So as promised this post will be dedicated entirely to my line of work here in Ghana, as it's come to my attention that what I'm doing here might not be too clear to everyone back home!
I'll start off by defining my overall position here in Ghana. I like to consider myself an Engineers Without Borders consultant for the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (sounds fancy eh!?). That means that I'm here to perform some service for MoFA, and that particular service is to work on the problems of technology adoption.
Technology adoption can be defined as farmers adopting new practices and inputs into there current farming system to improve some aspect of their farming. The problem is that the technologies that can improve this farming are sometimes available and yet farmers aren't ready to use them on their own land. One may ask why this is, and my friend I will tell you the 7 observed barriers to technology adoption:
- Lack of availability of the technology
- Lack of knowledge or understanding of the technology
- Lack of finances
- Increased risk (or perceived risk) in using the technology
- Increased labor demand
- External social factors
- Inappropriate technologies
My answer has been to look at the contact farmers. A contact farmer is a particularly high capacity farmer who is used to aid MoFA activities in the communities by organizing farmers for meetings, contacting the AEA when there's an issue in the community concerning his work, or helping other farmers understand the messages the AEA brings to the community.
The issue here is two fold:
- That contact farmers are chosen by the AEA and not the people who'll be relying on him (the community members).
- That the contact farmers don't always fully understand their responsibilities, or can't carry them out.
It is my theory that by allowing community members to choose the contact farmer and be aware of his responsibilities, there will be a certain amount of social pressure to fulfill them. Moreover, by having high capacity farmers act as contact farmers the barriers that can be alleviated are as follows:
- Creating a greater overall understanding of technologies by having a well equipped and trusted community member explain them rather than an AEA whom the community members are only frequently in contact with.
- Decreasing the amount of perceived risk by having the contact farmer take up practices and visually prove to fellow community members that the risk doesn't out-weigh the benefit.
- Limit external social factors as the contact farmer would aware of all these and how to avoid them.
- By creating a system where the community can inform the contact farmer of there needs and the contact farmer can observe these and inform AEAs and other MoFA staff, one can ensure that all technologies used and requested would be appropriate.
Hopefully some people were able to keep up with that, and if not I would love to be asked questions on this topic as it is what I've decided to spend four months of my life on! :)