Farm Radio Trust (FRT) will carry out a three-year research study starting this year (2018) to find out how Information and Communication Technology (ICT) impacts on agricultural productivity in Malawi.
FRT executive director, Rex Chapota, said this in Lilongwe on Wednesday when the trust organised a consultative stakeholder’s session on the use of ICT to scale up agriculture solutions. The meeting was dubbed ‘Harnessing ICTs to scale-up Agriculture Solutions’.
He said the agriculture sector faces increasing challenges such as climate change effects, pests, parasites and diseases that continue to pull down the sector.
“Information dissemination on agricultural solutions to these problems has remained a very big challenge owing to fewer extension workers than the number of farm families they ought to serve,” said Chapota.
Over the years, the traditional way of passing information to farmers on agricultural issues has been through agricultural extension workers, but Chapota said the process is no longer effective due to few extension workers.
He said FRT seeks to boost the traditional way of passing information to farmers through the use of ICT; hence, the study.
“The study is expected to provide evidence on how ICT impacts on agricultural development in Malawi and also provide quicker ways of relaying messages to farmers such as through phones. We are looking forward to the findings of this study to feed into our ongoing work of developing a National Agriculture Extension Strategy,” he said.
In his opening address, Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Controller of Agriculture Extension Services Albert Changaya said there was great need for farmers to embrace the use of ICT to improve the country’s food security.
“As government, we should be seeking ways of enhancing information flow to farmers by embracing use of ICT which is quicker,” he said.
Changaya also urged farmers to use ICT devices such as phones for them to easily access information on agriculture.
He stressed the need for the country to scale up the use of ICT which would in turn, help in scaling up solutions to agricultural problems in the country.
The research study, funded by International Development Research Centre (IDRC) in Canada, will help understand how ICT is used in Malawi, especially in providing agricultural solutions.
It is also expected to help in the development of a framework in ICT within which stakeholders in agriculture will need to work, according to FRT.
The session was also attended by officials from Ministry of Agriculture’s Extension Services and others working in the agriculture sector. n