Assessment of availability and use of Information and Communication Technology in broiler marketing: the case of Peri-urban broiler farmers in Njiru district-Nairobi county
The poultry industry in Kenya has progressed over the years to become one of the most important livestock enterprises according to GoK (2009). The current estimated poultry population is 32 million and they are the most numerous species of farm animals in Kenya, whereby domestic chicken account for 98% and others 2% (GoK 2009). Poultry provides eggs, meat and other by-products. This meat has low fat, low calorie and high protein and it's more cost effective compared to other meat sources if production and marketing systems are efficient. Broiler farming offers great opportunities to ensuring food security, income generation and resource utilization due to fast growth rate of broiler chicken (5- 7weeks) and hence quick returns to investment. The short time in production cycle shows that broiler farming can be commercialized with quick returns to investment and very ideal in ensuring food security and source of livelihood. Due to price fluctuations in broiler marketing, farmers' income is unpredictable and at times results in great economic losses leading to pulling out of production by farmers with resultant lack of poultry products and hence higher prices. Information networks among the producers and the market agents could therefore aid in predicting when to produce, for whom, and how much. Currently, farmers mainly source for markets individually and mostly after they are already in production which results in inefficiency and costly ventures. Broiler production in Kenya is mainly by small scale farmers and there is lack of organized marketing system. The brokers and middlemen on whom they rely for information seem to be inadequate. There is therefore need to investigate the extent to which they know or have access to Information and Communication Technology(ICT) which can also enable them access market information. Knowledge of ICT will enable majority of broiler farmers access broiler markets hence increase their production and sales of broilers. There exists information and communication technology tools such as mobile phones, computers, internet services, print and electronic devices which can be used to access market cheaply. This would increase efficiency of the marketing system and thereby increase production capacity. Although such communication tools have been used in marketing of large livestock in arid and semi-arid areas through Livestock Information Network and Knowledge Systems(LINKS), their usage in broiler marketing has not been assessed, hence importance of this research in Kenya. The overall objective of the project was to develop an understanding of the components of a successful broiler food system and assess whether use of ICT tools could increase production and market by broiler farmers. The study sought to identify broiler farmers and information channels, current ICTs used by farmers along the broiler supply chain and hence suggest strategies which can enhance use of ICTs in broiler food system. The research was carried out in Njiru District, one ofthe 9 districts in Nairobi County where peri-urban farming is being practiced. Sixty nine (69) households were involved and semi structured questionnaires used to get the required data. Key findings showed that majority of broiler farmers were women (81.2%), while males were 18.8%- majority of these fall within 31-50years age category whereby 31-40 were 41 % and 41-50 years 33%,implying that the farmers are relatively young. The study showed that the farmers are fairly literate with 64% having attained secondary education, 19% tertiary education and 3% university level. Information service providers were identified as extension workers (48%), other farmers (42%) and input suppliers (lO%).This shows that farmer to farmer network is important in broiler farming. On ICT skills, it was noted that 32% have no computer skills, 36% fair, 23% good and 9% very good despite the literacy level. The results of the study shows that mobile telephone as a communication tool was being highly utilized (87%) to source for the broiler inputs, either through calls or SMS, showing high usage of the telephone for agricultural purposes. It is evident that management information service is the most sought (50%) followed by inputs and markets services (38%), showing importance of need for management skills and marketing in broiler production. Despite the Kenya Agricultural Commodity Exchange, (KACE ) being available (www.kace.org), 98% of the respondents had no idea of such an organization or what benefits it offers along the broiler supply chain, though the information is available in most handsets(get-it ) by Safaricom mobile service provider and in the internet upon registration. The results show that farmers lack skills on how to use the tools which limit ability to effectively use them. Suggested government intervention to facilitate use of ICTs include: training farmers on the use of ICTs (44%);subsidizing the communication rates(ll %);opening up service centers(ll %);improving ICT infrastructure(lO%);increased marketing of products online(2%). which shows that the respondents require skills on ICTs and maybe opening up service centers in the local areas would facilitate their training. Poor access to markets was rated as number one constraint in broiler marketing. In order of priority. constraints faced by farmers in broiler supply chain mainly relate to marketing issues such as accessibility. pricing and delayed payments. The results indicate importance of market access by broiler farmers who seem to struggle alone to get market outlet. The newly created_Ministry of Information and Communication Technology shows willingness by the government to enhance growth of ICT for economic development, though the initiative needs to be cascaded in all sectors including Agriculture which is still the mainstay of the economy.