A recent study has found that although agriculture desperately needs better methods to boost productivity, most rural farmers are not interested in improved technologies.
The study report on the impact of agricultural technology adoption on farmer welfare in Uganda and Tanzania was launched last week at a national policy conference at Sheraton Kampala hotel.
The research was conducted in rural areas of Kabale in western Uganda, the Acholi sub-region in the north, Mbale and Kapchorwa in the east by Kenyan researchers Mr Bethuel Kiyanjui Kinuthia and Mr Edward Mabaya.
The conference was jointly organised by the two organisations behind the research: Partnership for Economic Policy (PEP) and the Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC). It also discussed findings from two other studies, on “The adoption and dis-adoption of improved seeds in Tanzania and Uganda” and “Non-farm Employment, Agricultural Intensification and Productivity Change: Empirical Findings from Uganda”.
All studies were conducted under the Structural Transformation of African Agriculture and Rural Spaces (STAARS) Initiative. According to the report, technology adoption has been touted as the key to address poverty and food security but the reality is different.
“The results show that many farmers are slow to adopt new technology. This is attributed to not being aware of the benefits new technology can provide, the technologies not being available at the time they are needed, or not being profitable due to land and labour allocation,” the report says.
Researchers found that younger farmers keener on new farming technologies than older farmers, suggesting that as farmers age, they are less open to adopting new technology.
Presenting the report during the conference, Kinyanjui said that while low adoption rates might seem irrational when looking at promised yields, they may also be a result of various constraints farmers face.
“These constraints can include low levels of education of the farmers and lack of access to credit making it difficult for them to adopt new technology,” he said.
Mr Badru Kagoda, the value chain officer of Kayunga District Farmers Association (KDFA), says most farmers are not adopting new technology because they can neither understand nor afford it.
“I may give an example of the fertilizer optimisation tool which helps them to utilise fertilisers. They cannot operate that tool,” Kagoda told The Observer by telephone. “Secondly, these technologies are beyond the financial status of our farmers. They do not have money to invest in such new technology.”
He added that fake farm inputs on the market, such as agrochemicals, also demoralise the farmers because of the resultant poor yields compared to when they use rudimentary methods.
“The climate itself has become so hostile that farmers cannot adopt new technologies because whenever they try to adopt them, they end up losing due to hostile climate,” Kagoda said.
The report recommended that to increase uptake of new technology, farmers should join associations and maintain contact with government agencies.
“As such, it is vital that this new information on the determinants of technology adaptation is used to encourage greater uptake. This may be achieved through providing better information to farmers regarding the possibilities the new technology offers such as more yields and healthier crops,” the report states. “Similarly, access to credit must be assured so that farmers are able to purchase new technologies.”