AGRICULTURAL INFORMATION NEEDS AND INFORMATION SEEKING AMONG URBAN VEGETABLE FARMERS IN THE LA DADE-KOTOPON MUNICIPALITY

527

ABSTRACT

Farmers’ access to relevant and useful agricultural information is key to improving their productivity. Research shows that the information needs of farmers differ and that the behaviour of farmers in seeking information is as varied as their production systems. The study was conducted to identify the information needs and assess the information seeking behaviour of urban vegetable farmers whose activities supplement the food needs of an increasingly urbanised population in sub-Saharan Africa. The study employed quantitative methodology and collected secondary and primary data in the La Dade-Kotopon municipality. Secondary data was collected from the Directorate of agriculture of the municipal assembly and primary data was then elicited from 60 vegetable farmers in the municipality using face-to- face interviews on their information search activities in the previous six months. Results were analysed using means, frequencies and chi-square, and were presented using descriptive statistics. The majority of farmers (62%) reported a need for information for their agricultural activities. This need for information had no significant relationship with the farmers’ age, educational level, sex, major occupation, and their membership in farmer associations. Of the percentage that needed information, 38% needed information on disease and pest control with a third indicating this need was ‘important’ to them and 61% reporting the need only as ‘somewhat important’. Information on pest and disease control was the highest (43%) information type obtained by the farmers in the six-month period. Most respondents (75%) contacted other farmers for information with at least five such contacts in the reference period by a majority (51%) of the farmers. However, farmers’ preferences for information sources did not match their information-seeking behaviour: extension officers from the district assembly were the most preferred source of information (67% of respondents) but were second to ‘other

farmers’ in terms of the frequency of contact. A large majority (85%) of farmers reported being most constrained by their inability to use the internet. The study concludes that the information needs of farmers are varied, and farmers attach different levels of importance to these needs. It also concludes that farmers prefer inter-personal information sources to other sources of information, and that farmers’ inability to use the internet is a major barrier to information seeking. Thus, the study recommends that information should be tailored to meet the needs of farmers, especially information on the control of pest and diseases. Finally, the study recommends that, since extension officers from the district officers were the most preferred source but not the most contacted, more should be done to make them more accessible by the farmers.

CHAPTER ONE INTRODUCTION

  •     BACKGROUND

Urban areas in developing countries mostly depend on the rural areas for their food needs. However, most farmers in the rural parts of developing countries farm with crude implements and are limited to a small land size, as such, an increase in the number of people in urban areas usually due to migration leads to increase in demand of food in the urban areas and the reduction of the workforce in the agrarian rural areas (Obosu-Mensah, 1998). This rapid urbanization brings problems such as food insecurity and increase in living cost. As a result of this, some urban dwellers have adopted urban agriculture either to cope with the rising food insecurity and living cost or as merely an investment strategy to compliment other sources of income (Orsini, Kahane, Nono-Womdim, & Gianquinto, 2013; Yeboah & Jayne, 2018).

Urban agriculture also serves a purpose of reducing transport requirements of agricultural produce between the rural production areas and urban areas, and tends to help urban households afford fresh products (UN-Habitat, 2014). Currently urban agriculture is practiced by more than 800 million people worldwide either as subsistence gardening or market oriented farming (Drechsel, Graefe, Sonou, & Cofie, 2006)

Jac, Ratta, & Bernstein (1996) defined urban agriculture as “food and fuel grown within a city or peri-urban area, produced directly for the market or for home consumption, and frequently

marketed by the farmers themselves or their close associates” (p.7). Usually, urban agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa focuses on perishables like vegetables and fruits for the urban market and can be practiced on small scale irrigated vegetable farms on vacant industrial plots to highly mechanized agribusiness in and around cities (Jac et al., 1996).

From the current statistics, the trend of urbanization in Ghana is increasing; currently 55.0% of the Ghanaian population is living in the urban parts of the country. This represents an increase from 29.0% in 1970 (The World Bank, 2018). This increase has mainly been attributed to rural-urban migration, and has led to urban agriculture becoming a livelihood strategy to many of the urban poor people, particularly migrant populations (MOFA, 2014). The main driving force for urban agriculture in Ghana’s major cities is the demand for fresh and perishable agricultural produce (RUAF Foundation, 2006). Added to this, the changing dietary patterns as a result of an emerging middle class in the urban areas in Ghana coupled with the challenges in rural–urban linkages, transport and traditional market chains have all contributed to urban agricultural growth (Pay & Bernard, 2014).

The rapid urbanization and increase in demand for urban agricultural products means that farmers need to get information about necessary technologies and the best ways to improve on their productivity levels so as to match this demand. With access to relevant agricultural knowledge and information, farmers could improve their work in order to sustain agriculture and also increase their economic benefits in the form of income from their production (Lwoga, Ngulube, & Stilwell, 2010).

Information -like land, labour, and capital- is a productive resource. Just like every other resource, it has the potential to influence the efficiency of agricultural production systems (Reddy, 2008). Farming is a knowledge-intensive industry and the need to obtain and process financial, climatic, technical and regulatory information to manage farms has become increasingly important (Just & Zilberman, 2002). This increase in the importance of information in agriculture can be mostly attributed to the changing conditions in the climate, technological advancement and more broadly globalization. Farmers now need a variety of information ranging from information on appropriate seeds, crop diseases, input and output prices, weather related information, market information, to pre and post-harvest management technologies in order to meet current market demands (Wanyama, Mathenge, & Mbaka, 2015).

Research on agricultural information have shown that access to information makes agricultural production systems more efficient (Abdul-Salam & Phimister, 2015). This efficiency is achieved because when farmers have relevant, reliable, and useful information, they can make the right decisions which will then enable them to get the best out of their limited resources (Demiryurek, Erdem, Ceyhan, Atasever, & Uysal, 2008). In view of this, information dissemination to farmers has shifted from being solely a government responsibility to one in which profit and non-profit organisations are concerned with for different purposes and to achieve different objectives.

  •     PROBLEM STATEMENT

With the agricultural sector being an important sector in most developing countries including Ghana, farmers’ access to relevant and useful agricultural information is key to improving their productivity levels and bringing about change in the social and economic aspects of communities around these countries (Lwoga et al., 2010).