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Exploring the Promise of ICTs for Women Farmers in Kenya

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Access to information and the creation of knowledge are key drivers of social and economic transformation. In agriculture, new information and knowledge fuel innovation and increase productivity and competitiveness. The ability of farmers to participate in and benefit from growth in the sector is linked to their ability to adopt new practices, solve problems and embed themselves dynamically in agricultural value chains. Farmers, both men and women, need to be connected to the communication channels through which appropriate information is flowing. Farmers currently access information through a complex web of social networks that include other farmers, family members, extension agents and input supply dealers. Yet for many farmers, these networks lack the type of information that can help them to move confidently into more productive strategies.

The possibility that ICTs can extend the reach of existing information channels also means that they can be used to overcome barriers that currently limit women farmers’ access to information. Research has long documented how women’s  lack of access to land, information, credit and other productive resources has limited their potential as farmers, thereby reducing overall gains in agriculture (FAO, 2011).  Like men’s, women farmers’ information channels are also built on social networks. Their networks are often smaller than men’s, so they offer fewer opportunities for learning about new productive and commercial opportunities (Sebstad and Manfre, 2011).

Using ICTs to reach women  farmers could contribute to improving farming practices and close gender gaps in yields and productivity if they are designed and used to overcome gender-specific constraints. Paying more attention to the differences in how men and  women farmers currently access information may provide insight into how ICTs can be used to more efficiently deliver agricultural messages.


Authors:

Cristina Manfre and Caitlin Nordehn
Cultural Practice, LLC
MEAS Case Study # 4, August 2013