THE ROLE OF ICT IN ADOPTION OF SOIL AND WATER CONSERVATION TECHNOLOGIES FOR SMALLHOLDERS; THE CASE OF KAJIADO NORTH AND LUGARI DISTRICTS IN KENYA
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Abstract

Kenya typifies the Sub Saharan Africa (SSA) countries where over 80 percent of the population is dependent on Agriculture as a Livelihood. The smallholders who dominate Kenyan Agriculture are faced by various problems and constraints among them inadequate access to technical agricultural information. This has been attributed to lack of appropriate agricultural information systems and services, lack of timely and relevant information and ineffective
linkages among agricultural researchers, extension workers and farmers. According to the International Union of Conservation (IUCN), it is estimated that soil degradation has reduced global agricultural productivity by over 13 percent over the last 50 years, with Africa's pastures among the worst hit. The Kenyan smallholders should not only strive to increase agricultural productivity from existing farmland, but further meet the sustainability pillars, i.e.
environmental, social and economic aspects. The adoption of SWC technologies by Kenyan smallholders will precede the reduction of soil and water losses, which have contributed to eduction in crop and livestock production. If soil and water erosion are to be reduced,then smallholders should adopt to Soil and Water Conservation (SWC) technologies. There is renewed interest towards the role of information in fostering agricultural production in Kenya,
prompted by the emerging lCTs; however the factors for smallholders' adoption to SWC technologies are undefined. The objective of this study was to identify the role of lCT in adoption of soil and water conservation technologies by smallholders in low and high potential Districts of Kenya. Guiding the study was the Diffusion of Innovation theory by Rodgers, the Holistic management theory by Allan Savory, and the Evolution of Farmer Extension model in Kenya among other research findings on smallholder adoption to agricultural technologies. Quantitative and Qualitative data was collected across Kajiado North District representing the low potential areas of Kenya, and Lugari District representing the high potential areas. There were 120 smallholder households interviewed providing quantitative data. Focus group discussions and Key informant interviews were carried out with Ministry of Agriculture officials, local leaders and agricultural researchers. The quantitative data was processed and analyzed using Statistical Package for Social Scientists (SPPS) as the analysis platform. The frequencies and descriptive statistics were applied in the analysis of various variables, and related data cross tabulated to establish how these changed with time. The results were studied and documented in line with the study objectives and various relationships across selected variables discussed. It was established that women dominate farming activities across the two systems; the males were passive actors in smallholder farming opting for alternative livelihood activities. Among the common and adopted SWC technologies were: Gabions, Strip cropping, Terracing, Tree planting and Water harvesting. This study established the lack of technical advice from agricultural experts as a major problem, facing smallholders across both farming systems. The Radio. Mobile Phones and Farmer field days were the most preferred communication platforms for SWC technologies. The Internet was not preferred in any of the farming systems studied. There were 59 percent of smallholders who used livestock for SWC across the two Districts; however the Use of fire for soil management was not a common practice in both farming systems. It was established that despite acquiring information and technologies on Mineral conservation, the smallholders were not practicing these due to lack of follow up and adequate training. The periodic Resting of farmland was a common practice, with 65 percent of smallholders practicing this method for scientific purposes. This study recommends the need for specialized training and re-packaging of technical information on SWC to women. The smallholder women further require property rights and collective action for scaling up adoption to SWC technologies. This study established factors for smallholder adoption to SWC technologies as communication languagelabor intensity and profit margins. It is recommended that further research be undertaken towards the establishment of a Kenyan Fee- for service extension model, which besides communicating appropriate agricultural information and technologies will generate additional revenue for public extension programs.