Assessment of Information Needs of Rice Farmers in Tanzania; a Case Study of Kilombero District, Morogoro

Article excerpt

Abstract

This paper aims at assessing the information needs of rice farmers in Tanzania using rice producers in Kilombero District as a case study. The study was carried out in four purposefully selected villages in Kilombero District, Morogoro Region. The study used a sample size of 80 respondents. The study employed a case study research design and used a combination of methods to collect both quantitative and qualitative data. Data were collected by using documentary review, questionnaires, focus group discussions and personal observations. Quantitative data were analysed by using SPSS, while qualitative data were analysed using content analysis. The results of the study revealed that rice farmers have a wide variety of information needs including information on marketing, weather condition, agricultural credit/loan, new seeds, storage method, planting methods, diseases and pest control, and pesticide availability and its application. Key sources of information used by farmers are their family or parents, personal experience, neighbors and agriculture extension officers.

The study findings also revealed that the barriers to accessing agricultural information in the study area are associated with lack of information services, inadequate number of extension agents, inadequate funds, lack of awareness of information sources and information not easily accessible. It is therefore recommended that there is a need for government and other institution responsible to lay more emphasis on sustainable practices on information accessibility to rice farmers and also to disseminate information to them and address their information needs properly.

Introduction

Agriculture is the backbone of Africa's economy. According to ECA (2007), about 70% of Africans and roughly 80% of the continent's poor live in rural areas and depends on agriculture for their livelihood. The sector accounts for about 20 % of Africa's GDP, 60% of its labour force and 20% of all merchandise exports. Agriculture is the main source of income for 90% of rural populations in Africa. For example, in Tanzania, the agricultural sector provides 85% of exports, employs 85% of the workforce contributes, 75% of foreign exchange earnings and contributes about 25.8% to national GDP (URT, 2008).

Paddy/rice is the second most important commercial and food crop in Tanzania after maize. The crop is among the major sources of employment, income and food security for Tanzania farming households. Tanzania is the second largest producer of rice in Southern Africa after Madagascar with production level of 818,000 tones (JICA 2007). However, Tanzanian rice productivity is lower than most neighboring countries and one of the lowest in the world (European Union, 2010). About 71 % of the rice is grown in Tanzania is produced under rain fed conditions, irrigated land presents 29 % of the total with most of it in small village level traditional Irrigations. The average yield is very low, 1-1.5 t per ha.(RLDC 2009).

According to RLDC (2009) most of the rice farmers lack information on the improved seeds hence stick to traditionally preferred varieties which are not economically efficient but have prominent aromatic and palatability characteristics. Ozowa, (1995) stated that the vital role played by scientific and technical information for agricultural and industrial development in developing countries is still neglected and accorded a lower status compared to other sectors. In addition, most of the farmers including rice farmers in Africa lack access to modern processing technology and market information (Matovelo, 2008). Ferris (2005) argues that in most African countries lack of accurate and relevant agricultural information by small- scale farmers is a major factor constraining efforts to improve the agriculture sector.

Statement of the research problem

In agriculture, the role of information in enhancing agricultural development cannot be over emphasized. …