The media as a tool in successful agribusiness education in Zambia

BusinessMarketing & Advertising

  • Author Dr Darlington Arnold Mangaba
  • Published January 12, 2022
  • Word count 3,473

Abstract

Agribusiness may be broadly viewed as agricultural extension. Agribusiness education is an essential component of agricultural development and it has, in many cases, enhanced agricultural development and economic emancipation of many countries world over. The role of agribusiness education is to ensure that the body of knowledge generated by academicians and scientists reaches the end-users, the farmers. With good access to this knowledge, farmers are able to make informed decisions regarding their production timing and choices. The dissemination of agribusiness knowledge to the farmers has not fully been exploited in Zambia. Following the findings of the paper, the quality of agribusiness advocacy by the media is very poor and leaves much to be desired. The media has neglected agricultural information in preference to politics and life-style, the areas that seemingly have more challenges and high risk.

Keywords: Agricultural education; Agribusiness education; Advocacy; Media; Tool

Introduction

Background

Agriculture is the backbone of our country and we all need to know a lot about it. There is no doubt that without agriculture we cannot survive in the world because this would entail total lack of food.

Agricultural education is an academic field that teaches students about agriculture, food and natural resources. Through these subject areas, agricultural educators teach students a wide variety of skills, including science, math, communications, leadership, management and technology. As an applied subject, agribusiness education teaches farmers about agricultural opportunities, choices and value associated with particular agricultural products, agro-processing, value addition and marketing and delivery of products.

The role of disseminating agricultural education and agribusiness advocacy has been entirely shouldered by the agricultural extension officers in the practical field and the agricultural education teachers in the classroom in the academic circles. This is, however, a preserve of the minority schools and farmers because very few schools offer agricultural education and very few farmers have full interaction with extension officers. The ratio of agricultural extension officers to the farmers is very high thus rendering the whole system ineffective and inefficient. Agricultural education should be in every school, but it isn’t. The importance of our curricula spreads further than the classroom because we all need agriculture to survive. The food we eat, the clothes we wear and the raw materials used by various industries all come from agriculture (Wallace et al, 1996).

Agricultural education is the connection point, along with the cooperative extension, between cutting edge agriculture research in our universities and our high school students. These students are the farmers, ranchers, researchers, marketing specialists and food scientists of tomorrow. The key to creating sustainable productive systems is education and research passed down to the next generation of leaders.

Agriculture remains a major contributor to the economies of most developing countries. In some countries, however, its share of gross domestic product (GDP) has drastically fallen or stagnated of late, and Zambia is no exception. The agricultural sector in developing countries is undergoing rapid changes as a consequence of both technological progress and economic forces which call for improved knowledge delivery, increased market focus, competitiveness and higher productivity (Wallace & Nilsson, 1997).

Agricultural information centres like colleges, universities and research stations need to determine their unique functions and the special attributes that they can offer students and the agricultural community. The media takes up the role of linking information centres to information users, the farmers. Agricultural institutions need to do a better job of carrying through with their unique ability to solve the agricultural problems of the communities they serve. The media, on the other hand, will need to do a better job of communicating the generated knowledge for its application and exploitation (Davies et al 2009).

A commitment to developing communication infrastructure, especially with regard to the new computer-based communication technologies, should be a priority because of the potential to reduce the information gap. The media too, with regard to audio-video broadcasting can be an essential element in the delivery of agribusiness education to the farming communities. New options for agribusiness media programs should be based on enabling farmers to access valid information and meet the expectations of agricultural productivity, processing, value addition and marketing so as to meet the needs of the private sector and the ability to stand functional in the agricultural community (FAO, 1996).

Statement of the problem

The problem at hand is the lack of substantial agribusiness advocacy by the media in Zambia. The media seems to have neglected its agribusiness advocacy role in preference to other areas. There is insufficient agribusiness advocacy by the media in the country.

General objective

The general objective of this paper was to outline the functional roles of the media in advocating agribusiness education.

Specific objectives

    1. To assess the quality of agribusiness advocacy by the media in Zambia.
    1. To investigate the challenges faced by the media in Zambia regarding agribusiness advocacy.
    1. To establish solutions to poor agribusiness advocacy by the media in Zambia.

Research questions

  1. How is the quality of agribusiness education delivered by the media in Zambia?

  2. Is the media doing enough in advocating agribusiness?

  3. Are there any challenges faced by the media in the delivery of agribusiness education?

  4. What challenges compromise the delivery of agribusiness education by the media in Zambia?

  5. What should be done to improve agribusiness advocacy by the media in Zambia?

Literature review

Definition and scope of agribusiness education

Agribusiness education is simply another refined term for diversified agricultural extension. It is the application of scientific research and knowledge to agricultural practices through farmer education. Generally, agricultural extension can be defined as the delivery of information inputs to farmers (Anderson JR & Gershon, F, 2007). The role of extension services is invaluable in teaching farmers how to improve their productivity and supply of produce. Extension is also critical to move research from the lab to the field for application and to ensure a return on investment in research by translating new knowledge into innovative practices (Davies et al., 2009). With massive research and rich findings, agricultural development can remain a mere dream if the knowledge is not delivered to the farmers who transform it into practice.

Extension services are classified into 3 types. The first being technology transfer. This encompasses the traditional model of the transfer of advice, knowledge and information in a linear manner.

The second type is the advisory and it involves the use of farmers of a cadre of experts as a source of advice in relation to specific problems faced by them. The third type of extension service is facilitation. The aim of this model is to help farmers to define their own problems and develop their own solutions to the problems or challenges they face (Beynon et al, 1998).

The role of the media in agribusiness education

The media acts as a link between the scientific centres and the farming community. The media disseminates agribusiness education to ensure that it reaches the end-users, the farmers. With a broad look at extension, the media bridges the gap. Traditional extension systems focus on increasing agricultural productivity, use a top-down approach and often emphasize the transfer of technology. This model for extension, however, is becoming outdated in the more competitive, market-oriented climate of today’s agriculture. Alternative models have emerged that recognize other actors than traditional public extension services. The new focus includes agribusiness companies, NGOs, agro-dealers, producer organisations and farmer to farmer exchanges. Many countries, especially in Latin America, have privatized and contracted out (outsourced) advisory services. Uganda’s National Agricultural Advisory Services have also contracted out extension services to the private sector and NGOs employing various means of information dissemination (World Bank, 2007).

After years of neglect and disinvestment, there has been renewed emphasis and new approaches to demand-led extension. Within the donor community, a revitalized and expanded role for advisory and information services is seen as central to pro-poor agricultural growth. Apart from their conventional role of providing and transferring knowledge in order to increase productivity, new functions include linking smallholder farmers to high value and export markets, promoting environmental outcomes and coping with public health challenges as cross-cutting issues in the agribusiness arena. Disseminating agribusiness education through the media is ideal in that more clients may be reached more easily than any other method (World Bank, 2007).

Information on the direct costs and cost-effectiveness of agricultural extension services across Africa is sparse, in part because this is not often evaluated. In the case of Malawi in the early 1980’s, direct agent-to-farmer extension services cost US$21 per contact and US$4 to US$5 per participant for a one-day ‎‎training course. By comparison, a mobile film show cost US$0.17 per farmer per hour and a radio programme cost US$0.004 per listener per hour showing that even early information communication technologies helped to reduce the costs of delivery (World Bank, 2005).

The state of agribusiness education in Zambia

In Africa there is an estimated 1 extension worker per 4,000 farmers, compared with 1 per 200 hundred farmers in developed countries. This ratio falls far below the Food and Agriculture Organization recommendation of 1 officer for every 400 farmers (Waruru, 2011). Evidence from Nigeria shows that the higher the extension agent to farmer ratio, the more successful the extension delivery (Action Aid, 2013). According to the Food and Agricultural Organisation, investment in agriculture extension services needs to increase to 3.5% of the agriculture GDP in order to achieve the necessary coverage. However, no African government is currently spending even a tenth of that amount (Waruru, 2011).

A more recent analysis of farmer field schools (FFS), a participatory approach to farmer education and empowerment featuring discovery learning, experimentation, and group action, found the cost per participant to range between US$20 and US$40. These estimates however, do not take into account the costs to beneficiaries which can make the approach relatively costly compared to other types of programme approaches (Waddington & White, 2014). Although government expenditure on extension services has typically been low, evidence from several countries shows that agricultural extension is a pro-poor public investment with high returns to poverty reduction.

The obstacles and solutions to successful agribusiness education in Zambia

It is generally costly for rural farmers to access agribusiness education. There are several factors at play.

The high cost many farmers face in accessing extension services, such as travelling to a regional town or city, can act as a strong disincentive to seek out advice and support. To resolve this challenge, mobile phone networks can help to disseminate knowledge given the dramatic increase in access to such networks, even in rural areas, and affordability even for the poor (ASFG, not dated). Today 75% of Africans own a mobile phone, making it increasingly easier to reach those located in remote rural areas with timely weather forecasts (UNDP, 2014). The Ghana Ministry of Agriculture Extension Service Portal or the crowd-sourcing model, of ‘WeFarm’, communicates a variety of information with farmers exclusively by SMS.

For Sustainable Intensification to succeed, smallholders need to build up their understanding of farming systems and capacity to innovate within their own particular ecosystems. The use of videos in West African countries such as Nigeria, Benin, Ghana, Gambia and Guinea has been successful in raising awareness about potentially beneficial technologies and practices among farmers (Bentley et al, 2014). However, agricultural knowledge is very contextual and requires a deep understanding of the entire farming system. Therefore, it can be difficult to communicate or assimilate advice for widespread use.

Most producers live in a world of imperfect information, and are subject to considerable uncertainty with regard to weather conditions, pest attacks, and market options. Some of these uncertainties could be mitigated by better access to information and communication technologies (ICT). The media such as television and radio programs can present a meaningful and beneficial access to agribusiness education information. Better, reliable and timely information will help farmers become more responsive to price signals and help to expand the reach and impact of extension and advisory services.

The means of communication include radio, television, telephone, telex, fax etc. communication is essential for agricultural development. They are needed to pass useful information about agriculture and other related matters to farmers. Our communication system in Zambia is still very poor. Television and telephone services are not available in some of the villages and where available most farmers cannot afford them.

Most farmers in Zambia can neither read nor write. Most of the farmers in Zambia are not educated enough in the technicalities relating to agricultural production and marketing. Many people do not know of new developments in agriculture. It is only when a person knows of the existence of something that he can think of its use. If a farmer knows of the existence of fertiliser and does not know how to use it, he is not much better than those who do not know about it.

Extension services mean the process and means through which farmers receive information in modern farming from the relevant government agencies. This is necessary to keep the farmers informed of the latest development in the field of agriculture. The extension services delivery system in Zambia is very poor. The numbers of extension workers in Zambia are very few compared to the number of farmers. The few available ones have no mobility to visit the farmers. Many of them are not prepared to live in rural areas where farmers reside. Those that are ready to stay in the rural areas are not adequately remunerated. All these factors combine to bring about poor extension activities in Zambia.

Government should establish a well organised and functional agricultural extension service to carry the result of agricultural researches to our farmers. A functional extension service will ensure that farmers are organised and occasionally films and slides on different aspects of modernised agriculture are shown to them. Through extension services farmers are taught to adopt better cultural practices and minimise loss of soil fertility through erosion and leaching.

We have already discussed the importance of communication on the development of agriculture. Efficient communication systems will combine with extension service in the dissemination of modern agricultural information to farmers. In this regard government can establish radio stations and television stations. In addition substantial time should be allocated to agricultural programmes. Newspapers and magazines should be established by the ministries of agriculture and Agricultural Development Projects, a thing that is rare in the modern Zambian agricultural face. All these measures will ensure efficient dissemination of agricultural information to the grassroots.

Challenges to successful delivery of agribusiness education

Poor training of agricultural extension staff has been identified as part of the problem of the relative ineffectiveness of much of extension in the field. This applies not only to extension staff, but to agricultural professionals in general. Unfortunately, the training of human resources in agriculture is often not a high priority in the development plans of our country. As a result, curricula and teaching programmes are not particularly relevant to the production needs and employment demands of the agricultural sector. Where policies have been formulated, no adequate financial support has accompanied policy formulation and worse off policy implementation. The situation has become more serious in recent years due to the economic crises in the public sector in many developing countries. In the past, the public sector absorbed nearly all agriculture graduates. This is no longer the case, and agriculture graduates are finding it increasingly difficult to find employment. Governments can no longer afford to hire every graduate. Over and above, education in agriculture has not kept up with the increasingly sophisticated labour demands of the private sector. Qualified and competent teachers and educators are a rare commodity.

Methodology

The methodology employed in this paper is review of existing related literature.

Research findings

The paper brought out the following key findings:

  1. The media has a role of disseminating agribusiness education to the end-users of the generated knowledge. The media link the agricultural education centres, the research centres and the farmers to ensure that there is a functional interaction, delivering the needs of farmers to the information centres and delivering the generated knowledge, skills and technology to the farmers.

  2. The media in Zambia is not doing enough with regard to the dissemination of agribusiness information. The quality of agribusiness advocacy is very poor. There are very few and generally poorly funded and organised agribusiness programs in the media. The media seems to be preoccupied with political information at the expense of agriculture related information.

  3. Agribusiness education and extension training have a role of producing and enhancing skilled craftsmen and operators, the livestock manager, the farmer able to manage his crops, stock and accounts. The development of the various industries within the agricultural value chain can be enhanced by successfully coordinated and communicated extension service. The media has a hand in fostering the dissemination of such important information.

  4. Agribusiness education, through the media, plays a major role in equipping the farming communities with information, skills and competencies needed for successful agro-productivity and marketing, in the face of environmentally friendly and non-degrading practices, which enhance food security and sustainable rural development.

  5. Agribusiness education is not successfully

delivered by the media because of lack of financial and technical support to various media houses to foster quality and timely dissemination of agribusiness education to the farmers.

  1. A well supported media-oriented agricultural

education system has great potential to inform the farming populace and information centres, to uplift living standards of the rural masses, foster agro-processing, storage and marketing, which enhance sustainable rural development and drastically reduced socio-economic marginalisation among the rural people.

Conclusions

The media is a key element in the dissemination of agribusiness education information which can substantially enhance agro-productivity and value addition. It is through well supported and coordinated agricultural media programs that agribusiness education can be successfully delivered to the farmers who put the conceptual knowledge into practice for the realisation of great returns. As things stand in Zambia, the media is not an essential tool in the enhancement of agribusiness advocacy because of lack of funding for agribusiness programming. The technical aspects of agribusiness development can only be achieved through access to valid information and knowledge, a role supposedly played by the media.

Recommendations

  1. The government and other key stakeholders in the media industry should begin to attach great importance to the role of the media in delivering agribusiness education by funding and creating meaningful airspace for agribusiness programs.

  2. There is need to invest in ICTs because they can play a significant role in delivering agribusiness education.

  3. Donor support in this sector might yield great benefits, provided that a proper framework for an integrated learning system has been put in place. Zambia should focus on the delivering of agribusiness education to the farmers. The use of the media in meeting this goal is one of the cheapest means and wide-reaching as many people can be reached at the same time.

  4. Communication between agricultural centres, extension personnel and the farmers through the media can provide a base for exchange of ideas and should be encouraged. Development of agribusiness media programmes from training institutions, research centres and the extension offices could be strengthened by the creation of networks where schools, local NGOs and community-based organisations are involved as participants.

References

  1. Action Aid 2013, Walking the talk, why and how African governments should transform their agricultural spending, Action Aid, Johannesburg.

  2. African Smallholder Farmers Group (ASFG), not dated, Supporting smallholder farmers in Africa, a framework for an Enabling Environment, Available from: [10 July 2015].

  3. Anderson, JR & Gershon, F 2007, Chapter 44, agricultural extension handbook of agricultural economics, vol. 3 pp. 2343-2378.

  4. Bentley, J, Van Mele, P, Okry, F & Zossou, E 2014, Videos that speak for themselves, when non-extensionists show agricultural videos to large audiences, Development in Practice, vol. 24 no. 7, pp. 921-929.

  5. Beynon, J, Akroys, S, Duncan, A & Jones, S 1998, Financing the future options for research and extension in Sub-Saharan Africa, Oxford Policy Management, Oxford.

  6. Davies, B, Baulcombe, D, Crute, I, Dunwell, J, Gale, M, Jones, J, Petty J & Toulmin, C 2009, Reaping the benefits, science and the sustainable intensification of global agriculture, The Royal Society, London.

  7. United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) 2014, Farmer-line joins the Business Call to Action with commitment to provide mobile communication services to rural farmers. (http://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/presscenter/pressreleases/2014/10/15/farmerline-joins-the-business-call-to-action-with-commitment-to-provide-mobile-communication-services-to-rural-farmers.html)

  8. Waddington, H & White, H 2014, Farmer field schools, from agricultural extension to adult education, systematic review summary 1, international initiative for impact evaluation (3ie), London.

  9. Wallace, I., Mantzou, K and Taylor, P 1996, Policy options for agricultural education and training in sub-Saharan Africa, report of a preliminary study and literature review, AERDD working paper 96/1.

  10. Wallace, I and Nilsson, E 1997, The role of tertiary-level agricultural education and training in improving the responsiveness and performance of public sector services for the renewable natural resources sector, report to the department for international development natural resources policy advisory department (project R6177CA).

  11. Waruru, M 2011, ICTs could fill agricultural extension gap, says meeting 21 December 2011. (http://www.scidev.net/en/agriculture-and-environment/farming-practices/news/icts-could-fill-agricultural-extension-gap-says-meeting.html)

  12. World Bank 2005, Agriculture investment sourcebook, The World Bank, Washington, DC.

  13. World Bank 2007, World development report 2008, agriculture for development, Washington, DC.

Dr Darlington Arnold Mangaba

Department of Agriculture, School of Graduate Studies

Gideon Robert University

Lusaka, Zambia

mangabadarlington@gmail.com

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