ICTs and smallholder farmers’ livelihood improvement in Tanzania builds on secondary data sources and in-depth interviews to explore the role of ICTs in promoting agricultural productivity and improving farmers’ livelihood in Tanzania. The study uses fsQCA to analyze conditions that dictate smallholders’ reliance on ICT tools to transform agricultural practices, increase productivity and improve their livelihoods.
Smallholder Famers Use ICT for Extension Services
It has been observed that ICTs play a significant role in transforming the agricultural sector and rural livelihoods in Tanzania, mainly by helping access agricultural knowledge and technologies (extension services) and providing market, weather, and financial service information to smallholder farmers.
The search for agricultural knowledge forces most smallholder farmers to opt for ICT tools as their alternative source of agricultural information following the limited number of public extension service agents. As our analysis shows, the search for agricultural knowledge has a high consistency level (0.9) as compared to the market (0.7), weather (0.4), and finance (0.2).
ICTs help address the limited number of advisory and extension service workers and help the few extension agents serve many farmers within a short period. With the increasing mobile phone access and use, for example, most farmers in Tanzania use mobile information to access agriculture information more than other ICT tools like radio, television, and the internet.
Convenience in getting agricultural information, communication and money transfer make it easier for smallholder farmers to use mobile phones than any other ICT tools. Besides that, a mobile phone is a multipurpose tool that can be used as a radio and a device that could help to access information through internet services.
FM Radio is a Key ICTforAg Technology
However, in some cases, access to and use of mobile phones does not necessarily mean the smallholders’ familiarity with the existing mobile agro-advisory services. This implies that capacity building for the farmers on the linkage between mobile phone usage and access to agro-based information needs to be strengthened.
Radio has also been reported to play a great role in agricultural development in Tanzania. With the rapid surge of local radio stations (those covering small areas like a township, district, or region/province) as a result of market liberalization, locally based agricultural-related information has been increasingly communicated to and utilized by the local farmers through extension workers or farmer-farmer sharing of agricultural experience and success stories.
Compared to other ICT tools, radios, particularly community radio stations, can be used to disseminate agricultural information needed in a specific locality and help smallholder farmers improve agricultural practices. The application of radios in accessing agricultural information is the most cost-effective compared to other ICT tools.
However, it is vivid that no one size fits all. The combination of different ICT tools and other mechanisms in communicating agricultural information would be of great importance to ensure efficiency and effectiveness in disseminating agricultural information, transforming smallholder agriculture and the livelihoods of smallholder farmers.
Recommendation: Invest in FM Radio for Farmers
The study situates the nexus between the use of ICT tools, increased agricultural productivity and farmers’ livelihood outcomes in the wider context of Africa and other developing countries that share similar social, economic, political and technological characteristics like that of Tanzania.
This paper suggests that Tanzania should strengthen ICT infrastructure in rural settings and build capacity for smallholder farmers to link ICT with agricultural transformation. By strengthening ICT infrastructure, for example, smallholder farmers will increase the ability to obtain timely and appropriate agricultural information and widen the market through online marketing platforms (e-commerce), which are booming in many parts of developing countries.
In this case, the agricultural extension department from the Ministry of Agriculture should work closely with telecom, broadcasting companies and other stakeholders to strengthen and initiate more appropriate ICT services targeting smallholder farmers. We also recommend increasing the number of community and local radio stations that highly focus on disseminating agriculture knowledge to the local smallholder farmers and hence help to improve agriculture, lift the marginalized rural population out of poverty and improve their livelihoods.
Since agriculture is the mainstay of the country’s economy, we also recommend an increasing number of sessions related to agriculture on national radio and T.V. stations. These sessions should cover issues related to agriculture knowledge and technologies, marketing, weather and climate, and information on accessing agricultural credits.
Contents and presentations on agro-advisory knowledge in these radio and T.V. sessions should be offered by professionals, including extension officers, academics, market professionals, farmers, and others who are essential in the agricultural value chain.
A lightly edited conclusion from ICTs and smallholder farmers’ livelihood improvement in Tanzania by Gabriel Kanuti Ndimbo, Lerong Yu, and Andam Andin Ndi Buma of China Agricultural University
Now Read These Related Posts