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The Farmers Voice

The Value Of Printed Resources Of Information In Agricultural Extension

Context

Farmers in developing countries and especially in Cameroon are the most important actors in the food supply chain. They thus require up-to-date information on research findings, other farmers’ experiences, innovations, markets, as well as on policies governing their activities. Various approaches are used to supply them with that information, including: face-to-face communication from government extension services and others, rural resource centers, famer field schools, farmer–to-farmer exchange, radio program, text messaging, video, printed media, etc. The promoters of these approaches use many sources to acquire new knowledge to train farmers and disseminate information to users. Among these are: journals (like The Farmer’s Voice, Spore, Courier du monde rural, Grain de sel), videos, community radio, television, mobile phone, technical manuals and textbooks. Among these channels, printed media has been in existence longest, but with the advent of modern ICTs, printed resources have become increasingly neglected. In Botswana for instance, newspapers have been the main channel to reach the most remote areas that cannot be reached through other modes of communication (Oladimeji and Boago 2011). In Africa’s French-speaking countries, several magazines are available, for example “Les Echos du Sahel” in Niger, “Agri-Culture” in Benin, “Ireo Tansaha Vaovao” in Madagascar and “The Farmers’ Voice” in Cameroon.

“The Farmer’s Voice” in Cameroon, produced by the international NGO, Service d’Appui aux Initiatives Locales de Développement (SAILD), primarily targets farmers, but is also read by other actors, such as agriculture students, NGOs, farmer organizations and agro-industries. “The Farmer’s Voice” was first launched in 1988 and covers the whole country. 30 000 copies are produced monthly in three languages, i.e. French and English (the two official languages of Cameroon) and Arabic for the North of Cameroon. Each edition covers several topics, including rural echoes, focus of the month, health aspects, economic and development news, market echoes, environmental issues, technical slips, readers’ letters, and a quiz.

Despite the emergence and use of new media in extension, “The Farmer’s Voice” remains popular and demand is even increasing. Indeed, in a study on farmer-to-farmer extension in Cameroon, 80% of the organizations interviewed cited “The Farmer’s Voice” as an important source of technical information used by their field staff. Indeed, magazines do have the advantage of being more permanent, carrying more information and often being more authoritative than other media (Awojobi and Adeokun 2012). Especially now in the midst of internet and cell-phone upsurges we tend to forget that other means of communication still exist and in certain contexts are more relevant. Nonetheless, according to Vatta et al. (2010) and Archana and Sailaja (2013), effectiveness of any advisory media depends on its ability to disseminate the message properly so that it is understood, readily accepted, thus facilitating the adoption of new practices. Therefore, it is timely to assess the usefulness of “The Farmer’s Voice” in the dissemination of agricultural information to farmers in Cameroon.

Objectives

The overall objective of this study is to assess the effectiveness of “The farmer’s Voice” in Cameroon to understand its relevance and impact. More specifically the study attempts to:

1-     Assess the scope, origin, accuracy and topicality of the content of “The Farmer’s Voice”

2-     Identify the readership and the uses of “The Farmer’s Voice” in Cameroon.

3-     Determine users’ perceptions on the effectiveness of “The Farmer’s Voice” as a source of new agricultural knowledge and skills.

4-     Evaluate complementarity of “The Farmer’s Voice” with other sources of agricultural information.

 

Methods

To address these objectives, we will (1) review literature and interview the publisher, editor-in-chief and other contributors of the journal, (2) do a content analysis of “The Farmer’s Voice” and (3) conduct a user survey.

The literature review will help to understand the origin of the journal, its evolution, and learn from the experiences of other countries, for example on how effective farmer magazines have been. This will be followed by a systematic analysis of the content of “The Farmer’s Voice”.

The user survey will target three categories of users: extension staff of different organizations (public, NGOs, farmer organizations), farmers, agri-businesses (input suppliers, processors, etc.), and community radios. Users will be inventoried using the subscribers’ lists and a stratified sample technique will be used, also considering the proportion of gender in the subscribers’ list. A semi structured questionnaire will be used to identify among others:

-        Since when are they using the FV? How did they get to know FV? What attracts them? How do they access FV? How is it used? Do they share with other readers?  

-   How do they appreciate the quality, price, content (need based), complexity (degree of easiness in understanding), timeliness (capacity to address the need at the time of publishing)?

-        Do they remember some topics? Have they kept some issues? Why?

-        How are users giving feedback? Are they contributing to the FV?

-        What is the perceived effectiveness of this type of printed media as a source of agricultural information? Knowledge of other sources and forms of communication? Does it have substitutes or is it complementary or in conflict with other sources?

-        What are main strengths, weaknesses and challenges of FV? What should be improved?

 

References

Archana T. and Sailaja A. 2013. A Study on Quantitative Content Analysis of Farm Magazines in Andhra Pradesh. Reseah paper, Agriculture, global research analysis international, Volume : 2 | Issue : 10 | Oct 2013 • ISSN No 2277 – 8160, page 1.

Awojobi, E.A. and Adeokun, O.A. 2012. "Content Analysis of Agricultural Issues Reported in Two Nigerian Daily Newspapers" (2012). Library Philosophy and Practice (e-journal). Paper 800, page 2 / 6.

Oladimeji I. O. and Boago C. 2011. Content Analysis of Agricultural News in Botswana Newspapers. Kamla-Raj, J Hum Ecol, 36(3): 173-177 (2011), page 1

Vatta L., Dhaka B. L. and. Chayal K. 2010. Content Analysis of Farm Magazine. Indian Res. J. Ext. Edu. 10 (2), May, 2010.

Serbin Sylvia 2002. Presse rurale en émergence. Sur le terrain, Grain de sel • N° 20 • avril 2002, page 5.

 

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