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Redefining the Role of Information Brokers: The Case of Ghana’s Agricultural Innovation System and Information Communication Technologies (ICTs)

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Title: Redefining the Role of Information Brokers: The Case of Ghana’s Agricultural Innovation System and Information Communication Technologies (ICTs)
Author(s): Addom, Benjamin
Subject(s): Information Brokers Knowledge Management ICTs Agriculture
Abstract: SYNOPSIS The new information and communication technologies (ICTs) are rapidly evolving and continue to transform the modes and patterns of communication by enabling handling of information, facilitating forms of communication among human actors; between human beings and electronic systems; and among electronic systems. This has resulted in increasing potentials of intermediary institutions (information brokers) such as libraries, non-governmental organizations, international development organizations, information centers, and the traditional agricultural extension services in keeping with their missions to collect, preserve, link, and make available information to those who might need it. According to USAID (2003), understanding the place of ICTs in a developing country agriculture depends on four key concepts: i) that knowledge is an increasingly significant factor of production; ii) that all actors in the agricultural sector are part of an evolving Agricultural Knowledge System (AKS); iii) that ICTs accelerate agricultural development by facilitating knowledge management for AKS members; and iv) that ICTs are essential coordinating mechanisms in global trade. This dissertation research used a multi case study approach in three agricultural districts of Ghana to understand the current modes and patterns of communication that exists between and among local farmers?, agricultural researchers, agricultural extension agents and other intermediary organizations ? otherwise referred to here as information brokers - within the sector. The study is driven by one main research question - what is the current state of communication between and among local farmers, agricultural researchers, agricultural extension officers and other intermediary organizations in Ghana? The study also acknowledges two key sources of knowledge within the innovation system (global and local). The preliminary findings reveal that; i) there is a high production of local knowledge and innovations by the local farmers from the three cases; ii) even though the awareness of the potentials of these local innovations in scientific research and production is very high among the actors very little is being done to take advantage of them; iii) a number of research institutes and universities located within the study sites are also involve in a wide range of global/scientific research relating to agricultural production, processing and marketing; iv) but very little has changed over the years in terms of tools and modes of communication being used between and among the actors despite the increasing number of intermediary organizations; v) this has led to a very poor (if not total absent) linkage between the local knowledge and global/scientific knowledge sources; vi) and maximum use of local knowledge and practices by the local farmers with relatively very high demand for global/scientific information, knowledge and innovations for improved agricultural production. PROBLEM STATEMENT The importance of knowledge generation, exchange and use in any agricultural innovation system cannot be overemphasized. The institutions responsible for these processes include agricultural researchers, farmers, extension and other intermediary organizations. Agricultural knowledge generation has predominantly been the responsibility of the research institutes with little attention to the role of local farmers; just as the extension services was solely responsible for the transfer of technologies from the researchers to farmers. Considering the important role agriculture plays in Ghanas' economy (Dzidonu, 2002), it is critical to understand and analyze knowledge flow within the national agricultural innovation system - comprising of the local farmers, researchers, extension services and other intermediary organizations. While science and technology has heavily influenced the country?s agricultural production system for decades, there is also a huge body of literature on the value of farmers? local knowledge and innovations in agriculture (Amanor, 1994). Several studies have revealed that the emphasis is being shifted onto sharing of knowledge between technical experts and local people (Coldevin, 2003) instead of the conventional approach of ?knowledge transfer?. This is being recognized considering the special characteristics of the new ICTs to take knowledge generated from one location to another (Stiglitz, 1999; Colle and Roman, 2003). Taking into account the rich professional and scientific work that has been going on in these three areas - i) scientific knowledge in agricultural production; ii) local knowledge and farmer innovations; and iii) ICTs for development; one would have expected a synergy for employing ICTs to tap farmers? local knowledge and innovative activities back into scientific research. Empirically, however, little is known (if any) of how access to ICTs by agricultural researchers, farmers, extension officers and other intermediary organizations is being used to unearth the existing knowledge and innovative activities of local farmers. GOAL This dissertation research argues that, for a stable and vibrant agricultural innovation system in Ghana, actors need to reconsider ways by which farmers? local knowledge and innovative activities can be incorporated into scientific research for further innovations ? a situation that calls for redefining the role of the intermediary organizations. The main goal of the study therefore was to first understand the current situation, and then explore with the stakeholders, the role of the new ICTs, and how these technologies can facilitate the functions of agricultural research and extension. CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK The study draws and builds upon knowledge from the following interrelated concepts and fields; a) The significant contribution of scientific knowledge and innovations to agriculture (Agrawal, 1995; Andersen, 2007) through transfer of technology model (Rogers, 1962); training and visit model (Tanaka, 2007); and the current farmer field school model (Simpson and Owen, 2002); b) The value of farmers? local knowledge and innovations in agriculture in developing nations (Amanor, 1994; Kamangira, 1997; Bellon, 2001); c) The unique characteristics of the new ICTs as invaluable resources for agricultural research (ISNAR, 2003), and the driver of knowledge and information society (Okpaku, 2003; Dahlman and Aubert, 2002); and d) The process of identifying, documenting, and incorporating farmers? local innovations into scientific research for repackaging for farmers? use. The theory of absorptive capacity - the capability of any system to acquire, assimilate and exploit external knowledge was proposed by Cohen and Levnthal, (1990) and reconceptualized by Zahra and George (2002). Even though the theory has been successfully explored in firms (Cohen and Levinthal, 1990; Zahra and George, 2002); inter-firm collaborations (Stuart, 1998); and within nations (Liu and White, 1997) to understand the outcome, very little is known of the actual process of absorptive capacity. Therefore using this theory, the process by which intermediary organizations could facilitate the recognition of the value of varied knowledge sources, their acquisition, repackaging and exchange could be understood. METHODOLOGY The study was designed as a qualitative multi-case study using semi-structured interviews and focus group discussions for data collection. Secondary documents were also included in the data gathering and analysis. Three cases were used based on an existing project, and the types of crops being grown in these areas. The sites are also known of i) the presence of agricultural research institutes, ii) the history of agricultural extension work, and iii) extensive farming activities. The full research process was carried out at the first site and then repeated at the other two sites with minor changes to the instruments depending on the situation on the ground. At the end of the data collection process, three different stakeholder forums were organized at the various study sites that brought representatives of all the institutions and organizations interviewed together to confirm the data and deliberate on the recommendations of the researcher. Analysis of the trascripts is being done using content analysis software ? Atlas.ti.
Issue Date: 2010-02-03
Genre: Conference Poster
Type: Text
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2142/14993
Date Available in IDEALS: 2010-02-25
 

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