Academic journal article Library Philosophy and Practice

Information and Communication Technology Roles in Agricultural Value Chain Promotion among Peri-Urban Women Farmers in Imo State, Nigeria

Academic journal article Library Philosophy and Practice

Information and Communication Technology Roles in Agricultural Value Chain Promotion among Peri-Urban Women Farmers in Imo State, Nigeria

Article excerpt

Introduction

The importance of agriculture as a source of livelihoods cannot be overestimated: half of the world's population works in agriculture and approximately 2 billion people gain their livelihoods from small farms in developing countries(UNDP, 2015; IFAD, 2013; FAO,2009). It is estimated that smallholder farmers provide over 80 percent of the food consumed in subSaharan Africa, despite remaining the poorest and most food-insecure people in the world. Increasing the productivity of smallholder farming in a sustainable manner holds great potential for boosting the incomes and securing the livelihoods of smallholders themselves(IFAD, 2013; FAO,2009).

The productivity of agriculture and smallholder farming is far below its potential. This is the result of many challenges facing smallholders and the companies working with them. Smallholder farmers often lack skills and knowledge; have limited access to credit, inputs and market information; and increasingly face climate-related risks, which threaten their yields.The potential benefits of using mobile phones to connect these diverse stakeholders along the agricultural value chain speak for themselves. For rural populations, geographically dispersed and isolated from knowledge centers, the information and communication capabilities of the mobile phone can be even more valuable. Close to 6 billion phones are in use today and are accessible to the 70 percent or so of the world's poor whose main source of income and employment comes from the agricultural sector (World Bank 2012).

The above situation shows that market access is one of the most important factors influencing the performance of smallholder agriculture in developing countries, and in particular least developed countries (Barrett, 2008). Access to new and better-paying markets for agricultural products is vital in enhancing and diversifying the livelihoods of poor subsistence or semi-subsistence farmers (Barrett, 2008). Such markets can be local (including village markets), catering for the local populations, regional markets that serve regional consumers in counties/districts/provinces within one country or between countries, and international/export markets in both developed and developing countries.

Smallholder producers form the majority of both the total and rural poor in many developing countries, especially Africa. Most smallholder farmers are engaged in subsistence and semi-subsistence agriculture with low productivity, low marketable surplus (hence low returns) and low investment, a situation described as low equilibrium poverty trap (Barrett & Swallow, 2006; Barrett, 2008). Enhancing returns from agricultural production through improved access to markets can therefore be a vital element of poverty alleviation strategy and livelihood improvement in these countries. Improved market access results in commercialization of agriculture, which has short, medium, and long-term benefits to farmers. In the short term, market access can result in the production of marketable surplus and hence gains in income from agriculture. In the medium to long-run, the surplus from improved market access can result in higher revenues, savings and hence investment in productivity enhancing technologies. The effect of market access for smallholder farmers is even greater for high-value commodities (i.e., non-traditional, non-staple crops such as high-value fruits and vegetables and organic products). Access to markets for high value commodities has multiple benefits to smallholder producers (Okello, 2005; Okello & Swinton, 2007). Such benefits include direct income for smallholder producers and the indirect impacts at both the household and community levels in terms of employment.

Despite its importance, market access in many developing countries remains severely constrained by poor access to agricultural and market information. Poor access to market information results in information-related problems namely moral hazard and adverse selection which in turn increase transaction costs and hence discourage participation in the market by some farmers (Omamo, 1998; Fafchamps & Hill, 2005; Shiferaw, Obare & Muricho, 2009). …

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