of financial aids and new marketing strategy. As posited by Mugabe (2003) information sources such as radio, television, extension agent has a vital role to play in improving and sustaining agricultural production of any nation.
For cassava farmers, they need information on cassava farming technologies and management, breeds and spawning, processing, storage and marketing. Access to agricultural information is very essential for increased productivity by cassava farmers. In Nigeria agricultural information is available through television, radio, newspapers, magazines and friends (Irfan, 2006). They are available in many agricultural research institutes and school of agriculture in the universities as well as the federal and state ministries of agriculture. Many previous studies agree that the problem of farmers is access to agricultural information; and that even with the advent of information technologies which has succeeded in eliminating bottlenecks in information dissemination; constraints to access information is still a real experience, (Oladele, 2006).
The use of radio and television are very important media of information dissemination to local farmers in the sense that they broadcast the news on modern farming technique daily. Local farmers who show interest in listening to news and watching television could obtain useful information that can enable them improve on the present agricultural produce. Television allows information to be produced in pictures, which the local farmers are motivated to view them.
Cooperative society, friends and agricultural extension agents are information dissemination sources that provide agricultural information to farmers by contact. Thus, farmer’s can talk with them physically and interactively, feedback can be obtained.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Presently in Akwa Ibom State and Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District in particular, cassava serves as one of the staple food, yet the farmers are not able to produce enough to meet the demand of the increasing population. The farmers are producing below the required capacity, the situation which has resulted in scarcity of food. Although cassava is planted all year round, the farmers are yet to meet the food needs in Akwa Ibom State.
Over the years farmers have depended on indigenous or local technologies for farming. Such technologies refer to skills and experience gained through oral tradition and practice over many generations. Acquisitions of such primitive skills such as farmers poor knowledge of better planting distances of 1metre by 1metre and one cutting of about seven nodes per stand, which should be treated with ‘Termex’ of three mills per litre of water before planting the cassava cuttings to avoid being destroyed by termites pose a threat to cassava production. The use of local varieties of disease prone, long maturation period and low yielding potential also contribute to low productivity. Whereas there are recently developed varieties of improved cassava cuttings such as TMS – 50395, TMS – 92b0068, TMS – 920326 and the most current pro-vitamin-A cassava cutting which are newly introduced varieties that are more disease resistant, high-yielding and of better starch quality not used.
Moreover, most farmers cannot access improved agricultural innovations through television and radio because they are conservative, and ignorance of agricultural programme or announcement made through those sources. Their poor financial status also contributes to the low production of cassava in Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District. For instance, majority of them do not have the ability to purchase these improved cassava varieties and some of the agro-chemical required for the treatment of these cuttings before planting in the field to avoid termite attack. Recently, the Federal Government through the Federal Ministry of Agriculture has ordered that every farmer should register with their respective federal ministry of agriculture for proper data and bi-metric capturing to ascertain the actual number of farmers, but due to their poor financial status most of the farmers cannot pay their transport fare to Federal Secretariat, Uyo for the registration exercise.
Illiteracy is also identified as one of the factors that contribute to the inability of farmers to access, apply and adopt the various technologies recommended by the agricultural development programme. Other sources of agricultural information such as pamphlet, posters, magazine and journals cannot be utilized by the local farmers since they cannot read to obtain facts on modern agricultural practices to improved productivity. Above all, farmers poor relationship with the agricultural development programmes agencies and their extension agents also hinders the production of cassava in Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District because most of the farmers attitude towards agricultural innovations are not encouraging, some of them believe in the inherited agricultural practices which has resulted in the unimpressive yield performance of cassava within this Senatorial District.
Farmers are ignorance of those innovations concerning new improved cassava varieties multiplied in different seed multiplication centers of Agricultural Development Programme in the state, such as the one in IKot Ekang, in Abak Zone of AKADEP. Poor farmer’s relationship with the extension agent, poor level of education and their low financial status also constitute to the low productivity of cassava.
1.3 Purposes of the Study
The main purpose of the study is to determine the influence of agricultural information sources on the production capacity of cassava farmers in Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District. Specifically this study sought to:
1.4 Significance of the Study
The findings of this study would place the communicators of agricultural technologies in the position to know the appropriate source through which information on agricultural innovations (technologies) should be transferred to easily reach the targeted farmers. This is because improved agricultural technologies that are transferred through various sources or outlets but are not available to farmers cannot be practiced.
The findings of this study would also help policy makers in media campaign and decision making. The findings of this work would add to literature on extension communication in Akwa Ibom State, as well as provide information for mass media organizations in the state to improve their services.
It would also lead to improvement in adoption of agricultural innovations by cassava farmers and consequent increase in agricultural production of the crop under study, resulting in the improvement of the economy of the farmers, the state and the nation at large. The findings of the study would expose the farmers to knowing the various agricultural information sources such as television, radio, friends, agricultural cooperative society, print media and extension agent which they should effectively link with in order to benefit from the useful agricultural innovations and technologies needed to improve the yield of their cassava production which would in-turn increase their financial status and make live more meaningful to them through their ability to accept innovations.
The findings of this work would also add to the body of knowledge in this aspect of agricultural information sources for the benefit of other researchers as it would remain a reference point. Moreover the findings would be of significance to the Ministry of Agriculture, the farmers, teachers and students as it would help the teachers improved on their instructional methods as well as improve student’s skills in cassava production.
The findings will stimulate the passion of the government and Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperative to implement the plan of action such as newly introduced cassava varieties and fertilizer locations in providing agricultural information to local farmers using appropriate information sources.
More so, it would make government aware of the necessity of agricultural information sources needs in transferring modern agricultural technologies, practices and other relevant support to local farmers by improving the funding of extension agencies and the welfare of their agents.
Government through Ministry of Agriculture would benefit from the findings of the study as it would enhance the skill labourer performance in crop production.
1.5 Research Questions
The following research questions guided the study.
1.6 Null Hypotheses
The following null hypotheses guided the study and were tested at .05 level of significance:
1.7 Delimitation of the Study
This study is delimited to Agricultural information sources and the production capacity of cassava farmers in Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District, which is made up of ten Local Government Areas of Ikot Ekpene, Essien Udim, Obot Akara, Ikono, Ini, Abak, Etim Ekpo, Ika, Oruk Anam and Ukanafun Local Government Areas. However, the research is also delimited to radio, television, cooperative society, extension agents, friends and print media as sources of agricultural information to farmers.AGRICULTURAL INFORMATION SOURCES AND THE PRODUCTION CAPACITY OF CASSAVA FARMERS IN AKWA IBOM NORTH WEST SENATORIAL DISTRICT