The role of cooperatives on agriculture extension process and content: a case of southern province of Zambia
Samuel Mwanza, Jiri Hejkrlik
Czech University of Life Sciences Prague, Fac. of Tropical AgriSciences, Czech Republic
Sustainable development strategies prioritise the rural populations whose majority are smallholder farmers working under complex and dynamic environmental conditions. Smallholders require quality agricultural training and information from extension providers for sound decision making. Cooperatives are perceived to speed-up smallholders’ access to such training and information. For a decade now, the Zambian government has favoured cooperatives in the process of extension service delivery, with a less coupled examination of the effects thereof. With the help of focus group discussions, and survey data from 410 farmers, comprising cooperative members (208) and non-members (202), the effects of cooperatives on smallholders’ access to agricultural training and information in the Southern province of Zambia were investigated. Descriptive statistics, deductive content analysis, and ordered probit regression were employed to analyse the effects. Results from descriptive statistics portray that the public extension provider is dominant in providing agricultural training and information to farmers than NGOs and private companies. Also, leading information pathways include public extension agents, radio, and cooperatives. The number of extension contacts and the farmers’ confidence in extension agents are significantly higher among cooperative members than non-members. The ordered probit regression reveals that cooperative membership significantly and positively affects farmers’ easier access to agricultural training, perceived training quality, and agricultural information quality. Our focus group discussions confirm such findings and indicate the causal relationship. Other critical factors in improving the access, quality of training, and information, are a higher number of extension contacts, proximity to the agricultural extension office, gender of extension agents, and social capital. However, there is a need to further reduce farmers' proximity to extension offices by increasing the number of public extension agents while paying attention to gender dynamics. Supporting cooperatives with necessary skills essential for collective access to private extension services can also contribute to agriculture development.
Keywords: Advisory services, Farmer groups, information, Ordered Probit Regression
Contact Address: Jiri Hejkrlik, Czech University of Life Sciences Prague, Dept. of Economics and Development, Kamycka 129, 16500 Prague, Czech Republic, e-mail: hejkrlikftz.czu.cz