Can Mobile Communication Technologies Enhance Knowledge and Technology Transfer for Improved Agricultural Productivity in Developing Nations? A Preliminary Macro-Economic Assessment in Kenya
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractAgriculture is central to the economy of Kenya, but as the population dependent on the same land grows, farmers have been compelled to develop more intensive practices to produce similar yields as in the past. Investments in agricultural research and technology facilitate this intensification and have historically resulted in substantial gains. However, efforts to promote effective transfer of new technologies and methodologies have been stifled by financial challenges to traditional agricultural extension delivery approaches. Extension services involve significant face-to-face contact in farmer fields, through farmer field schools, or at regional events. However with rising costs, the demand for more mobile and adaptable mediums is apparent. This study examines the potential for new methods of knowledge and technology transfer and diffusion of innovation within Kenya, most notably the use of mobile phone services. In order to frame the potential of such services, a national level macro-econometric analysis was undertaken to assess the effects of investments in agricultural research on agricultural gross domestic product. These results were then overlaid on an analysis of 14 case studies examining the effects and challenges of agricultural extension in East Africa. Three potential services, Awaaz De, FarmFox, and Community Knowledge Workers (CKW), were then assessed on a capabilities standard in the context of the rise of the mobile communication markets in Kenya for potential application to extension services. The results indicate that agricultural research is strongly correlated with growth in agricultural GDP and that effective extension services have strongly facilitated that in the past. However, limited flexibility, lack of farmer input, and high costs limit that potential contribution to growth. Mobile communication services may be part of the solution; capabilities of Awaaz De, FarmFox, and CKW are promising, but further research is needed to accurately recommend a service for Kenya’s extension services.
Degree ProgramHonors College