South Africa: Access to agricultural information
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CTA. 2004. South Africa: Access to agricultural information. ICT Update Issue 21. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands
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Joseph Kiplang´at reports on a study among rural women in the province of KwaZulu-Natal.
Although the South African government has formulated policies to facilitate the provision of agricultural information to rural communities, the implementation of these policies has so far not been effective. This is partly due to the deficient telecommunication infrastructure in rural areas, and partly to the lack of capacity and skills development among rural communities. More importantly, however, the policies do not adequately address the specific needs of rural women. This is the conclusion of a study carried out under the auspices of the Department of Library and Information Services of the University of Zululand among rural women in the communities of Mkwanazi and Melmoth in KwaZulu-Natal province, South Africa. The purpose of the study was to investigate the diffusion of ICTs used to communicate agricultural information. The majority of women in Mkwanazi and Melmoth rely heavily on subsistence farming as most of them are not employed. Although the physical infrastructure in Mkwanazi is better than that in Melmoth, in both communities there are areas that lack electricity and telecommunication facilities. The study found that radio was the most accessible medium used by rural women to obtain agricultural information, followed by television and cellphone, while the least accessible were the Internet, email, mobile cinema, video and film shows. This contrasted with the perception of the extension workers and researchers who said that they frequently used video and film shows to disseminate agricultural information to rural women. Among women in Mkwanazi and Melmoth the most popular radio programme is ´Cobela Kufalaza´, which is broadcast in Zulu daily between 4:30 and 5:00 in the morning. Although this programme does provide agricultural information, most of the women said that the content of the programme ought to be revised to make it more relevant to their day-to-day agricultural activities. For instance, they suggested that the programme should include information on soil fertility and agricultural inputs such as fertilizers and seeds, give advice on farming techniques such as compost making, and provide market information. Consequently, apart from the necessary improvement of the telecommunication infrastructure and rural electrification, the study recommends that extension workers, agricultural researchers and policy makers should collaborate more closely with rural communities, particularly women, to make sure that the content of radio and television programmes is more relevant to their needs. mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org Joseph Kiplang´at is a researcher at the Department of Library and Information Science, University of Zululand, South Africa. The study was carried out with the help of research assistants Rose Ngwane and Jiyane Veli.
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