Using ODL aided by ICT and internet to increase agricultural productivity in rural Nigeria
Adewale Adekunle, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture
ODL materials aided by ICT and internet have a great potential in transforming the backward African agriculture into a commercial level if the ICT and internet facilities can be sustained in rural areas.
A project was implemented in rural Nigeria after a model that makes ICT and internet run sustainably in rural locations.
At a pilot level in Ago-Are village in Oyo State Nigeria, a multi-purpose community information access point was established with basic ICT infrastructure including internet access. The access point provides links to the Community Help Desk and other sources of information on the internet; provides training to farmers; links them directly with inputs and output markets, and provides an array of equipments that farmers lacked on rental basis.
ODL materials to increase productivity, add value and market agricultural products, and for fostering newly developed agricultural enterprises were also produced and used.
Participating farmers increased their holdings, external inputs used, and productivity leading to higher incomes with attendant evidence of graduation into commercial farming. General income made by center in the first year of operation was fifty percent more than required to keep the ICT and internet infrastructures running.
Agriculture is important to Africa and Africans. About 70% of the populace in
Africa is involved in agriculture. It is the main stay of the economy of several
African countries contributing a high percentage of the GDP. African agriculture
is bedeviled by several problems making the continent the most backward in agricultural
production. The farmers are largely in the rural areas with small and fragmented
plots, having little or no contact with extension services and crucial information
needed for production, processing and marketing. They have no knowledge of market
prices and little access to input and output markets. Consequently, yields are
low, and incomes from agriculture leave little for the farmer to turn over.
Information is widely acknowledged as one of the critical factors of production
decisions. Patrick et al. (1993) opined that farmer’s demand for information
has increased in recent years due to greater market instability, more complex
production technologies among others. Lack of timely information can prevent
good quality decision and thus lower the efficiency of production decision among
farmers. Differences in decisions about what crops to grow can be attributed
to differences in resources, levels of knowledge, environment, approaches concerning
uncertainty and other factors (Mar Corazon et at 1998). Farmers require information
to link various inputs at reasonable prices, and also link output markets (Adekunle
et al 2004). A combination of the two may increase farmers income. Arokoyo (2005)
noted that “a strong (extension) linkage complimented by flawless information
flow enhanced by the effective use of information and communication technologies
(ICTs) will significantly boost agricultural production and improve rural livelihoods
in developing countries”. As true as this is, it has not been proved or
About the project and the study
Given the acknowledged role of information in agricultural decision-making,
the project titled “Answering Farmers Needs in Nigeria” was implemented
at a pilot scale in Ago-Are Nigeria. The project is a private-public collaborative
project involving several organizations. Some of the collaborating partners
include the Commonwealth of Learning (COL), the International Institute of Tropical
Agriculture; (IITA), Ibadan, Total Development International Foundation (TODEV),
and Oke-Ogun Community Development Network.
The project provided an access to information through an integrated resource
center in which information and communication technologies including the internet
provided communication links for farmers. Besides, the center provided some
Open and Distance Learning Materials to meet the felt needs of the farmers and
also linked them through the internet to other useful websites providing information
on agricultural production, processing and marketing. Farmers were also linked
to the inputs and output markets. In addition to all these, the center also
provided a rental service to make available all implements that most of the
farmers cannot afford individually. The resource center was connected to market
information services providing market prices for a number of commodities from
about a hundred markets across Nigeria and corresponded directly with the “farmers
support desk” established at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture
for the provision of real time responses to farmers’ requests. In order
to empower the farmers, five farmers tagged ‘change agents’ were
identified and trained both on technical agricultural issues as well as computer
use and internet browsing. The other farmers were organized into groups of twenty-five
for effective training needs identification and delivery. Each of the ‘change
agents’ was assigned to a group of twenty-five farmers. This process resulted
in the training of about 125 farmers in the community in the first cycle. Products
of a cycle of training became trainers at subsequent cycles.
Financial support for the center came from side activities which included check-offs
from extra income made by farmers from new enterprises established for them
through the information access point and also through the sales of inputs. Additional
money was generated from browsing and through film/ soccer shows to adults and
youths in the village. The center was established in the last quarter of 2004
with funding that lasted for six months. Thereafter, the farmers continued to
manage the center using internally generated resources. By the time this study
was conducted in March 2006, the center had operated independently for one whole
This study was conducted to compare key productivity variables for participating
farmers at two levels. These are at a point before the commencement of the project
and at 18 months after the project had commenced. This was to confirm the actual
benefits of the information access point established through the project and
the potential of the established institutional supports to sustain the services
provided at the center.
Specifically, the objectives of the study are to determine the effects of the
i. Yield of maize for participating farmers
ii. Farm income of the respondents
iii. Level of inputs used
iv. Farm size of participating farmers
Results obtained from this study will provide insights into derivable benefits
of enhanced information flow for agricultural and rural development. It will
also serve as lessons for other developing countries as they strive to improve
their food and agricultural sector.
Arising from the objectives of the study, the following hypotheses stated in
null form were tested using the data obtained during the course of the study
Ho1: The yield of maize for participating farmers measured before the project
and 18 months after are the similar.
Ho2: Farm incomes of participating farmers at the two levels are equal.
Ho3: The levels of inputs used at the two levels are the similar
Ho4: The farm income measured before the project and 18 months after are the
The Study Area:
This study was conducted in the project area in ATISBO Local Government Area
of Oyo State. Data was collected from 100 randomly selected beneficiaries of
the project within Ago-Are community at the beginning of the project translating
to the baseline data and at eighteen months after commencement. Ago-Are is a
community located about 100km from Ibadan in ATISBO Local Government Area of
Oyo State. The community is agrarian in nature with a population of about 12000.
The major crops produced in the communities include maize, cassava and yam.
In addition, tobacco is also produced as a cash crop.
The impact of ICT on farmers was studied with the use of t-test in order to
empirically establish if there is any difference between the performance of
farmers before the project commenced and 18 months after. This is justified
on the basis that the differences between two means could be established with
the use of t-test. Yield of maize which is a common crop for all the farmers
was used as a proxy variable for productivity. Income generated from their total
agricultural enterprises was used as their income level. The ratio of adopted
fertilizer compared with recommended was used as a proxy for adoption of improved
practices, while the farm sizes were actually measured.
RESULTS AND DISCUSSIONS
Benefits of ICT and internet connectivity
Benefits of ICT and internet connectivity in the rural setting were captured
through the measurement of various parameters. Table 1 contains the means of
farm sizes, external inputs used, yield of maize, and incomes reported by participating
farmers before and 18 months after project implementation.
Table 1: Means of variables and t test values
||Mean before project implementation
||Mean 18 months after project implementation
|| Pr > |t
|Yield per unit area
|Use of external inputs
ICT, crop yield and productivity
For this particular study, yield of maize was considered as a proxy for productivity
at the farm level. Farmers in Ago-Are village are familiar with maize and all
participating farmers grew maize both as a sole crop and as a component in intercropping
systems. Information and Communications technology and the internet significantly
( P<0.0001) enabled participating farmers to increase the yield of their
maize crop. The average yield of maize per hectare in monoculture among participating
farmers was 1.05 tons per ha before the project. When this study was conducted
eighteen months after the commencement of the project, the average yield of
maize for participating farmers had been significantly increased to 2.46 tons
per ha. Increase in yield was largely due to the fact that the farmers were
able to get a new variety and reach for information on how to grow the new variety
through interactions with scientists made possible by the internet.
ICT and farmers income
Income made by farmers is also recorded in table 1. Increase in yield is desirable
for farmers especially when it leads to increase in income. Many an intervention
by development programs increased yield without a corresponding increase in
farmers’ income. Exposure to ICT and the internet helped participating
farmers to translate their increase in yield to a highly significant increase
in income. Before the project, the average income among the farmers was about
four hundred and thirty seven dollars ($437). This was significantly increased
to an average of three thousand two hundred and eighty five dollars ($3285)
(t value of 15.51). A close look indicates that whereas the farmers were barely
making an average of one dollar a day before the project, activities around
the internet transformed them to a new bracket where they were making an average
of close to 10 dollars a day. Farmers used the ICT and internet facilities to
monitor market prices for better market penetration. Constant monitoring of
market prices made it possible for farmers to choose a good market for their
commodities and demand reasonable prices from middlemen and buyers.
ICT and use of external inputs
Data on the use of external inputs by farmers is also contained in table 1.
Use of inputs was measured by taking a ratio of inputs used against inputs recommended.
The input of reference in this case was fertilizer. Before the project, farmers
in Ago-Are had poor access to agroinputs. Where they were available, the prices
were unaffordable. These problems coupled with poor knowledge of how to use
them were major disincentives to adoption of external inputs. Some that ventured
to use external inputs tried them on their traditional varieties which had low
external input use efficiency. However, through the project, participating farmers
made use of the internet to monitor the prices of inputs and contact desirable
agents to supply the inputs. Buying in bulk made the inputs available to farmers
at a discount. Availability of inputs was complemented with the provision of
training and training materials on the use of the inputs. Ultimately, the presence
of ICT facilities made the farmers to significantly increase their use of fertilizers
from an average of 22% of recommended rate to an average of 62% of the recommended
rate (t value of 12.27). Increase in the use of external inputs is a veritable
indicator of increasing market outlook for a subsistence-oriented farmer.
ICT and farm size
Data on the farm size of participating farmers is also contained in table 1.
Like other parameters discussed above, exposure to ICT and internet facilities
also significantly increased the farm holdings of participating farmers. Average
holding per farmer was significantly changed from 2.22 ha to 3.76 ha after 18
months of exposure to the internet (p<0.0001). This was probably due to the
fact that participating farmers increased their incomes and started to have
some surplus which was ploughed into expanding their holdings. Like the use
of external inputs, expansion of holdings is also an indicator of increased
commercial outlook for subsistence-oriented farmers.
Use of ICT and Internet facilities by farmers
Participating farmers in Ago-Are made use of ICT and internet facilities for
various reasons. Figure 1 below shows the key uses to which farmers put the
Figure 1: Use of ICT facilities by Farmers
The major uses include use for market linkages, use for information seeking
on best practices, use for the education of their children, use for mails and
use for entertainment. Farmers use the facilities mainly for market linkages
and to seek best practices for their faming activities. Both accounted for 75
% of total use. The use for entertainment was lowest at 5%. This data showed
that participating farmers benefit mostly in the search for markets and best
production, and processing techniques for their commodities. This is another
index of market orientation. The development is quite understandable because
farmers in Ago-Are like their counterparts in other rural parts of Nigeria lacked
basic information on best practices and lacked good access to the market. Since
the yields are going up, farmers felt the urge to intensify search for new markets
to continue to get the best prices for their commodities. From the foregoing,
it may be concluded that the expansion of market access to rural peasant farmers
can positively project them towards higher income because it automatically links
them to higher income for the little they may have produced. New markets are
appreciated when they come through the establishment of contract arrangements.
Sustaining ICT and internet in villages
Sustaining ICT facilities including the internet in rural areas is always a
challenge. This is more so in Africa where the cost of internet connectivity
is still high. Whereas in the urban center, operators of ICT and internet facilities
can depend on patronage on browsing to sustain their facilities, the rural setting
lacks such a crop of browsers. Most models on the use of internet have indicated
that the running of a side business like including photocopy and typing/word
processing services could help defray the cost of sustaining internet facilities,
such business have limited patronage in villages.
Figure 2: Cost and revenue at the center
Figure 2 shows the costs and revenue data collected from the center at 3 months
interval beginning with month one. The center needed a recurrent cost of $250
to run on monthly basis and was funded by the donor for six months. In the first
month, the center made a paltry sum of $50 which was far from the cost of running
the facilities. The revenue gradually increased until the twelfth month when
the revenue doubled the cost. Thereafter, revenue continued to rise steadily.
The ICT and internet facilities were set up in a village with complementary
facilities to boost revenue. These included the operation of entertainment video
shows for adults and soccer shows for youths. It also set up a snacks bar for
income generation. More importantly, the center assisted members to start up
enterprises and took check-offs from extra income made from such enterprises.
Center also made money from sales of inputs and from rental services operated
to make some equipment which are normally above the means of farmers accessible
Figure 3: Sources of revenue at the center
Figure 3 above shows the relative contribution of each source of revenue to
the income generated at the center. Browsing contributed the least (5%) while
10% was made form shows. Browsing was that low in spite of the fact that the
center made a concerted effort to train people on computer and internet literacy
in the first few months. This was just in an attempt to create an army of potential
customers for the center. The money made form shows could have been higher if
the center was located in the heart of the village. The money made through check-offs
from extra profit made from center developed enterprises fetched about 50% of
the total income. Revenue made from sales of inputs contributed 20% while that
made form rentals contributed 15% of the total income of the center.
From the foregoing, the center made most of its money from activities tied
to the economic life of the participants. It could therefore be inferred that
tying the establishment of a center with ICT and internet facilities to the
economic life of the people can contribute greatly to the sustainability of
the operations. For internet facilities to work sustainably in rural areas,
it must be operated on a model which involves tying it to agriculture, and using
it to increase farmers’ income. Farmers must take ownership of it and
be committed to sustaining it.
A multipurpose community information access point was established at a pilot
level in Ago-Are, Oyo State, Nigeria. The center equipped with basic ICT infrastructures
including internet connectivity made available through a Vsat provided solutions
to the basic problems of farmers including lack of information on agriculture,
lack of access to inputs and output markets, and lack of access to some basic
but relatively expensive equipment. The center did not just provide answers,
it provided the answers on real time basis through some innovative facilities
developed and used.
Participating farmers increased their yields per unit area, holdings, external
inputs used, and productivity all leading to higher incomes with attendant evidence
of graduation into commercial farming.
Although funding lasted for 6 months, farmers were able to use established
facilities to generate sufficient resources to run the activities of the center.
In one year, the center was already making 50% more resources than required
for general activities in the center.
It could be deduced therefore that ICT and internet facilities complemented
with ODL materials have the capacity to transform rural agriculture if delivered
sustainably. They therefore hold the key to the agricultural revolution that
can solve the problem of African agriculture.
- Adekunle A. A. , T.A. Olowu and A. Ladele (2004) Bridging the gap between
farmers and researchers, the effect of resource centers on the productivity
of farmers in Katsina , Katsina Stste of Nigeria. IITA publication 46pp.
- Arokoyo, Tunji (2005) ICT’s Application in Agricultural Extension
Service Delivery. Journal of Agrcultural Extension in Nigeria. Pp245-251
- George F. Patrick, Gerald F F. Ortmannn, Wesley G. Musser and D Howard Doster
(1993) “Information Sources of Large Scale Farmers” CHOICES Third
- Ma Corazon, Mandoza Lawas and H. A. Lunning (1998) “GIS and Multivariable
Analysis of farmers Spatial crop Decision Behaviour” Netherlands Journal
of Agricultural Science 46(1998) pp.193-207
Figure 1: Use of ICT facilities by Farmers
Figure 2: Cost and revenue at the center
Figure 3: Sources of revenue at the center
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