Knowledge, perception and challenges of ict tools adoption to improve marketing of vegetable produce: case study of vegetable farmers in manzini region, swaziland

Author: 
Ajay S. Singh., Sebuliba SimonThomas and Kibirige Douglas

Vegetable production in Swaziland is seasonal and mainly carried out during winter. There is increasing demand for vegetables as a resultof rising income and changing consumption patterns in Swaziland. However, access to these vegetable markets remains one of the major challenges faced by these vegetable farmers. In this error ICT has been used as a tool to ease networking and connections to potential relevant service providers and customers.However little is known about farmers’ knowledge, perceptions and challenges they face when using ICT tools for improved marketing of vegetable produce. Primary data was collected using questionnaires administered to 83 respondents including 41 farmers contracted by the National Agricultural Marketing Board (NAMBoard) and 42 farmers who sold vegetables independently to communal markets in Manzini, Mahlanya and Mbabane areas, respectively.The study mostly employed descriptive and inferential statistics. Results of the study indicate that the majority(54%) of NAMBoard farmers were female and 57% of the Non-NAMBoard farmers were female. About 55% of NAMBoard female farmers and 68% of the non-NAMBoard female farmers had ICT Knowledge. Most farmers (46% NAMBoard and 36% non-NAMBoard members) were aged between 30 and 40 years, mostly the younger farmers aged between 20 and 30 were more knowledgable about ICT in both categories 67% of NAMBoard contracted and 83% of non-NAMboard contracted farmers). Most farmers attained secondary education and at least 50% of NAMBoard and 60% of non-NAMBoard farmers at this education level had knowledge about ICT. Whereas NAMBoard members perceived ICT as an important tool for doing farming businesses, improve vegetable production, and help in farmer to farmer exchange of farming knowledge, additionally the non-NAMboard farmers indicated that ICT further improves on the communication with extension workers and enhances communication amongst farmers and their market places. Major challenges faced by vegetable farmers included high transportation costs, less access to farm inputs, poor communications between sellers and consumers, poor market information and limited access to extension service, and market price fluctuations for both inputs and outputs. The study recommends that government and donors should encourage creation of ICT facilities for agricultural market information centres and set programs that encourage farmers to adopt the use ICTs more efficiently and effectively for improved agricultural production and marketing.

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