Awareness And Use Of Kenya Agricultural Commodity Exchange Services (kace) Information Services By Smallholder Farmers Of Bungoma County, Kenya
Agricultural information is a key component in improving small-scale agricultural production and linking increased production to remunerative markets. This leads to improved rural livelihoods, food security and national economies. However, farmers’ access to market has consistently remained very poor at various phases of the agricultural supply chain, as a result of lack of market information. This has prevented farmers from negotiating for commodity or input price on the market. The use of ICT tools in transaction thus provides the opportunity for improving profitability of farming as a business. The overall aim of this study was to assess farmers’ awareness and use of the technological tools employed by Kenya Agricultural Commodity Exchange (KACE) in linking the rural population to marketing as well as other agricultural information. Operations of KACE involve linking smallholder farmers in Western Kenya to markets. Data was obtained via personal interviews with 136 randomly sampled farmers drawn from 8 villages where KACE was conducting its activities. The collected data was analyzed using econometric models such as Logit and Poisson regressions. Logit regression model was separately used in examining factors influencing awareness and use of Information and Communication Tools. Poisson regression model was used in examining the factors conditioning the number of ICT tools and services used by the farmers in accessing marketing information from KACE. Descriptive analysis was used in assessing awareness and use of KACE tools and information services. Farmer specific, farm-level characteristics and capital endowment factors were found to affect the awareness, use and intensity of use of ICT tools. Specifically, farmer-specific variables conditioning awareness of KACE information activities are age and gender. Awareness is also influenced by literacy level, a capital endowment variable. The use of KACE information tools is determined by farmer-specific characteristics: age and gender. Literacy level and group membership, are the capital endowment factors that influence use of KACE tools and services. Further, farmer-specific variables (gender and age), condition the intensity of tools used by farmers in accessing KACE services. In addition, farm-level characteristics such as distance to the nearest centre and main market; elucidate the intensity of use of ICT tools for agricultural transaction purposes. In terms of capital endowment, ownership of mobile phones, group membership and literacy level, also explains the extent of use of ICT tools by households in accessing agricultural information. The implications of these findings is that access to ICT tools, in general and in particular, to KACE information services, can help reduce the problems of market asymmetry that characterize the smallholder farmers. Consequently, the findings recommend the need for policymakers and other stakeholders to beef up investments in programs geared towards making the ICT infrastructures accessible to smallholder farmers. Designing of tools that can easily be adopted by people with low literacy level as well as the older members of rural community will help in addressing the issue of digital gap. Women empowerment, in terms of knowledge, access to technology and financial resources will improve their adoption of these innovative tools.