There is a consensus among Nigerian policy makers, her development partners, and experts in Nigerian agriculture that the wealth of the country can substantially be derived from agricultural production. It is generally believed that the small scale farmer holds the key to the realization of this possibility. However, the average Nigerian small scale farmer is poor, non-literate, and lacks access to most basic social amenities, as well as improved varieties of inputs and modern farming implements. The consequence of these has been low production and productivity. Yet, the agricultural sub-sector of the economy accounts for 41.5% of the country's Gross Domestic Product (Olawunmi, 2007). This is in contrast to the -4.82% contribution of the oil sub-sector. The oil sub-sector accounts for over 95% of the nation's total revenue in 2006 (BusinessDay, 2007). The problem, according to Bello (2002), is that as many as 65% of the country's population are producing 41.5% of the GDP. This shows that the percentage of Nigerians engaged in agriculture is more than the world average of 45.7% (Aina, 1995). The implication of this is that the productivity of this sub-sector of the Nigerian economy is quite low. The consequence is that food production is not keeping pace with the country's population growth rate. While the annual rate of population growth is estimated at between 2.5 and 3%, that of good production is between 1 and 1.5%. This is consistent with Munyua's (n.d.) findings that while agricultural yields in developing countries continue to decline despite technological innovations, their population continue to expand beyond food production capacities.
The performance of Nigerian agriculture so far indicates that the farmers have neither used nor absorbed most of the technologies being introduced to them (Atande, 1999). This appears to be the case considering the findings of Yayock and Misari (1990) which showed that there existed a wide gap between farmers' improved technology yields and farmers' traditional technology yields. This scenario, the authors attributed to the gap between available agricultural information on improved practices and its use. Thus, in agricultural information use studies, it is usual to investigate the personal and social characteristics of farmers in order to understand their relative influence in the farmers' information use behaviours (Onu, 1991). First of all, information use is dependent on the capacity of the user to access information and later use it. This capacity is dependent on certain cultural, socio-economic, personal, political and geographical variables. It also includes the appropriateness of the information, the credibility of the information channel, and the information provider's characteristics.
Nelemaghan (1981) believes that one of the prerequisites for information use is its accessibility. Information may be physically accessible but may not be intellectually so. Some users who possess the intellectual capacity might suffer from lack of the financial capacity necessary for the physical accessibility. This introduces the factors of illiteracy and poverty as militating variables in information use. Exposure to education permits an individual to control the rate of message input and develop the ability to store and retrieve information for later use (Sheba, 1997). For certain technical information, the retrieval capacity may be quite important (Mohammedali, 1977). Education enables the individual to know how to seek for and apply information in day-to-day problem solving. This is because as the individual gained the ability to read, he is able to extend the scope of his experience through the print media.
Mere provision of agricultural information to farmers does not guarantee its use. This is because a host of social, economic, and psychological factors influence the rate of agricultural information use (Surry, 1997; Akande, 1999). Among the factors Rogers (1995) identified, is the social system into which the information is delivered. A number of studies (e.g. Onu (1991), Alala, Ariyo, and Akpoko (1992), and Akande (1999) have been conducted to find out the variables that influence agricultural information use by farmers. Some of the results of these studies show that socio-economic and personal characteristics of farmers associated positively with the use of agricultural information.
A critical examination of the available literature however, indicates that previous researches, despite their scope and perhaps depth, only examined through univariate approach, the relationship between one or a combination of other attributes except use of agricultural information. These studies also did not provide empirical evidence of the chronological order and strength of any relationship between farmers' use of agricultural information and their phenolypic/organismic (personal) factors. This is inspite of the fact that low literacy and high poverty levels of the farmers could militate against their
access and use of agricultural information. This background emphasizes the need to bring into focus research which seeks to use a multivariate analytical procedure to explain farmers' use of agricultural information in terms of their personal and socio-economic characteristics.
The following hypotheses were formulated and tested:
* Personal and socio-economic characteristics of farmers when taken together do not significantly...