Main Article Content
Adoption studies have mainly focused on econometric and quantitative modelling that usually assume smallholder farmers competently adopt agricultural technologies. This study provides novel insights on user competency and frequency of usage of mobile telephony for agricultural extension services among smallholder farmers and agricultural extension agents (AEAs) and key factors that impede the adoption process. The study examined users’ competencies and mobile phone usage frequency for access and delivery of agricultural extension services in Eastern Ghana. A multi-stage sampling procedure was used to select 95 AEAs and 330 smallholder farmers in five districts of the Eastern region of Ghana and data were collected through semistructured interviews. Descriptive statistics, Pearson correlation and regression analyses were performed to analyse the data. Results showed substantial differences between AEAs and smallholder farmers’ competency in the use of mobile phones for agricultural extension services. Socio-demographic characteristics of smallholder farmers and AEAs correlated with usage frequency of mobile phones for access to extension services and delivery. Educational level, amount of weekly expenditure of money on mobile phone use, mobile phone network quality, income level, and age ofboth AEAs and smallholder farmers had positive and significant correlations with frequency of usage of mobile phones. User competency differentially impacts the frequency of mobile phone use in agricultural extension services between AEAs and
smallholders. High call tariffs and access to recharge cards are major challenges in using mobile phones for agricultural extension in the study areas. The study shows components of the adoption theory of compatibility, and complexity where an innovation fits within the socio-cultural framework and perceived difficulty of use. Thus, the frequent use of voice calls is indicative of early stages of the diffusion process and may diversify into other applications in the future. Farmer-based organisations should be resourced to support training of farmers to use mobile phones to improve access to agricultural information dissemination. Integrating voice-based agricultural information services (IVRs) into the current SMS-based agricultural extension services in Ghana could potentially boost extension service delivery to smallholder farmers in the Eastern region and across the country. The Ministry of Food and Agriculture may partner with key stakeholders and mobile service providers to offer hands-on capacity building to smallholder farmers and AEAs in video calling/conferencing, multimedia service, and social media to enhance their competencies for improved agricultural extension services.