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INFLUENCE OF MASS MEDIA ON THE DISSEMINATION OF AGRICULTURAL EXTENSION INFORMATION AMONG FARMERS IN UYO LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA
1.1 Background of the Study
Mass media means technology that is intended to reach a mass audience. It is the primary means of communication used to reach the vast majority of the general public. The most common platforms for mass media are newspapers, magazines, radio, television, and the Internet. The general public typically relies on the mass media to provide information regarding political issues, social issues, entertainment, agriculture etc. (Williams, 2008).
Information and communication are essential ingredients needed for effective transfer of technologies that are designed to boost agricultural production. For farmers to benefit from such technologies, they must first have access to them and learn how to effectively utilize them in their farming systems and practices. This should be the function of agricultural extension agencies all over the world. These extension agencies make use of different approaches, means and media in transferring improved agricultural technologies to the end users (farmers). Mass media methods in agricultural information dissemination generally, are useful in reaching a wide audience at a very fast rate. They are useful as sources of agricultural information to farmers and as well constitute methods of notifying farmers of new developments and emergencies. Mass media are important in providing information for the rural community to make informed decision regarding their farming activities, especially in the rural areas of developing countries (Lwoga, 2010). Information, as we know is the key for success in the operation and management process of the agriculture activities. To a large extent, mass media serve as a veritable instrument for information dissemination in agriculture.
In developing countries, latest mass media have made their place for backing up agricultural sector through extension activities (Qamar, 2006). Mass media have the capacity to uplift the knowledge and having impact on behaviour (Nazari and Hassan, 2011).The potency of modern electronic technology can be exploited for infotainment of farming community (Guenthner and Swan, 2011). The cost of extension advice through mass media comes to be considerably low as compared to individual and group methods (Oakley and Garforth, 2005). However, the mass media involve one-way communication from information source to the receivers. They permit limited and delayed feedback, which of course is essential for effective communication (Mahmood, 2005). Mahmood and Sheikh (2005) stated that creation of awareness is the first step towards the adoption process (Suman, 2003; Yawson, Branson, and Sampson, 2010). Mass media (electronic & print media) are playing very important role in creating awareness about new agricultural technologies among farmers. Mass media are spreading agricultural technologies to the farmers at a faster rate than personal contacts. Khushk and Memon (2004) stated that production and distribution of printed material helps farmers in the transfer of new information and technologies. Printing helps in preserving the technologies in the shape of books/booklets, magazines, newspapers and brochures. According to a study conducted in the central Punjab, majority of the farmers consulted pamphlets, magazines, and newspapers for getting the information regarding sugarcane production technologies. These were regarded as the most suitable forms of print media for adoption of sugarcane production technologies (Abbas and Thompson, 2003). Farm publications have proved to be effective means for dissemination of information, especially to introduce new technologies. Farm publications are also useful for disseminating information among literate farmers (Singh, 2001).
In Nigeria, various communication media are being used to transmit agricultural information to farmers in line with national policy on agriculture. Zaria (2005) noted that radio programmes are usually timely and capable of extending messages to the audience no matter where they may be as long as they have a receiver with adequate supply of power. The absence of such facilities as road, light and water are no hindrance to radio. Similarly, such obstacles as difficult topography, distance, time and socio-political exigencies do not hinder the performance of radio. He further observed, that illiteracy is no barrier to radio messages since such messages can be passed in the audience own language. Another advantage of radio programme is that it can be done almost anywhere through the use of a tape recorder (Nwuzor, 2000). It is probably because of these advantages of radio that many governments accord high priority to it as a means of reaching farmers.
Among other sources of information, radio and TV also depicted value for information dissemination (Okwu and Daudu, 2011). Radio is a popular medium for infotainment as well as attitude change (Ray, 2003). It plays a peculiar role in technology dissemination (Ejembi and Omenesa 2006; Prahap and Ponnusamy, 2006). Similarly, Television (TV) is also a vital electronic medium in this dimension (Bhattacharjee, 2005). The potential of TV for dissemination of information should be harnessed for the benefits of farmers (Nazari and Hassan, 2011). Radio and TV also provide means for dissemination of interesting and appealing messages (Ramchandam, 2004). Audio and video cassettes display their importance not only as entertainment source but also for information delivery. These are also used as educational media (Hartley and Hayman, 2012). Moreover, these media reflect utility for extension activities by dint of playback facility and convenience in listening/watching of recorded messages whenever desired (Muhammad, 2005).
Computer has become a robust tool of this era of technological advancement and internet facility boomed the scope of “edutainment” (Williamson and Smook, 2005). Internet has transformed this world into global village by reducing the distances of information exchange. Kelsey and Kalu (2002) indicated that the development in information technology like internet has enhanced the opportunities of access and training pertinent to critical issues. It also contributes towards information dissemination. E-mail facility and websites have increased the scope of media by expanding the sphere of access (Tawari, 2006). Kenny (2002) pointed out that despite possessing crucial importance, internet technology has been facing various obstacles like networking (infrastructure), language problem, and illiteracy. Khan (2016) also affirmed that lack of computer literacy and lack of interest appeared as major hurdles in using the internet (Khan, 2010). There is also a need to exploit interactive role of internet (Leeuwis, 2004) and internet facility can pave the way for extension activities (Bamka, 2000; Kallioranta and Louis, 2006). Moreover, websites should be developed that can cover the appealing sides of a variety of people (High and Jacobson, 2005).
Telephone facility has increased the opportunity of getting access to the people living even in remote areas (Gupta, 2005). It contributes towards developing farmers’ linkages with other people including extension experts. Help lines facilitate the mechanism for getting information/assistance regarding people’s problems by using toll free numbers. A sophisticated form of communication also on the scene in the form of mobile phone for the swift exchange of information among the farming community (Malhan and Rao, 2007). Mobile phone technology has provided multidimensional benefits to the rural people and it helps in interaction, accessibility, and quick/timely information exchange. In addition, its importance is clear in sense of urgency and emergency (Sife and Kingsley, 2010). Agricultural extension/information delivery is precisely a process of communication of improved skills, practices, innovations, technologies and knowledge to farmers. Thus, agricultural extension is a service which helps or assists people, particularly farm families through educational procedures in promoting their farming practices and techniques, increasing their production efficiency and income, bettering their levels of living and lifting their social, economic and educational standards of rural life (Ogunbameru, 2001). Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO 2004) reported that in many developing countries, wide adoption of research results by majority of farmers remains quite limited. This therefore, calls for a system which allows adequate information flow from researchers to farmers and vice-versa. Hence, Agricultural extension agencies have central role in facilitating the flow of a variety of information to offer the needed exposure of farmer to innovation for overall development.