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The study determined the availability, access and utilization of information communication technologies among staff of women in agriculture sub-programme of agricultural development programmes in north central zone of Nigeria. Four states were randomly selected which include Benue, Kogi and Nassarawa states, and the Federal Capital Territory. The multi-stage sampling procedure was used to select a sample size of eighty (80) WIA staff. Interview schedule was used to collect data from the respondents.

Frequency count, percentage and mean score were used to analyze the data collected. Factor analysis with principal factor model with interaction and varimax rotation was used to determine the major constrains to the use of ICTs. The result of the study showed the mean age of the respondents to be 47.25 years with average working experience of 20.66 years and 14years as WIA staff. All (100%) the respondents were aware of radio, video machine, television and telephone and majority of them were aware of the other modern ICTs except for fax machine, GIS, Skype, face book and digital camera.

Only a few (40% for telephone and 33.8% for radio) of them had ICT tools in their offices but majority (92.5% for radio and 88.8% for television) of them had personal ICTs. Majority (87.0%, 85.0% and 80.0%) of the WIA staff had access to telephone, television and radio respectively but very few (32.5% for computer 28.8% for internet and 8.8% for printer) of them had access to the modern ICT facilities. Majority (89.5%) of the few that accessed the internet did so for browsing to get information. The findings also showed that radio (M=3.70), Video machine (M=3.58), television (M=3.14) and telephone (M=3.49) were used by the respondents to a large extent. Majority (56.2% used radio for root and tuber processing and 62.5% used telephone for Fruit and vegetable processing) of them staff used a few ICTs for their WIA activities. Radio (M=3.06), television (M=2.88) and telephone (M=3.68) were perceived to be very important to the respondents in their official duties.

Also, lack of training opportunities (M=2.25), insufficient availability of ICT facilities (M=2.06) and lack of technical know-how (M= 2.05) were perceived by the respondents to be serious constraints to the use of ICTs.
1. Based on the major findings it was concluded that majority of the respondents were still within active years and could access and use available ICT facilities and that though majority of them were aware of the ICT facilities, majority of them could not affectively operate most of the modern ICTs except for radio, video machine, television and telephone and to some extent, computer. Majority of them did not use most of the ICTs for official functions because they were constrained by lack of training opportunity, insufficient availability of ICT facilities and lack of technical know- how among other constraints perceived by the respondents to be serious to the use of ICTs for their official functions. The study, among other things recommended setting up of projects that will enable WIA staff to have more access to ICT tools and establishment of functional ICT centres with departments for WIA in all the states which will create more awareness, better accessibility and higher usage of ICT tools by the WIA staff.




1.1 Background Information

The sustainable production of food is the first pillar of food security; and millions of women work as farmers, farm workers and natural resource managers. In doing so, they contribute to national agricultural output, maintenance of the environment and family food security (Onyemobi, 2000). According to Nnadozie and Ibe (2000), women play very significant roles in Nigeria agricultural production, processing and utilization.

Agricultural extension personnel are very important in the development of agriculture. They utilize strategic vital agricultural information for the individual and general improvement of the farmers, homemakers and youths. This could be in the area of their farming techniques, family nutrition and health and community development.

Agricultural extensionists serve as links between farmers and researchers (Agumagu, Adesope, Mathews- Njoku and Nwaogwugwu, 2008). Therefore, Nnadozie and Ibe (2000) were of the opinion that the integration of women in extension is essential for the achievement of some goals such as increased food production, food self-sufficiency and sustained reduction of poverty and malnutrition. The involvement of women in agriculture has attracted greater attention in recent years.

Over the past two or three decades, considerable research has been done on gender – related issues in Nigerian agriculture. This has had some impact on policy formulation and programming, including perhaps the creation of Women- in- Agriculture (WIA) units in several State and Federal Government Ministries of Agriculture and the Agricultural Development Programmes (ADPs) in Nigeria. It is however difficult to gauge how effective this has been, especially in terms of moving agriculture forward.


(Adekanye,Otitolaiye and Opaluwa, 2009). According to Onyibe (2001), the Agricultural development programmes of the different States of the Federation have made important advances in incorporating gender in agricultural extension, by modifying the ADP system midstream to provide for women farmers through the creation of WIA programmes in the Department of Extension Services of the ADPs with a gender focus. Women – in – Agriculture is a sub-component in the extension unit of the ADPs and it focuses on improving agricultural production, processing and marketing by rural women. In the Benue ADP for instance, WIA was established in 1990 with the following objectives: a) To integrate women into agricultural development system. b) To increase the productivity of women, raise their income and living standard through the use of cheap but appropriate technologies for income generating agro-based enterprises. WIA was mandated to carry out gender specific activities among 30% of farmers which of necessity must be women (Benue Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (BNARDA), 2006).
At headquarters, the WIA head holds the rank of deputy director within the state ADP and is responsible for the overall planning and implementation of the WIA programme. She is assisted by subject matter specialists who work for WIA at the zonal levels, supervising and monitoring the implementation of the WIA programmes in their zones. These specialists interact with research and technology institutions, participate in problem identification and field training, and provide support to WIA block extension agents.

At the block level, these agents work directly with women farmers, identifying and organizing women into groups in the blocks and registering groups into cooperative societies. The formation of WIA farmers‟ groups facilitates the dissemination of agricultural innovations and provides women farmers with better access to farm inputs and credit than they would have as individuals (Saito and Gadzame, 1996). The major activities of WIA still remain to form women groups and assist them establish group-farms. It is through these groups that the WIA extension agents transfer recommended technologies to the women for adoption. However, the WIA programme places much emphasis on off-farm activities of the women and has concentrated in the transfer of the following home economic technologies:

1. Cassava processing and utilization- pancake, flour and odorless fufu
2. Processing and storage of maize, gari, cassava flour, tapioca, maize flour, malted maize drink, corn meal, pap (wet and malted maize flour).
3. Processing and utilization of soybean into soymilk, flour paste and soy meal
4. Processing and storage of fresh tomatoes into tomato paste.
5. Rabbit meat processing and utilization
6. Processing and storage of melon
7. Cocoyam processing and utilization into cocoyam flour for soup thickening and cocoyam chips
8. Dry season vegetable gardening
9. Harvesting and storage of paddy rice.
Neither the above mentioned objectives nor technology transfer generally can be achieved without communication, and an effective one at that. Any means or tools that will facilitate information exchange between WIA and the rural women are therefore crucial for WIA activities within the ADPs. Since agricultural extension depends largely on information exchange between and among farmers and a broad range of other actors as observed by Omotayo (2005), it then means that the importance of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) can not be over emphasized among the WIA sub-component in the ADPs. There is a wide range of definitions given to ICTs by different authors.

According to the Technical Center for Agriculture and Rural Cooperation (CTA, 2003) as cited by Arokoyo (2005) ICTs can be interpreted broadly as technologies that facilitate communication and the processing and transmission of information by electronic means-a definition that encompasses the full range of ICTs from radio and television to telephones (fixed and mobile); computers and the internet. Information and communication technology (or technologies) is an umbrella term that includes any communication device or application, encompassing radio, television, cellular phones, computer network hardware and software, satellite systems and so on, as well as the various services and applications associated with them, such as videoconferencing and distance learning (http://www.searchcio-mid market.techtarget.com). Also, Hazelman and Flor (2004) stated that ICT refers to all information and communication systems and technologies inclusive not only of digital formats such as the internet or the world wide web but also interfaces with radio, cable and wireless television, video, cellular phones, print media and others. The above definitions have revealed a number of ICT tools which are highly crucial to any agricultural development system and to WIA in the ADPs.




1.2 Problem Statement

It is now an undisputed fact that rural women farmers produce more than half of all the food grown in Nigeria (Egbuna, 2005). She further emphasized that they are mainly responsible for providing food for their families as they plant, harvest and fish, gather fuel wood, fetch water, cook as well as process and sell foodstuffs. The role of women in nation building is a notable one, and as such Saito and Gadzame (1996) stated clearly that the WIA programme sought to improve agricultural extension services for women.

They also stated that existing home economics agents were retrained in agriculture and extension methodologies, placing special emphasis on women‟s activities. WIA programmes ensured that extension services in every state in Nigeria have female extension workers at every level of operation from state headquarters in the capital, down to the villages. Extension is fundamental to rural women‟s ability to feed the nation in a sustainable way. With about one or two extension workers being assigned to work with up to 1000 farm families as Egbuna (2005) stated, the need for information and communication technologies is inevitable if extension must succeed in this all important task.

ICTs are indispensable tools used by all to deal with the limitations of time, cost and distance. In addition, many are using ICTs to solve problems and create new opportunities. However, there are various challenges associated with ICTs. Inconsistencies in the exploitation and deployment of ICTs are a major concern to many development workers.

From the record of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), Annan (2003) stated that most technological innovations affect men and women differently, and ICTs are no exception. In addition to the urban-rural „digital divide‟, there is a further digital divide that adversely affects women, who make up the majority of the rural poor in developing countries. In many societies, women are still unable to realize their potentials due to limitations posed by their inability to control productive resources.

Obviously, there is a direct relationship between the empowerment of women and reduction of poverty as observed by Awe ( 2008). Women, with their special responsibilities for children and the elderly, find it less easy than men to migrate to towns and cities. The urban bias in connectivity thus deprives women, more than men, of the universal right to communicate.

Women make up the majority of people in rural areas of developing countries and play a central role in agriculture. However, issues of language and literacy are compounded by their already heavy workload that limits the time available to use modern ICTs. Cultural attitudes also prevent them from visiting public access points mostly frequented by men.

Other important challenges include limited time availability to participate in training and use of ICTs, and lack of awareness of the opportunities available (Annan, 2003). The fact that ICTs are necessary tools for information exchange between WIA and the rural women has been established. That WIA is a major source of information dissemination to rural women (majority of who are farmers) is also clear; and the fact that there is a digital divide in which women seem not to be on the favoured side has equally been pointed out.

The above assertions have therefore made it pertinent to investigate into the extent to which the WIA sub-component of ADPs has found ICTs (digital and other devices for information dissemination) applicable in extension services. This has called for the following questions: Are these ICTs available to WIA staff in their environments? Do the women in agriculture have access to the ICT tools? To what extent does the WIA sub-component in the ADPs utilize these ICT tools? Which WIA activities are the ICTs used for? What is the importance of ICT to their extension services among rural women? What are the possible constraints of WIA in the use of ICT tools to disseminate agro-based information to rural dwellers?

1.3 Objectives of the Study

The purpose of the study was to investigate the availability, access and use of ICTs among staff of WIA sub-component of ADPs in the North Central Zone of Nigeria. Specific, the study sought




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