Factors influencing access to integrated soil fertility management information and knowledge and its uptake among smallholder farmers in Zimbabwe

T. Gwanduab; F. Mtambanengwea; P.Mapfumoae; T.C. Mashavaveac; R. Chikowod; H. Nezombaa

  1. Department of Soil Science and Agricultural Engineering, University of Zimbabwe, P.OBox

MP167, Mount Pleasant, Harare, Zimbabwe

  1. Department of Agriculture, Technical and Extension Services, P.O. Box 248, Chegutu, Zimbabwe
  2. Department of Irrigation, P.O. Box 2720, Park Road, Mutare, Zimbabwe
  3. Department of Crop Science, University of Zimbabwe, P.OBox MP167, Mount Pleasant, Harare,

Zimbabwe

  1. SOFECSA Coordination Unit, CIMMYT-Southern Africa, P.O. Box MP 163, Mount Pleasant, Harare, Zimbabwe

ABSTRACT 

Purpose: The study evaluated how farmer acquisition, sharing and use patterns of information and knowledge interact with different socioeconomic factors to influence integrated soil fertility management (ISFM) technology uptake.   

Design/ Methodology/ Approach: Study was conducted as part of an evaluation of field-based farmer learning approaches introduced by SOFECSA in Zimbabwe. Building on emerging farmer interactive platforms, data were collected using farmer participatory research approaches. 

Findings: Over 90% of the farmers identified the national extension agents as the farmers’ most preferred and reliable sources of information on ISFM, with farmer-farmer interactions ranking second. Non-governmental organisations and the print media emerged as the least trusted sources of agricultural technical information. Field-based learning centres, which enabled interactive evaluation of different ISFM options, constituted ~50% indicating that they were major platforms for information and knowledge sharing. Uptake of ISFM was influenced by farmer resource group and farmers’ visits to learning centres. Farmer experience and access to extension services were in turn the major factors influencing farmers’ use of ISFM information. Approaches that support farmer-to-farmer interactions are required and learning centres were a suitable platform for such interactions to occur.  

Practical implications: The paper brings to attention the role of learning centres in fostering adoption of ISFM technologies. Insights on the need to support and strengthen agricultural extension in rural smallholder communities are provided.

Originality/ value: This is a unique study exploring the role of farmer-oriented information and knowledge management in promoting complex technologies such as ISFM. A new dimension on the demands of new approaches for information dissemination to enhance knowledge sharing is presented. 

Keywords: Agricultural extension; dissemination; farmer-to-farmer interactions; knowledge sharing platforms; learning centres; logit

Link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/1389224X.2012.757245