ICT in Agriculture Extension and Marketing in Malawi and Mozambique
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Werner, Marcel. 2005. ICT in Agriculture Extension and Marketing in Malawi and Mozambique. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/63620
The study involved surveying agricultural and rural development stakeholders, as well as consultations among those stakeholders to bring out views on information needs and perceptions on the possible role of Information and Communication Technology (ICT).
Executive Summary This report is the result of a study carried out for CTA on “ICT in Agricultural Extension and Marketing”, in Malawi and Mozambique between August 2004 and March 2005. The study involved surveying agricultural and rural development stakeholders, as well as consultations among those stakeholders to bring out views on information needs and perceptions on the possible role of Information and Communication Technology (ICT). The state of development of the ICT industry in the countries concerned was reviewed as well. Below is a summary of findings. Below is a summary of findings. Adoption of ICT The adoption of ICT by agricultural sector stakeholders shows results from headquarters level up to branch office level (provincial, regional offices). From branches further upstream to rural localities there is minimal adoption. In this study, we use the term ‘ICT Readiness’ to express the level of adoption and potential for rapid ICT-enabled service enhancements. Two ICT trends are relevant to the rural localities: easy adoption and spread of SMS (Short Message System of mobile telecommunications networks) and Community Radios. SMS is important as it represents keyboarding and datacommunication exposure to users. Survey participants operating at branch and rural level show SMS usage at above critical levels: 59% in Malawi and 50% in Mozambique, suggesting opportunities for service development targeting rural based actors. The SMS service providers are beginning to pursue introduction of value added services, such as SMS banking. The Community Radios are beginning to deploy Internet technology capable of supporting quality programming. At the same time, Community Radios are benefiting increasingly from favorable public policy expressions and regulation. Internet activity Internet activity is at a low level of technological sophistication, but widespread, with 84% of Mozambican participants using Internet at headquarters against 44% in Malawi. At branch level these figures drop to 55% and 26%, respectively. Updating websites is often poorly or not at all taken care of; and organisation’s websites are rarely being used for service delivery which is only seen in very exceptional cases. Few stakeholders in this study have websites: 22% in Malawi and 34% in Mozambique. Beyond those in the public sector and parastatals, few of these sites target operators within the country. ICT adoption disparities between branches (rural, province) and headquarters (capital city) are less marked in Malawi than in Mozambique. The explanation lies in the one hand in the challenge caused by great geographical distances in Mozambique in achieving high network coverage. In the other hand, Maputo scores relatively high in ICT, this being an economic centre attracting much activity from South Africa, Portugal and other developed countries. ICT services costs are relatively high in the countries under review. Indexed against service usage baskets, Malawi scores highest costs with index 84, Mozambique index 75 and Kenya 46. Use of information and media Stakeholders in agricultural and rural development, acknowledge that sharing of information and distribution of resources is underdeveloped in both countries, despite the obvious economic necessity. This concerns both sourcing of information and media productions, as well as distribution and dissemination networks. Sector statistics are collected annually but parallel work is being done by various stakeholders. Most service providers develop their own materials (print, radio). Quality of information materials including broadcasts is often subject to criticism by stakeholders. The adaptation and packaging of information for extension (field) purposes is poor. Mozambique boasts more examples of service providers using mass media houses for information dissemination than Malawi. Operational collaboration between government extension services and NGO’s is common in Mozambique, with some good examples in Malawi. Print extension materials often seem to have arbitrarily set circulation volumes, usually far from enough copies to occasionally far too many. The distribution of print news media is very low in both countries: our evidence suggests as little as 0.51% of rural population in Malawi and an optimistic 0.34% in rural Mozambique (few data available for Mozambique). In rural Malawi, there are 4 radio receivers per 100 population (Mozambique figure not available). Television broadcasting presently has relatively little potential for agricultural development, the main reason being network coverage. Even in a relatively small country as Malawi coverage is not higher than 20% of national territory. There are no signs that TV networks will expand soon. Telecentres were surveyed on their usefulness for agriculture and rural development agents. We found hardly any evidence of visitors searching for agricultural information. This is in spite of many voices, again at the roundtables organized for this study, calling for the establishment of telecentres in rural areas. In addition, most telecentre visitors use the Internet almost exclusively for webmail. Web access tariffs charged by the operators are between two to three times higher in small rural based telecentres than in urban centers. 3.1.4 Outreach The problem of quality and outreach of agricultural extension services is undisputed by any of the study’s participants. The limited effectiveness of the extension services is most pertinent in Mozambique: the Ministry of Agriculture employs no more than 500 Frontline Extension Workers (FEW) in the entire country. Even with the collaborative programmes in place with NGO’s and private sector, there is a large vacuum in service delivery. The challenge is confounded by lack of ICT access (see above), large distances to regional centres, lack of information materials and human resources education levels. In Malawi, high casualties of HIV-AIDS have an impact on the performance of the ca. 2,000 extension staff work-force. The distribution of extension materials appears not to be in line with demand and demographics. In both countries, the government creates agricultural statistics once per year, but with considerable time delays and limited depth and detail. Stakeholder’s websites are often not targeting outreach functions, and if they do, they are not being used for this, judging from surfing habits of participants in this study. Email based bulletins are however being used already in reaching farmers and traders. Annexed to this study is a searchable database Inventory of Agricultural Service Providers and Inventory of Telecommunication Operators (Telco’s or TO’s) and Internet Service Providers (ISPs), for Malawi and Mozambique, containing basic profile and contact data.