Hainan farmers’ sources of agricultural information

by
Hui Zhang and Qianhua Yuan,  Hainan University, Hai Kou, China
Monina Escalada, Visayas State University, Leyte, Philippines

Hainan University student interviewing a woman farmer in Haikou, Hainan province, December 2010.

In June 2012, a baseline survey of rice farmers in Hainan reported farmer respondents’ knowledge gaps and attitudes toward ecological engineering techniques. Most of the respondents were uncertain about outbreak factors such as high fertilizer rates and insecticides. Also, while respondents’ attitudes toward ecological engineering techniques seemed positive about two-thirds of them indicated that they were not willing to plant wild flowers or beneficial plants on their rice bunds as it would require more work.

To enhance biodiversity conservation in Hainan, ecological engineering principles need to be communicated to farmers using a combination of communication media including posters, radio, television, video, billboards, leaflets, mobile phones, web-internet and interpersonal channels (demonstration farms, training, field visits). In Vietnam, to scale up ecological engineering, the prototype media materials for the “rice fields with flower bunds” campaign consist of TV broadcast videos, short radio drama episodes, billboards, posters and leaflets (see Escalada & Heong (2012).

Vietnam campaign materials on ecological engineering

When well-planned communication strategies are applied to correct misperceptions, farmers’ resource-management decisions and skills can be improved. Analysis of the audience is an essential part of designing and planning a scaling up program as it will be useful in selecting a cost-effective combination of multi-media channels and in planning the most appropriate use of the media mix to support existing extension activities. To design a scaling-up plan on ecological engineering tailor-made for Hainan rice farmers, we conducted an audience analysis survey among 444 farmers in Haikou and Lingshui cities in Hainan province in July 2012.

The farmers interviewed were about 46 years old and nearly half (48.9%) had lower secondary education. More male farmers (55.6%) than female farmers (44.4%) were interviewed by Hainan University students who were trained to conduct the survey.

Hainan University student interviewing a farmer in Timeng town, Hainan province

Media exposure

In both cities, the big majority (97.3%) of farmers interviewed reported watching TV, followed by using the cell phone (75.5%). More than one-third (37.8%) read printed materials such as newspapers, magazines and books. Less than a fourth (24.3%) listened to radio and 1 out of 10 used the internet.

Hainan farmers reading the newspaper at home with the TV on.

Table 1.  Farmers’ media exposure, Hainan, China, 2012.

Haikou

Lingshui

Both

Media exposure*

No.

%

No.

%

No.

%

Watch TV

256

57.7

176

39.6

432

97.3

Use a cell phone

199

44.8

136

30.6

336

75.5

Read newspapers, magazines

106

23.9

62

14.0

168

37.8

Listen to radio

79

17.8

29

6.5

108

24.3

Use internet

31

7.0

30

6.8

61

13.7

*Multiple response

Agricultural information sources

Other farmers, extension workers and television topped the list of farming information sources mentioned by farmers.  Table 2 shows that less than one-fourth (23%) relied on themselves or their own experience, local authorities (16.2%),  and radio (6.5%). A few mentioned the internet (3.6%). Other sources of farm information consisted of pesticide shops, books and video  CDs on agricultural science and technology,  newspaper, and cell phone.

Table 3 indicates that farmers’ responses were consistent when asked for their preferred sources of agricultural information.  Interpersonal  sources dominated the list of preferred sources with most respondents specifying other farmers (28.6%), extension workers (25.6%), own experience (16.9%) and television (4.4%). Very few named the internet (2.5%) and radio (2.3%).

Table 2.  Farmers’ sources of agricultural information, Hainan, China, 2012.

Haikou

Lingshui

Both

Source*

No.

%

No.

%

No.

%

Other farmers

111

25.0

86

19.4

197

44.4

Extension worker

108

24.3

48

10.8

156

35.1

Television

81

18.2

56

12.6

137

30.9

Self or one’s experience

47

10.6

55

12.4

102

23.0

Local authorities

50

11.3

22

5.0

72

16.2

Radio

24

5.4

5

1.1

29

6.5

Internet

10

2.3

6

1.4

16

3.6

Other

2

9.5

39

12.4

81

18.2

*Multiple response

Table 3.  Farmers’ preferred sources of agricultural information, Hainan, China, 2012.

Haikou

Lingshui

Both

Source*

No.

%

No.

%

No.

%

Other farmers

74

28.4

53

29.0

127

28.6

Extension worker

74

28.4

38

20.8

112

25.2

Own experience

37

14.2

38

20.8

75

16.9

Local authorities

16

6.1

11

6.0

27

6.1

Television

36

13.8

28

15.3

64

14.4

Internet

6

2.3

5

2.7

11

2.5

Radio

9

3.4

1

0.5

10

2.3

Other

6

2.3

7

3.8

13

2.9

*Multiple response

Information source characteristics

We probed farmers why they preferred the information sources they mentioned.  A summary of the cross-tabulation of sources and reasons for preference revealed these key characteristics. Farmers expressed relying on themselves because it is more accessible, reliable and no other source is available. In the absence of scientifically-based technical information, delivered in a readily-understandable form through extension workers, farmers often rely largely on their own self-knowledge, beliefs and perceptions.  While there are strengths in indigenous knowledge systems, there are also weaknesses and “what farmers don’t know cannot help them” (Bentley, 1989, p.25; DeWalt, 1994).

Other farmers – Easy to contact
Extension worker – Experienced, reliable, accessible, clear and detailed, professional
Self or one’s experience – Accessible, reliable, no other source
Television – Can be received every day, informative, up-to-date
Local authorities – Full-scale
References

Bentley J.W. (1989). What farmers don’t know can’t help them: the strengths and weaknesses of indigenous technical knowledge in Honduras. Agriculture and Human Values, 6, 25-31.

DeWalt B. R. (1994). Using indigenous knowledge to improve agriculture and natural resource management. Human Organization, 53,123-131.

Escalada, M. & Heong, K.L. (2012).. Using decision theory and sociological tools to facilitate adoption of biodiversity -based pest management strategies. Biodiversity and Insect Pests: Key Issues for Sustainable Management, First Edition. Edited by Geoff M. Gurr, Steve D. Wratten, William E. Snyder, Donna M.Y. Read. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd).

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