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This, study was conducted to assess Internet use for extension communication among the agricultural research institutes and farmers in the north-west. Two agricultural research institutes in the North-West zone of Nigeria were selected for the study namely: National Animal Production Research Institute (NAPRI) and Institute of Agricultural Research (IAR). An investigation using a survey research method was adopted for the study. The research sample consisted of 200 researchers and technical staff, as well as 100 farmers aged in the age range 20yrs – 60years. The farmers were chosen from 5 states, i.e, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Jigawa and Zamfara states. Purposive sampling method was used in selecting the respondents. Data collected was analysed using simple descriptive statistics. Findings from the study revealed that 90% of respondents attested that the institutes have functional Internet facilities, even though with a poor service which tend to limit its effectiveness for agricultural extension. Also, 39-55% affirmed that the two research institutes does not use their internet for agricultural extension purposes but uses the Internet in the area of researches as confirmed by over 80% of the respondents. However, 52% of the farmers lack Internet skill as well as access to the Internet. More so 65% of farmers oppose the Internet as alternative source of agricultural information. Similarly, 75% of respondents identified that factors militating against the effective use of Internet for agricultural extension were:- lack of: Internet connectivity to farmers, Internet skills by some stakeholders, poor network, and frequent power failure. Further more, majority of respondents suggested the following solutions to enhance the use of Internet for extension communication: Internet connectivity to all stakeholders, increased bandwidth, staff/farmers training on Internet usage, regular subscription as well as power supply. The study concluded that Internet can offer opportunities for strengthening research – extension systems in Nigeria even though its advantages are yet to be realized due to the stated reasons above. The study recommended that; Agricultural stakeholders ie extension agents, research institutes and input agencies should make effort to have access by providing Internet facilities, train their staff in Internet skills, this will encourage two-way communication (downloading, uploading, interaction, question and answer for agricultural extension purposes. Also they should design awareness campaigns to sensitize the agricultural stakeholders on the possible uses of Internet services for extension communication.
BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
A major constraint to agricultural development in Nigeria is lack of inappropriate channels to deliver extension messages. Access to information is one of the most critical resources in agricultural sector, as well as economic development in Nigeria. Farmers need information on opportunities and threats in which the Internet can be of significant in accessing agricultural information. The Internet is one tool that can enhance flow of information between and among agricultural research institutes, Extension Agents (EAs) and the farmers. African, Caribbean and Pacific (CTA, 2003) and Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO, 1998) defined Internet as one technology involved in collecting, processing, storing, retrieving, disseminating and implementing data and information using microelectronics, optics, telecommunications and computers.
Meera, Jhamtani, and Rao. (2004) noted that Internet can bring new information services to rural areas where farmers (end users) will have much greater access to new agricultural innovations and information, than ever before. Access to such new information source is a crucial requirement for the sustainable development of farming systems. The Internet can be of immense help by enabling extension workers to gather, store, retrieve and disseminate a broad range of information needed by farmers. Van den Ban and Hawkins (1998) argued that in many countries the costs of maintaining full complement of extension agents are increasing progressively while the price of computers in the global market has decreased rapidly. This, therefore, makes the use of Internet for information dissemination more economical.
The aim of research and extension in Nigeria is to help farmers increase their agricultural productivity and so facilitate income generation, development, adoption and evaluation of appropriate agricultural technologies. Salau and Saingbe (2008) opine that Internet is important for networking among and between the key agricultural stakeholders in the Research-Extension-Farmers-Inputs-Linkage System (REFILS). The Research-Extension-Farmer-Input-Linkage System (REFILLS) is basically a strategy to bring together all the key stakeholders in agricultural development: researchers, extension agents, farmers, policy makers and the private sector for the effective management of research and extension delivery for sustainable agricultural development in Nigeria. Extension Communication is information exchange between and among various agricultural stakeholders ie farmers extension agents and agricultural research institutes, is an area in which Internet can have significant impact, research scientists can relate directly with the farmers through the Internet.
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