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Social Factors That Influence Use of ICT in Agricultural Extension in Southern Africa

Pietro Aldobrandini's picture

A study by Joyous S. Tata and Paul E. McNamara of the Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics (ACE), University of Illinois Urbana Champaign.

Farmbook is a novel information communication technology (ICT) tool for agricultural extension that is currently being field tested by the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) in Southern and East Africa. Farmbook enables extension agents to assess productivity and profitability of farming enterprises in a faster and more reliable manner, so as to increase farmer incomes and achieve food security. This study looked at the relationship between challenges faced by extension agents testing the Farmbook application and select socio-economic indicators influencing their work. Specific objectives were to identify and categorize the challenges facing extension agents in the field as they used Farmbook, assess gender differences in the use of Farmbook by extension agents, understand the relationship between socio-economic status of extension agents and the challenges faced in using Farmbook. Data were collected through document reviews, administration of a structured questionnaire and focus group meetings with field agents. Descriptive statistics and multivariate techniques were used to analyze data. The results show that personal and wider socio-economic conditions do have an impact on the proficiency of extension agents using Farmbook. The study goes on to recommend measures to improve the training and ICT proficiency of extension agents adopting Farmbook.

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