Patrick E. Egbule / Edna-Mathews C. Njoku

This study examines the mass media support for adult education in agriculture in Delta State, Nigeria. Data was collected from 1104 respondents, using questionnaires and interviews. The data was analysed using percentages, means and Pearson’s Product Moment Correlation. The findings revealed among other things that the mass media have performed poorly in disseminating requisite agricultural information to farmers, although there is a positive correlation between mass media usage and farm yield. The findings possess worthwhile implications for programme development for increased agricultural productivity and food security in Nigeria. Patrick E. Egbule is a staff member of the Department of Vocational Education at Delta State University in Abraka; Edna Mathews works at the Department of Agricultural Extension at the Federal University of Technology in Owerri, Nigeria.

Mass Media Support for Adult Education in Agriculture in Southern Nigeria

Introduction

Effective communication of new research findings and technologies in agriculture to rural farmers remains a promising strategy for increasing agricultural productivity. Generally, such information may include techniques of applying fertilizers, insecticides and fungicides to crops, improved methods of cultivation, and soil conservation techniques of planting, maintenance, harvesting and storage of crops. There are also new technologies of animal husbandry as well as processing and marketing various agricultural products. For the farmers to adopt the new technologies and put them to use, the new ideas must reach their farms and homes through effective extension and mass media channels.

The mass media are increasingly becoming a veritable instrument for transforming Nigerian agriculture. People will derive pleasure from learning how the food they eat daily is produced and they may be encouraged to develop an interest in growing something themselves. Also, considering our competitive environment with rapidly changing job assignments and technological developments, adult education in agriculture should require multidimensional, comprehensive, cross-cultural content and systems approaches to guarantee increased food production.

In Nigeria, the major media systems that have a lot to contribute are radio, television and the print media. In Delta State, the Delta Broadcasting Service (DBS), Delta Television (DTV), and the ‘Pointer’ newspapers are the three major media outlets in the State. Available information shows that Nigeria has a well developed and virile broadcasting system when compared with other developing countries. However, the great potential of these media for adult education in agriculture is yet to be fully exploited for reasons ranging from the high cost of transmission to the absence of a proper framework within which to integrate the media into the agricultural development programme. In addition, the media systems in many states in Nigeria are highly centralized and clustered in urban areas. Consequently, very little of the needed information reaches rural communities, where more of the population live and the actual farming takes place.

There is also the problem of widespread illiteracy. The majority of the farmers cannot read and understand the information at their disposal. In addition, the high cost of newspapers, radio and television limits the use of these channels by many present and prospective farmers. Also, the editors and programme directors are more interested in producing programmes that are of high commercial value. Most often, the few agricultural programmes are not timed to suit the farmers. Consequently, most farmers are constrained to rely on third parties for agricultural information, which may often be biased.

It is against this background that this study is designed to answer the following questions:

  1. To what extent have the available mass media communicated agricultural information to farmers?
  2. What is the nature of the agricultural information disseminated by the available mass media?
  3. What is the level of preference for the available mass media channels among farmers?
  4. Is there any significant relationship between mass media usage and increase in agricultural productivity?

Methodology

Population

The population for this study consists of all rural farmers in Delta State, Nigeria. There are about 1,140,000 rural farmers in Delta State (Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Delta State). The farmers, who are of different personal characteristics and farm sizes, are distributed over the 25 Local Government Areas in the State.

Sample

One Local Government Area was randomly selected from each of the three (North, Central and South) agricultural zones of Delta State. Furthermore, two rural communities were randomly chosen from each of the selected Local Government Areas, from which 200 rural farmers were sampled. Thus, a total of 1,200 rural farmers were sampled.

Instrument

Structured questionnaire and interview schedules were the instruments used for data collection. A 24-item questionnaire, made up of five sections, was designed. Section A focuses on demographic data, while Section B seeks information on the extent to which the available mass media have communicated agricultural information to farmers. Section C focuses on the nature of agricultural information disseminated, while Section D enquires into the preference levels for mass media channels. Finally, Section E seeks to establish a relationship between mass media usage by the farmers and level of productivity.

Experts in agricultural education and extension units in Delta State University, Abraka, Nigeria, validated the instrument. The reliability of the instrument was determined through a test-retest procedure, and this stood at 0.83.

Data Collection Technique

The researcher, assisted by three assistants, one in each of the agricultural zones in Delta State, distributed and collected completed instruments. Ninety-two per cent of completed questionnaires were returned by respondents.

Data collected was analysed using percentages, means and Pearson Product Moment Correlation. Statistical inferences were drawn at 0.05 level of significance.

Result

The findings of this study are presented in Tables 1–4.

Table 1: Extent to which available mass media have communicated agricultural information to farmers.

Mass Media Mean Response Remark
Radio 3.22 High
Television 1.55 Low
Newspapers 1.86 Low

The data in table 1 shows that only radio received a high mean rating of 3.22 as a means of communicating agricultural information to farmers. Television and newspapers received a low mean rating of 1.55 and 1.86 respectively. This implies that the radio is a major means of disseminating agricultural information to farmers in Delta State, Nigeria.

Table 2: Nature of agricultural information disseminated by mass media

 S/No  Variables Responses
   No %
1 Improved crop varieties 663  60.05
2 Fertilizer application 383  34.60
3 Processing and storage 450  40.76
4 Tractor hiring 64  5.80
5 Pest and disease control 228  20.65
6 Erosion control 156  14.13
7 Weed control 128  11.56
8 Marketing of farm produce 110  9.96
9 Improved planting techniques 546  49.45
10 Livestock management 410  37.14

The data in table 2 shows that 663 of the respondents, representing 60.05 per cent, indicated that they had received media information on improved varieties of crops. 382 (34.60%) of the respondents had received information on fertilizer application, while 450 (40.76%) indicated that they had received information from the mass media on processing and storage of agricultural products. Only 64 (5.80%) of the respondents had received media information on tractor hiring, 228 (20.65%) on pest and disease control, 156 (14.13%) on erosion control and 128 (11.59%) on weed control. Also, only 110 (9.96%) of the farmers had received media information on marketing of farm produce, 546 (49.45%) of the respondents indicated that they had received media information on improved planting techniques while 410 (37.14%) had received information on livestock management. It should be noted however that most of the farmers indicated two or more of the agricultural activities, as can be seen from the responses in table 2.

Table 3: Level of preference for available mass media among farmers

Mass Media Response
 No%
Radio  423  38.31
Television  545  49.37
Newspapers  136  12.32

The above table shows that 423 (38.31%) of the respondents indicated that they preferred radio as a source of agricultural information, 545 (49.37%) of the farmers preferred television while only 136 (12.32%) of the farmers preferred newspapers as a source of agricultural information. Consequently, a greater percentage of farmers prefer television to other mass media channels as a source of agricultural information.

Table 4: Pearson Product Moment Correlation between mass media usage and farm yield

Variables  X SD r
Mass media usage  3.49 3.99 0.62*
Agricultural yield
3.924.11

P < 0.05, df 1,102

Table 4 shows that there is a positive and significant correlation between mass media usage by the farmers and their agricultural yields (r = 0.62, df 1,102). This implies that the overall agricultural yield of the farmers will increase in line with the level of usage of mass media information in agriculture.

Discussion of Results

The findings of this study show that the greatest percentage of rural farmers receive information on modern agricultural practices from radio. In other words, television and newspapers are not major sources of agricultural information for farmers. Nevertheless, the farmers tend to prefer television to radio and newspapers as a means of disseminating agricultural information to them. This implies that the need for devising an appropriate framework for communicating improved agricultural information to rural farmers through television is great. It allows the presenter to give examples for farmers to watch. Consequently, problems which tend to militate against rural farmers in the use of mass media and adoption of improved agricultural practices, need to be more realistically addressed.

It can also be inferred from this study that the mass media in Delta State, Nigeria may well have performed poorly in disseminating agricultural information to farmers. Although some success has been recorded in the dissemination of information on improved varieties of crops, planting techniques and fertilizer adoption, the majority of areas, such as processing and storage, tractor hiring, pest and disease control, erosion control, weed control, principles of livestock management and marketing of farm produce, appear to have been neglected. Rural farmers need a wide range of information on various areas of agriculture and related activities so as to improve on their productivity and general welfare.

The findings of this study have great implications for policy formation and programme development for improved food production in rural communities. The available mass media should recognize that they have a crucial role to play in disseminating requisite agricultural information to farmers for improved food production and sustainable agricultural development. The media can demonstrate commitment to the course of agricultural development by allocating special programmes and time for adult education programmes in agriculture. To achieve the desired success, rural farmers should be empowered through education, funding and integrated rural development.

Conclusion

This paper has attempted to evaluate the extent to which the mass media have communicated agricultural information to rural farmers, to assess the nature of agricultural information dissemination and to determine the level of preference for available mass media outlets among farmers. It has been noted that effective dissemination of agricultural information to farmers is desirable for sustainable agricultural development. Given farmers’ preference for television over other mass media channels, there is a need to establish community/rural television stations, which should feature special agricultural programmes targeted at rural farmers.