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Saturday, March 2, 2024

Development Communication

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In the example given, development communication was applied to the transfer of ‘tidal-influenced’ rice production technology to resource poor rural farmers.  It meant communication strategies and materials at certain time phases for specific groups of people involved in decision making.   
There is a great need for systematic communication technology in national development.  In this connection, the Department of Agriculture, as an institution for socio-economic development, should have a clear commitment as well as a coordinating role to rural and agricultural development.  It is pertinent, therefore, to consider the rural audience and the country side as a major operational concern of the institution.  This must also apply to the control of the broad spectrum of  communication needs for an agriculture-led growth, if we as a nation are to stay focused and relevant.   The Linkage Syndrome
As a result of the  impressive performance of the ATTG school community multi-enterprise tidal irrigation in Touba Sama, government policy makers ruled that the production system has to be adopted  if the country was to get the full benefits of the high yielding varieties and thus make the rural beneficiaries ‘live well’.  You see, with all the Philistine cries tidal irrigation is the sanctuary of our hope for generating a sustainable household food security plus a marketable surplus.  And since tidal irrigation production system needs competent technicians to manage it, a training programme was deemed necessary insurance for the success of the project.  Almost as an afterthought, the idea of institutional strengthening was appended to the plan of operations, which made it logical for AATG to train the extension technicians and credit officers.  Somehow, the special operation facility (SOF) which funded the credit and socio-economy study were badly executed as their findings main were highly suspicious.  Notwithstanding this, the project was funded for implementation but eventually failed miserably.
On closer scrutiny, the project was not staffed as expected for a tidal irrigation project.  Using the communication approach to put the project in focus revealed other ramifications that would be needed to link the training and milestone phases and to achieve the large goals assigned to the project, which are to improve the project management and cut down on economic and physical losses due to improper operational planning.
Once these objectives are accepted as valid, the project took on new dimensions.  It will have to do something about three main groups of people: the farmers – the big and small producers of rice whose harvest would start the processing chain; the processors – the owners and operators of already existing and proposed threshing machines, as well as the owners and operators of rice mills in addition to the main milling machine in Kuntaur; the consumers whose claim to quantity, quality and reasonable price should be reflected in the growth of the tidal rice industry. 
urrounding and intermingling with these core groups who also need to be informed and motivated because sometime during the life of the project and afterwards, they are going to make decisions that will affect the course of rice production in the country.  Some of them are: ·    Lending institutions/donors who will assess loan/grant applications for the new programmes/projects and for similar development programmes;
·    Legislators who will censure and draw up bills on quality control and other subjects that touch on rice production;
·    Professional communicators who can help create public awareness on the value of a good development programme/project; 
·    Present and future lending institutions/donors of the programme;
·    The people in some way related to the project, such as the steering committee, the resource persons, the staff of the Department of Agriculture;
·    Farmer/business men;
·    Farmers’ families;
·    In-school youth who will be rice farmers before long;
·    Community influentials and opinion leaders;
·    Community mechanics and repair crew.   In other words a lot more people than the technicians for whom the project was originally conceived. 
With the project objectives always as the referral point, identifying the target audiences is the first step in a communication analysis of any agricultural development project.  Such an analysis can best be outlined by this question: To what group of people; where; with what existing state of awareness of improved production process; what indigenous leadership/communication structures; what available material resources plus planned project inputs; and what existing socio-economic practices; must what new ideas, attitudes, and specific techniques on improved production processes be conveyed; when in relation to the project’s target phases;  by whom and using what communication media?
Studying the personal, economic and social characteristics of the beneficiaries in their environments is plainly the second step in the analysis.  Identifying the sort of messages for each group is the third step.  Only with ample understanding of the beneficiary groups and of the technology of improved production process can suitable strategies be devised that are likely to convince people to adopt, or make it easy for other to adopt, the recommendations of the project.  This will make us ready to plan what to say to whom and by whom; how to say it and when.
It further becomes evident from our analysis that the two principal methods of extending information – the training program and the on-farm demonstration centers – must be supplemented by others that will cater to originally unplanned for beneficiaries.  The most obvious one is diversified communication through the mass media channels.
The analysis also suggests certain strategies.  The on-farm production technology is a whole complex of practices that is not expected to take quickly in the rural communities for a number of reasons: 1.    It requires a shift to mechanisation to a lesser or greater degree.
2.    The cost of production equipments as well as inputs is relatively high.
3.    The recommended practices come up against institutionalized work habits and patterns.
4.    At the village level the problem is still the same old one of increasing production.  The national concept of second-generation problems loses some of its validity in the face of this local fact.
5.    Introducing machines at this time will displace people who have no alternative sources of income. These conditions confirm the soundness of the proposed strategy to use farmer’s associations as a key communication channel for increased and sustained rice production technology.  Another strategy suggested by the analysis is not propagating all the production technology all at once in its entirety or in the chronological sequence in the villages.  The best move appears to be to identify the production aspect most needed in an area and to begin from there.  The other aspects can be emphasised as the village people themselves begin to see the need for them in relation to the first aspect, begin to be dissatisfied with the old methods, and as the situational factors change.
Manual land preparation, transplanting, harvesting and threshing are so laborious that without the aid of some time and labour saving device farmers and their families may not enjoy a decent standard of living. To encourage regul ar double/triple cropping, farms would readily appreciate the need for more efficient drying methods in the wet season.  The drying technology could then be the foot in the door, so to speak, for the whole body of recommended production techniques..    Summary
In summary, development communication for an agriculture-led growth through improved rice production process means the communication strategies and materials that will be needed to support the development objectives of an agriculture-led growth. More than this, it means the idea of planning the materials and strategies in advance for certain well-thought-out purposes, for specified groups of people, at certain time phases.  It includes the motivational research that will be called for and the evaluation of the effectiveness of the communication materials and strategies.  Most of all, it is viewing the project as a multi-level communication campaign that will teach people new skills about improved production system, create receptive attitudes to the production innovations, and spread knowledge of all aspects of production throughout the country.  With the communication approach, we translate the objectives of the intervention programme/project in terms of people who are, after all, the real target of development.
One other thing needs to be mentioned.  If our analysis is not to remain an academic exercise, the communication dimensions added to the project must be given proper staffing and performance-based financing.  With the hope of a well defined and programmed development communication support for an agriculture-led growth, prospects are bright that the rural poor will start “living well” as a precondition to wealth creation and asset owning. Ends. Mr Jaiteh, a native of Bakau is a development consultant and a former permanent secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture.

Author: Suruwa B Wawa Jaiteh


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