Emerging communication tools for family farming needs/priorities
I take the liberty to share the work done by our colleague from the Philippine Rice Research Institute on how farmers are accomplishing their farm work through Short Messaging Services (SMS) in Davao, Oriental, Philippines. His name is Dr. Ronan Zagado, senior science research specialist at PhilRice. Since he's busy out in the field at this period, I am doing this posting on his behalf.
SMS (via mobile phone) is considered to be among the new communication media. In Davao Oriental, SMS is used in rice cropping. Here farming is no longer linked to, and affected by the local conditions only, but also by social influences from faraway since messages can be solicited and obtained from specialists outside their province. This condition, differentiated by time and space, has ushered in new means of accomplishing farm work. It used to be that farmers rely only on their fellow farmers and the local agricultural technician in their area for information and advise.
SMS offers farmers an alternative platform that allows for efficient farm work all year round at all stages of rice cropping as they can link with agriculture specialists easily just using their mobile phones. SMS has been useful in addressing urgent problems in the farm like pests and diseases, correct fertilizer formulation, and soil nutrient deficiencies.
Morever, SMS has allowed farmers to have access to a "negotiated" knowledge rather than a standard scientific recommendations in terms of solution to their farm problems. The term "negotiated" implies that farmers are actively involved in knowledge production via SMS. As such, agricultural specialists and farmers now become "co-creators" of knowledge as opposed to their traditional roles as knowledge generator and user, respectively.
For more details about Ronan's work, here is the link:
Note: Prativa, I cannot find the button "Add comment" here.
Upakar it would be better if you can more information about the photo completion on family farming like website, venue, date, etc.
I'm Aldo Lim from the College of Development Communication, University of the Philippines Los Baños. My collegue and research adviser, Cleofe Torres, invited me here to share my masters thesis on mobile phone appropriation among coffee farmers of Amadeo, Cavite, Philippines. I also presented this paper at the AMIC Conference last year (and hope to publish it as a journal article this year).
As you know, in the Philippines, agriculture is the largest and most critical sector. Moreover, the country is no stranger to ICT4D. Mobile phones have established a presence even in developing rural areas. They have been integrated in agricultural information delivery, especially in rice farming (as Ronan has shared in this discussion).
However, the benefits of I-C-Ts have yet to be fully realized when it comes to local coffee production, an agricultural sector that used to be globally recognized as an industry player. The lack of e-agriculture initiatives in coffee farming was seen as a ripe opportunity to generate empirical data on local mobile phone practices.
Inspired by FAO's "Revisiting the Black Box: Case Studies in Local Appropriation of ICTs," I set out to analyze how coffee farmers of Amadeo, Cavite -- the coffee capital of the Philippines -- have appropriated mobile phones. I used Wirth, von Pape, and Karnowski's Integrative Model of Mobile Phone Appropriation as my framework.
Coffee farmers of Amadeo, Cavite were mostly male, married, and in their mid-to-late adulthood. They have been farming since they were youngsters. Majority were small-scale farmers, who augmented their income from coffee by planting other crops and by engaging in other sources of livelihood.
Majority of the farmers owned one handset and one mobile number. Almost all of them were Smart and Globe (the top two telcos in the country) prepaid subscribers. Meanwhile, their handset of choice was Nokia, being the most popular brand in the locale. The handful of farmers who did not own a mobile phone accessed one through an immediate family member. All in all, these coffee farmers have been mobile phone users for an average of eight years.
Farmers used their phones occasionally, primarily for functional purposes. With a mobile phone, they could be easily reached, especially in times of emergency. Their handset also served as a medium with which they could contact their loved ones. Mobile communications allowed them to check up on one another during the day. As such, their handsets served as devices that extended husband-wife and parent-daughter/son relations outside the home.
Generally, farmers did not feel the need to use their phone to seek information on coffee farming. A number of them insisted that, more often than not, they would simply rely on their own tacit knowledge or personal technique whenever a farming-related concern arose. In the event that they did need information on coffee farming, they would use their phone to arrange a face-to-face meeting with their co-farmers. As such, their handset played a facilitative role in information seeking, but it was not a medium with which they directly sought information on coffee farming. Farmers used their phone the most during the selling phase, specifically to be apprised of current prices.
Meanwhile, farmers treated their phone as more of a necessity than a luxury. This related to the type of handsets farmers owned—majority were simple devices with basic functionalities. Farmers put forward that, at their old age, showing off their phone was no longer a concern of theirs. Another farmer commented that the showier younger generation was more inclined to display their phones in public.
In conversing with the married male coffee farmers, a handful of them volunteered that their mobile phone doubled as an object of suspicion. Owning two handsets or mobile numbers had the likelihood of being perceived by their wives as an indicator of extramarital affairs. This has led some male coffee farmers to be more conscious of their mobile phone activity.
Through Hierarchical Cluster Analysis, five usage patterns emerged. More than half of the farmers constituted the largest cluster, “sporadic, restricted users.” Their actual usage was infrequent, hence the label, “sporadic.” Though they deployed their mobile phones for practical purposes, they did not maximize all possible functional applications, hence the description, “restricted.”
In terms of restrictions to mobile phone use, eyesight was found to be a hindrance, especially among the older farmers. One study participant set her phone’s text size to “large.” Another one said that he had given up on using mobile phones because of his poor eyesight.
Overall, it may concluded that mobile phone appropriation among coffee farmers of Amadeo, Cavite was not hinged on farming practices. That is to say, the ways in which farmers used their mobile phones in everyday life were no different from how they used them in the context of coffee farming.
The western M-P-A Model was adaptable to the Philippine context, if the high internal consistency reliability of the instrument is any indicator. The study proposes to build up on Wirth et al.’s (2008) M-P-A Model by highlighting personal, professional, and ownership characteristics of mobile consumers.
The study’s findings showed that farmers used their phones for functional purposes but not as much for information seeking/sharing. As such, the exigency of developing an I-C-T-based information service for coffee farming is not evident at the moment. However, interviews with the study participants revealed that they did have unsatisfied information needs regarding coffee production, which still points to the potential of an ICT-based program.
We look forward to sharing of such study, good practices and trends of communication tools that can aid family farmers in the region.
Im Dr Ronan Zagado, a development communication specialist at PhilRice. I specialize in communication and new media application and research for agricultural development particularly in rice. My research interest is on the social and cultural aspect of communication. Currently, I am handling a research-cum-extension campaign that aims to catalyze inclusive growth in the rice-based farming communities using both behavioral and technological interventions.
I thank Dr Torres for introducing me to this forum, and for taking the initiative to share my work on the use of SMS in farming.
Drawing from the result of my study, allow me to share some more additional insights in relation to the topics of this forum:
SMS as an extension/communication tool
Among the new media, SMS has by far the highest penetration and use rate with more than one mobile phone per household in the rural Philippines. We have tested several new media modalities through the Open Academy for Philippine Agriculture (OPAPA) Program. But among others, the use of SMS appeared to be the most effective one.
What makes SMS effective? 1) It gives quick response - our data suggests farmer’s queries are answered within 5 minutes (Note: farmers/clients come form different parts of the country). 2) It is handy - farmers can use it anytime and anywhere (our analysis of the farmers’ everyday life suggests they use SMS 24/7 as either a separate or integrated activity (see page 144 of my thesis). The impact of SMS on farming was found to be significant in the production of timely, appropriate solutions to farm issues across the cropping season from land preparation to marketing. Study shows that economic benefits derived from SMS are as follows: savings from knowledge search & transaction cost, increase in input productivity due to the application of knowledge accessed via the Farmers’ Text Centre, and higher income due to accessibility to better markets.
In order to ensure the successful use of SMS in extension, we have to treat the technology as no separate but rather an integrated activity of the existing or on-going extension system in a particular farming community. Its success should be measured in terms of how is it intertwined into the extension’s communication ecology. This is based on the assumption that extension is no simply linear process of technology transfer, but a complex interrelationship of various communicative activities. Example, if radio is widely used in a farming as their main source of information. SMS can come not a replacement but a supplementation. Our experience in Pampanga articulates this successful integration of SMS in radio broadcasting. We came up with pluralistic modality combining SMS+Internet+Radio.
SMS as family farming tool
Another interesting result that I surfaced in my study is that texting has become integral in the routines of farmers’ everyday life as a new form of social action both at the household and community level. It has become an everyday practice in the farming community. The household relationship of farmers, their children, and spouse in relation to the use of SMS particularly has become instrumental to the accomplishment of farmers’ farm work.
At farmer’s household, the role of the juvenile has become a dominant function as it has been accorded authority in the production of everyday farming practices. Farmers’ wives also appeared to have a significant role. While they may less technology savvy than their children, their role is worth highlighting as it affects SMS consumption and eventually household relations. Farmers’ wives are usually ‘housewives’ who manage any household related activities from housekeeping to budgeting. The average mobile phone ownership in the rural, farming community is one per household. Everyone in the family shares the technology. Farmers’ wives control the household phone usage for economic reason. Phone credits/loads are purchased on a prepaid basis, and it is usually done only when it is necessary. Also, the mobile phone use is regulated as not to disrupt other household activities, such as housekeeping and studying for the children. The data reveals that hostility and aggression occur at home as a result of non-compliance with the mobile phone use regulation.
This complexity of household relations is very critical to look at to if we are to design a development communication program for the farmers.
We will continue to discuss about the role of ComDev, community media and ICTs for family farming in Asia Pacific in this thread.
To support and sustain our ComDev efforts in FF, it would help if we have a pool or critical mass of development or extension workers trained in ComDev. Since they are the ones who work on ground, their contributions will inevitably have more impacts. Can we have a massive re-orientation and training of agric workers? Our work partners in Sarawak (Sarawak Development Institute or SDI) and Bangladesh (Agriculture Information Services of Ministry of Agric) have expressed their desire to establish a Comdev training center. This might sound as an ambitious long term plan but I believe this will respond well to mainstreaming and sustaining ComDev work in terms of the needed human resources in the comong years. We are now creating the demand, so we might as well prepare the supply side.
In PhilRice, where Jaime Manalo comes from, they have a well established development communication office manned by highly trained devcom professionals. It is no wonder that their community development and extension work for FF are one of its kind in the country or Asia as well.
Our college have received a number of inquiries about our graduate programs in DevCom from development workers in different countries of Asia and Africa. They could have form part of the critical mass of ComDev workers; but many of them are not able to pursue their studies due to lack of scholarships. Unfortunately, our college is not in a position to provide such scholarships.
Are there funding agencies out there willing to support graduate studies in ComDev? The challenge also is how do we convince national governments in Asia-Pacific to invest in training of ComDev practitioners and professionals. Let us hear from others on how this may be addressed.
It is very good example of mobile use in agriculture. In my area which is central India, agriculture universities and farmers help call centers (run by state govts)also doing the same thing but their extentions are generally general i.e. non specific.Whereas some local NGOs like one in South India (Pondicherry) with the help of Swaminathan foundation local women SHGs develop weather communication centers which enables fishers folks in side the deep sea to receive a voice message over their mobile and warn them about the possible weather in every three hours. that is a great tool needed to be spread more intensively and much accuracy
In the light of these limitations there have been some good examples like community radios, call centres using landlines, community video, etc that have been able to reach the family farmers. I also request others to share their good practices on using those communication/community/ICTs that have worked for their target group.
The report of last week’s discussion will be uploaded tomorrow.
For the sake of argument, I'd go for communication tools for resource poor farmers. At this point, I'd like to share our work on developing agrigames for out-of-school youth farmers. We invited information technology students from Nueva Ecija to develop games promoting technologies on cost-reducing and yield-enhancing technologies on rice. The development of the games used the participatory approach-- the young farmers were involved from conceptualization through to community tryouts. The essence of producing the games was to come up with a way to better communicate the technologies on farming to these young farmers. Traditionally, information sharing is done through training programs. Whilst they work, a different group of audience would certainly require a new way of promoting new technologies.
The second point that I'd like to highlight is to look deeply into the communication context. In a project I'm leading, the Infomediary campaign, we usually go to areas with very poor ICT infrastructure. Some of them do not even have electricity. We even went to places where they have to hang their mobile phones somewhere just so they could get some signal (our site in an upland community in Aurora Province). These things pose a challenge on the use of ICT-based platforms, and I guess these are legitimate concerns that should be factored in in this discussion. It has been advised among people working in ICT4D that they should focus on the demand, the issue being targeted, and see from there if an ICT solution is the best way to go.
Here are the issues emerging from the discussion on “Role of Communication for Development, Community Media and ICTs for Family Farming and Rural Development in Asia Pacific” held from 25 through 29 August, 2014.
The discussion had focussed on the key issues related to family farming that required communication/community media/ICT support and how communication could contribute to the sector in the Asia Pacific region. It also looked into the current and emerging communication tools and services that are suitable, relevant and those that can be adapted to family farmer’s priorities.
The key issues facing family farming in Asia Pacific were:
•Farming in Asia is becoming more expensive and less remunerative due to climate change, natural resource degradation, uncertain market scenario, new pest and diseases occurrences, and small and fragmented land holdings, certain government policies on employment guarantee, absence of timely information and lack of other support services along the entire agricultural value chain.
•Youth are not willing to take up farming as a profession. For example in China, the percentage of youth moving out of the agriculture sector increased to 90 per cent in 2011-12 compared to 20 per cent in 2001.
•Need for conservation of traditional knowledge to ensure food security and preservation of local seeds
•Agricultural research and extension actors/specialist are limited and most lack ICT skills
•Language is a barrier for information transfer. This is seen across the region from the Pacific islands, Indonesia to India and also within the countries themselves.
•Growing trend of buying processed food which is not only impacting family farming but also having an adverse effect on the health of the population as seen in the case of the Pacific Islands
Current and emerging tools suitable, relevant and adaptable to family farming priorities:
Thanking you and look forward to your continued participation and contribution of the discussion.
Information Communication Technology (ICT) provides farmer with opportunity to have their voices heard. This is a break from traditional method of sharing information which were essentially one way.
One of the initiative “KISHAN CALL CENTRE” initiated by Agricare Pvt. Ltd provides information to farmers through Toll free landline service. I got chance to interview one of the employer of “KISHAN CALL CENTRE” Ms. Sangita Dwadi for getting more information.
She said that they receive calls of farmers from 68 different districts out of 75 with 40-50 average calls per day. Generally, they have 2-3 employees to receive calls from farmers. They have good understanding in major issues, under major issues they connect to experts from research organizations, farmers cooperatives and scientists in different regions.
Starting this initiative, they distributed leaflets, posters, brochures to different co-operative organizations, Farmers groups, District Agriculture Development Office (DADO) and NGOs for disseminating their service.
Chitwan based KISHAN CALL CENTRE has now reached with their services to 16,000 farmers of 68 different districts. They have been providing services regarding cultivation practices, identification of disease/pest and recommendation of effective disease/pest management practices.
When I asked her about how you suggest solution to farmers with their problem, she replied that they start searching other possible symptoms when farmers come up with small hints and symptoms of particular infestations. If a farmer has problem of fruit rot of tomato, the possible infestation might be due to virus, disease, pest of mineral deficiency. They identify the problem by inquiring other related symptoms they might be facing. If farmer have no problem of flies or pest symptom and if they not even apply fertilizers, it might be due to mineral deficiency i.e Calcium deficiency. Thus they recommend calcium treatment to cure it after detail analysis of symptoms.
This type of communication technology has been able to solve farmers’ problem within a short time. Farmers are fully satisfied from such resource saving, human cost and time saving services. It has also been successful in sharing of success stories, best practices and sharing of problems.
Sharing of problems, lesson learnt and good practices with wider community would help to address the challenges effectively and efficiently.
We have a tons of information that need to be disseminated to farmers. Culling out the right one at right time in right way is increasingly a challenge.
Here is the summary of the discussions of 29 August, 2014 on the current and emerging communication tools and services suitable to family farmer’s priorities in Asia Pacific
•Cleofe shared the experience of rice farmers using Short Messaging Services (SMS) in Davao, Oriental, Philippines. This service has enable farmers to solicit and obtained from specialists outside their province.
•This has all allowed for efficient farm work all year round at all stages of rice cropping, it has been useful in addressing urgent problems in the farm like pests and diseases, correct fertilizer formulation, and soil nutrient deficiencies and have allowed farmers to have access to knowledge rather than a standard scientific recommendations in terms of solution to their farm problems. The farmers are actively involved in knowledge production via SMS leading to agricultural specialists and farmers becoming "co-creators" of knowledge as opposed to their traditional roles as knowledge generator and user, respectively. For more information on this study carried out by Dr. Ronan Zagado, senior science research specialist at PhilRice please visit digital.library.adelaide.edu.au/dspace/handle/2440/…
•A number of mobile phone initiatives for agriculture extension are being implemented in India. For more information please visit www.e-agriculture.org/content/… which has document 41 projects on the subject.
Please note that we are having some problem on the discussion page "What is e role of C4D/community media/ICTs for family farming and rural development in Asia Pacific". We are working on it but in the meantime we would like to continue the discussion from here.
Thank you Cleofe for your posts. Once you submit your posts, the add comments button appears. If you click on the title the entire discussion is available and you can see the add comments button there also. Please do feel free to contact me for any other assistance.
Thank you Saravanan for continuing to share some good examples on the use of ICTs for family farming.
I kindly request all to share such good examples, trends and proposals for adapting communication/community media/ICTs to address family farming in Asia Pacific from other countries also.
Most mobile based projects were operational as pilot projects. Except few (IKSL, Life lines of India) most other projects were operated in a small scale. Systematic impact studies are yet to be conducted. However, some of the private initiatives are making lot of promise for scaling up and proves innovative business model (like IKSL). At the same time much hyped projects like Reuters Market Light (RML) evaluation report by the experts from the Oxford University and International Food Policy Research Institute indicated no significant impact among farmers due to mobile based market information services (Fafchamps and Minten, 2012). But, at the same time farmers are paying for the services of the IKSL where they feel value for agricultural information and farmers’ enrolment is continuously increasing. An evaluation of Avaaz Otalo on cotton farmers in Gujarat showed that the information source of the farmers for taking major agricultural decisions changed from peer groups to the mobile advisory service once it established credibility with the farmers. This indicates the behavioural change of subscribers by reliable mobile advisory services. But again, some attempts have failed to register with the subscribers like KMAS of some of the KVKs as they did not properly address the needs of the farmers. The need of information as text messages have changed and farmers are more interested in voice, pictures and videos which gives them a better idea about agricultural methods and practices. With these needs, the services have evolved fast. Kisan Call Centre, which was basically a land line (wired phones) based pull service has given way to mobile apps for high end smart phones; basic text messages in KMAS, mKrishi, etc. have evolved to voice messages (IKSL) to multimedia content (m4agriNEI) to mobile applications (Videokheti).
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