The study attempts to investigate the level of awareness, access and relevance of information and communication technology (ICT) tools among cassava farmers in Osun State, Nigeria. Data were gathered through a survey interview scheduled on a total of 130 cassava farmers. The data were analyzed using frequency, mean, standard deviation, Spearman rho correlation and independent sampled t-test. The result revealed that, the mean age of the respondents was 45.3 years and mean years of farming experience of 17.7 years. Radio, television, video recorder, audio cassette, mobile phone (GSM), computer and camera were categorized into high level of awareness and access. These ICT tools were also rated as highly relevant to cassava production activities in the area of cassava stem selection, land selection, land preparation, time of planting of cassava stem; and marketing of cassava produce. Based on the result of independent sampled t-test, there were significant differences in the mean scores of awareness and access to radio, television, computer, video and camera. These ICT tools were highly relevant to cassava production in the study area. Spearman Rho correlation analysis revealed that significant relationship exist between age (r = -0.434, p ≤ 0.05), cosmopoliteness (r = 0.276), p ≤ 0.05); Sex (r = -0.76, p ≤ 0.05), years of education (r = 0.328; ≤ 0.05) and accessibility to ICT. Sequel to the findings of the study, it was recommended that, the extension institutions in Nigeria should concentrate their effort on agricultural information delivery through these ICT facilities accessible to cassava farmers in order to improved cassava production in the study area.
Information and communication technologies (ICTs) are new technologies that cannot be ignored in Africa especially for development in all sector agriculture inclusive. This is because, ICT is one of the main driving forces that can bring about development and change in this present digital age. It was in the light of this that Emenari (2004) noted that, the great transformation in the lives of the people especially in the developing countries depends on advances ICTs. The rapid development of ICTs continues to have major influence on the livelihood of people across the world. Social research has shown that, adoption of ICTs can be a major fuel for economic and community development in rural areas (Osiakade et al., 2010). As noted by Onwubalili (2004), “the tremendous changes are quite glaring in every facet of our lives and touches simplest of domestic services to corporate and limitless industrial applications”.
ICTs such as Internet could create and meet demands which satisfies human and corporate needs at all times and levels (Nwajinka, 2004). Infact, ICTs are what rural dwellers need to climb to the heights developed continent had reached. The recent development in ICT has broken national and international barriers and turned the world into a global village, making information available to everyone, everywhere and at any time it is needed (Onasanya et al., 2011). Then one could ask what is ICT?.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, FAO (1993) ICTs was defined as those technologies used in collecting, processing, storing, retrieving, disseminating, and implementing data and information using microelectronics, optics, and telecommunication and computers.
Broadly, the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA, 2003) defined ICTs as those technologies that facilitate communication and the processing and transmission of information by electronic means for the benefits of its users. Odame et al. (2002) and Arokoyo (2005) stated that, ICTs covered a wide range of equipment and services. In agricultural extension, the ICTs used include: radio, television fixed and mobile phones, short message services (SMS), world wide web (www), search engines, packet digital assistants, cameras, video, e-mail, computer, contact data bases and systems, CD-Rom, DVD, rural radio and web publishing to mention a few.
Agriculture is an important sector with the majority of the rural population in developing countries depending directly or indirectly on it (Diao et al., 2007). The sector faces major challenges of enhancing production in a situation of dwindling natural resources necessary for production. The growing demand for agricultural products especially cassava, however, also offers opportunities for producers to sustain and improve their livelihoods. ICT play an important role in addressing these challenges and uplifting the livelihoods of the rural poor (ITU, 2009).
The role of ICT to enhance food security and support rural livelihoods is increasingly recognized and was officially endorsed at the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in 2005. These include the use of computers, internet, geographical information systems (GIS), mobile phones, as well as traditional media such as radio and television. Although it is a relatively new phenomenon, evidence of the contribution of ICT to agricultural development and poverty alleviation is becoming increasingly available.
Since 1998, international institute for communication and development (IICD) has been involved in projects and policy trajectories and consistently monitor the progress and impact of the use of ICT in most of the developing countries. Increase in efficiency, productivity and sustainability of small scale farms is an area where ICT have been making a significant contribution in agricultural sector (IICD, 2007). According to Olajubu et al. (2006) and Sepehrdoust and Khodaee (2012) opined that, ICT have great impact on productivity, product differentiation, competitive advantage, effective communi- cation and employment opportunity in many productive sectors of the economy. Due to these, developing countries should maximize the potentials of ICT for immense development purposes agriculture inclusive. Generally, agriculture is an information intensive industry. The sector draws upon infinite sources of widely dispersed, locally contextualized knowledge and considerable body of research materials. It also relies upon continuous flow of information from local, regional and world markets.
Nigeria remains the world leader in cassava production with the annual production ranging from 30 to 40 000 000 metric tons. This production outputs are in the hands of small scale farmers who cultivates is from 0.5 to 5 ha of land. Cassava has gained increased industrial, economic, and nutritional importance over the years because of its multifarious uses of the starch-rich roots (Karim et al., 2009). Cassava is used almost exclusively for consumption as 95% of the total cassava outputs produced was used as food. According to Nweke and Manyong (2000), cassava farming has been transformed from being a staple food to a source of income as well.
Cassava farmers thus, need information to optimize production. Farmers in the rural area are to benefit from the use of ICT to order to improve cassava production. Balderama (2009) pointed out that, there is a dearth of knowledge and information and new technologies in agriculture that is yet to be exploited especially in most of the developing countries of which Nigeria is included. It is expected that, there should be a flow of knowledge and new information from various research institutes to the farmers. With the explosion in ICTs in the world, there is an expectation that, knowledge producers would be substantially empowered to channel information to farmers. As suggested by Erhabor and Emokaro (2007), that there has to be a tremendous increase in the current cassava output in the country in order to meet increasing the demand both locally and internationally. Therefore, it is highly imperative to determine the level of awareness, accessibility, and relevance of ICTs among cassava farmers in Osun State, Nigeria with the focus in ensuring improved production capacity of farmers in the study area. Based on the above background this study was designed to provide answers to the following research questions:
i) What is the level of awareness of ICT among cassava farmers in the study area?
ii) To what extent does cassava farmers have access to ICT?
iii) Of what relevance is ICT to cassava production in the study area?