A case study of the relationship between smallholder farmers' ICT literacy levels and demographic data w.r.t. their use and adoption of ICT for weather forecasting

Elsevier, Heliyon, Volume 7, March 2021
Alant B.P., Bakare O.O.

Food insecurity caused by climate change has become one of the main issues on the global agenda. Worldwide, the importance of digital tools as a means to enhance adaptive capacity and resilience of smallholder farmers (SHFs) in the face of climate variability has long been recognised. Technology-based systems in agriculture frequently neglect to consider the actual context of use and adoption by SHFs in rural and developing contexts. These conditions, as pointed out in the literature, range from high “illiteracy” rates to poor technology infrastructure to a requirement for smartphone-based technology of which very few SHFs in the developing world can take advantage. However, very little is known about the information and communication technology (ICT) literacy levels of SHFs in general in terms of supporting them in their farming decisions. This paper, therefore, explores the ICT literacy levels of Msinga SHFs in order to understand what could enhance their use and adoption of ICT for weather forecasting. Msinga is a hotspot for climate change. Consequently, the means of livelihood of the SHFs in this municipality have been negatively impacted. Volunteering sampling was used, in which 35 SHFs were purposively selected from a population of 100 SHFs who belong to the Asisukume Msinga Agricultural Cooperative (AMAC) – all irrigation farmers. A sequential transformative mixed method design, embedded in an Indigenous research framework, was employed. This paper reports on the quantitative aspects of the study which addressed the following two research questions: (i) What are Msinga SHFs ICT literacy capability levels? and (ii) What is the relationship between SHFs ICT levels and their demographic data w.r.t. their adoption of ICT tools in their agricultural practices? Data were collected using a demographic details questionnaire (examining age, marriage, educational level, and years of farming experience) and an assessment of ICT literacy (assessing 5 ICT literacy skills which included mobile phone symbol identification to advanced ICT literacy). Data were analysed using descriptive and inferential statistics, specifically the use of Spearman rank-order correlation using IBM® Statistical Package for the Social Science (SPSS®), version 20. The results suggest that for the ICT literacy levels, SHFs were not able to display use of the various ICT related skills, with the exception of ICT levels 1 and 2 where satisfactory display of ICT literacy were displayed among most of the SHFs. When examining the associations between ICT literacy levels and the demographic variables, significant negative associations were found between the ICT literacy levels and age as well as years of experience, while significant positive associations were found between ICT literacy levels and educational level. The results, furthermore, suggest that marital status has no correlation with ICT literacy proficiency. The findings arising from this study highlight the “importance of context” in helping SHFs to mitigate the threats of climate change on food production, an issue that is completely ignored in curriculum policies and policies aimed at integrated national adaptation responses to climate change impact and vulnerability.