THE USE OF MOBILE PHONES IN AGRICULTURAL EXTENSION DELIVERY IN THE EASTERN REGION, GHANA

ABSTRACT
The Ministry of Food and Agriculture has adopted mobile phone for extension delivery. However, much was unknown the competencies and frequency of mobile phone use by farmers and extension agents. The study used descriptive correlation design to assess mobile phone use in agricultural extension delivery in Eastern Region, Ghana. Multi-stage sampling and structured interview schedule were used to collect data from 95 AEAs and 330 farmers. Statistical tools such as frequencies, percentages, means, standard deviation, correlation coefficients, T-test and stepwise multiple linear regression were used to analysis the data. The study revealed that socioeconomic, mobile phone background characteristics of farmers and AEAs relate to frequent use of mobile phone for extension delivery. Farmers and AEAs use voice call mobile phone application but differently in extension delivery. Differences exist between AEAs and farmers’ competency in the use of mobile phone. While amount of money spent per week and quality of network reception are important factors that influence the frequent use of mobile phone by farmers that of AEAs include type of phone, income, and age. High call tariffs and access to recharge credit were main challenges to using mobile phone for extension. The study recommends among others the need for MoFA to provide training on the use of mobile phone applications and incentives for farmers and AEAs to use mobile phone. Furthermore, more youthful AEAs and females should be recruited as AEAs.

CHAPTER ONE
INTRODUCTION
Background to the Study
This chapter presents the background of the study in a general context. It also looks at the statement of the problem, justification of the study, general and specific objectives of the study, research questions, hypothesis, delimitations, limitations and definition of variables.

In this era of globalization, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has become a powerful tool for improving delivery service and enhancing local development opportunities (Gorstein, 2003). Historically, traditional forms of ICTs have been used in advisory service provision.

ICTs, according to the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA, 2003), are technologies which facilitate communication and thus the processing and transmission of information electronically. Akpabio, Okon and Inyang (2007) classified ICTs as technologies and methods for storing, managing and processing as well as communicating information. ICT is an umbrella term that includes anything ranging from radio to satellite imagery to mobile phones or electronic money transfers. ICTs are ideally suited to the task that enhanced interaction because they can expand communication, cooperation and ultimately innovation among actors in the agricultural sector. ICTs, especially mobile phones can and do drive participatory communication. It empowers individuals and institutions to create access and use knowledge and to communicate in unprecedented ways (Heeks & Molla, 2009). It therefore enough that ICT types range from web enabled network technologies as well as technologies comprising computers, telecommunications and audio visuals. It includes mobile phones, e-mail, television, radio, personal computers and the internet. As stated by Annor- Frempong, Kwarteng, Agunga and Zinnah (2006), ICTs can be seen as a practical tool of facilitating information delivery and knowledge sharing as it is seen in Ghana and in other parts of the world.

Ghana’s ICT4AD initiative is the government’s long-term strategy for expanding the agricultural sector, initiated in 2003. Its ultimate goal is to transform Ghana into middle-income, information rich, knowledge based and technologically driven economy and society. Many of the programme’s objectives focus on the betterment of individuals which calls for the inclusion of ICT in human resource development, education, health and the country’s largest employer-the agricultural sector Ghana Statistics Service [ GSS] (2003 ). The agricultural sector currently contributes 23% to Ghana’s Gross Domestic Product and employs about 58% of the economically active population (GSS, 2013).

World Bank (2007) highlighted that access to ICT can have a tremendous positive impact on sustainable development and poverty reduction. Extension services help to disseminate information regarding the technology relevant for their geographical areas and cropping system to generate awareness among farmers by recommending the appropriate quantity and quality of inputs and their timely use. It also educates farmers about good agricultural practices and crop management (Arokoyo, 2005; & Jirli, 2011).

But in sub-Saharan countries and in some regions, recent stagnation has caused a total breakdown of extension services which has led to large gaps in the farm yield and crop productivity (McNamara, 2005). In addition, insufficient extension services and poor access to information have impeded the transfer of technology at the farm level. Therefore, extension agents’ knowledge and skills are vital to carrying out effective and efficient extension work. Information needs are growing rapidly with the introduction of modern technology, hybrid seeds and changing climatic conditions. Thus, farmers often find that their traditional knowledge, experience and trial and error to make decisions for day-to-day activities are not very effective in changing conditions (McNamara, 2005).

The high cost of delivering information through face-to-face interaction, crumbling extension services and poor market information has paved the way for the use of modern information and communication technology (ICT) like mobile phones in disseminating agricultural information to targeted farmers. Meera, Jhamtani and Rao (2004) noted that old ways of delivering important agricultural information to clients has been transformed; since the advent of new pattern of agricultural development. They also stated that as dynamic and complex as the world has become, the extension agent must look ahead and align himself so as to take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves and to deal with challenges when they come. Therefore, extension agent should think outside the box by continually updating and building on their information needs to enhance their service delivery.

The use of mobile phone for information dissemination has direct bearing on dissemination of agricultural information. For example, the e-extension programme being rolled out by Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) aims to make available timely and relevant agricultural information for actors in the sector. The e-extension is one of government’s initiatives for the development of the agricultural sector under the Medium Term Agricultural Sector Investment Plan (METASIP) which runs from 2011-2015. Its goals are associated with global, regional and national development strategies such as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the Ghana Shared Growth and Development Agenda (GSGDA). These METASIP hope to achieve effective communication through the use of mobile phones. In Ghana, the Global System of Mobile communication (GSMC) has a large market size that cuts across both the urban and rural areas. While the number connected mobile phones rose from 212,548 in 2000 to 284,981 in 2012, the total number of connected mobile phones in the country currently is about 30,629,604 National Communication Authority [NCA] (2014). Coinciding with the growth in coverage of telecommunication, there has been an increase in mobile phone adoption and usage by rural farmers, despite their resource poor conditions.

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Item Type: Ghanaian Postgraduate Material  |  Attribute: 157 pages  |  Chapters: 1-5
Format: MS Word  |  Price: GH50  |  Delivery: Within 30Mins.
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