INFLUENCE OF SOCIO-ECONOMIC FACTORS ON FARMERS' USE OF MOBILE PHONES FOR AGRICULTURAL INFORMATION IN NIGERIA.

Author:Akinola, Adeyemi Adewale
 
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  1. INTRODUCTION

    In agriculture and other sectors of the economy, information plays an important role as people need it to move ahead in life. Information is necessary for human survival as it leads to positive change in one's state of knowledge. Reitz (2004) defined information as data that are presented in a readily and comprehensive form to which meaning has been attributed within a given context for its use. Agricultural information can be said to be information related to agriculture. It is a piece of information needed for the development of agricultural practices such as in crop, livestock and other aspects of farming. It can also be seen as the transmission of agricultural information to farmers, government, extension officers, researchers, policy makers, and members of the community.

    The need for agricultural information according to Kaaya (1999), is rooted not just in the need to improve farm yield but also for the economic and social development of countries. Agricultural information can be accessed from networks of information providers such as agriculture extension officers, traders, veterinary doctors, ministry of agriculture, and agricultural experts. Such information provides information about the market price, transport information, fertilizer and pesticide availability, and agricultural policy. Agricultural sector in Nigeria and other parts of the world have experienced a decrease in process as a result of illiteracy, inability to adapt to change, negligence on the part of government and stakeholders, inadequate information and lack of modern technology to supplement local tools; which has led to stagnancy and deficiency in agricultural process. Byerlee, de Janvry and Sadoulet (2009) on agricultural development, affirmed that despite the importance of agriculture for economic development, agriculture is yet to perform as an engine of growth in many developing countries especially in sub-Saharan Africa. This position has given room for low per capita income in many African countries especially in the rural areas.

    The use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) as noted by Olorunda and Oyelude (2008) could be of tremendous help to farmers as it could abate some of the challenges faced by farmers by increasing their knowledge of planning, decision making and the execution of programmes. Mobile phones in particular as one of the ICT tools could be used, not only for person- to- person voice communication, but also, as a means of access to information through services like multi-media, Bluetooth, internet, and text message among others. To acknowledge the growth of mobile communication, the penetration of mobile phones in Nigeria has reached nearly 70% as of 2009 while only 2.3% of the population had mobile phones nine years earlier (World Bank, 2011). In other words, the adoption of mobile phone is growing fast among Nigerians. Many Nigerians, including farmers now use mobile phones either for personal or business transactions. Farmers could use mobile phones to acquire information especially on price, products, transport, and weather forecast which would assist them on decision making especially on seasons to plant, breed new species, and harvest farm products. Jensen (2007) on adoption of mobile phones, explained that fishermen and wholesalers in South India associated with a dramatic reduction in price dispersion and near-perfect adherence to the law of one price. The use of mobile phones by farmers saves costs by providing access to agricultural information through communicating with traders and other partners involved in agricultural processes. It opens new market opportunities, especially in situations of changing market price, helps in the acquisition of fertilizers and pesticide information for pest and disease control.

    Aker and Mbiti (2010:207) identified some potential mechanisms through which mobile phones can provide economic benefits:

    First, mobile phones can improve access to and use of information, thereby reducing search costs, improving coordination among agents and increasing market efficiency. Second, mobile phones create new jobs to address demand for mobile-related services, thereby providing income-generating opportunities in rural and urban areas. Finally, mobile phone-based applications and development projects sometimes known as "m-development" have the potential to facilitate the delivery of financial, agricultural, health and educational services. In other words, farmers in Africa and other parts of the world can utilize the potentials of mobile phones to enhance productions, generate income, and have better access to agricultural information. Although the use of mobile phones is essential for the acquisition of agricultural information which would aid agricultural activities to have formidable impact in countries, the use of mobile phone is often influenced by socio-economic factors such as educational background, age, gender, income, farm experience, family size and farm size among others. Age is one of the essential factors that determine the adequate use of mobile phones. A study by Jain and Hundal (2007) in India revealed that the majority of phone users (62%) are within the age group of 20 to 40. In a study on Grameen Telecom's Village Phone Program in Bangladesh, Richardson, Ramirez, and Haq (2000) explained that people aged 20 to 30, is an age group of farmers that would more likely be receptive to a wider range of phone services, including card phones. Gender has also been noted to influence farmers' use of mobile phones as female farmers have been noted to adopt the use of mobile phones recently than male farmers. This is as a result of government and nongovernment...

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