Could ICT be a Possible Solution for Increasing Agricultural Extension Outreach Capacity in Cambodia?
“I want to mobilize people and network” and use my social network to find ways to “get more for our rice,” said Ms. Meas Sopheap, a champion farmer on Women’s Day (Oxfam America 2016). Indeed, Agriculture is an essential sector for Cambodia – contributing significantly to national economic growth. In 2009, agriculture represented 33.5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) (Saing et al., 2012) and 31.6 percent in 2013 (MoP, 2014). The population of Cambodia has grown by 1.28 million every year from 2008 and 2013; in 2015, the total Cambodian population rose to 15.7 million and 79 percent of people are living in rural areas.
Despite these figures, agricultural extension services to support this significant sector of the economy remain limited – both in number of extension agents as well as the level of training. Nationwide, we have 1,244 extension staff; among those, 58 serve as senior management and 66 are subject matter experts (SMEs), with the remaining 1,120 comprising field extension providers (GFRAS, 2016).
But, information and communication technologies (ICT) are quite popular in Cambodia. Today, approximately one third of the country's total population uses social media, like Facebook (VOA, 2016), and each Cambodian has at least one cell phone to use for communication purposes. Therefore, ICT should be considered as a vehicle to increase the outreach of agricultural extension capacity in Cambodia in this era of technology.
One key reason to focus on ICT in Cambodia is the widespread accessibility of cell coverage and other smart devices. The reach of these services has rapidly spread nationwide in the last decade. According to Ministry of Post and Telecommunication of Cambodia (MPTC), there are currently 11 different companies providing excommunication services, with nine companies operating fixed phone services. Six of the fixed phone service companies also run mobile phone services, along with three other companies. Cell phone coverage is listed at 140 percent of total population with many utilizing more than one phone (MPTC, 2015). All telecommunication operators provide reasonable prices, making it accessible for much of the population, and particularly farmers.
In regards to internet: 40.6 percent of the population has access to the internet. There six operators providing mobile internet services and 11 operators providing fixed internet services (TRC, 2015). Among the six mobile internet service operators, CamGSM has nationwide coverage with acceptable data and reasonable prices—each subscriber pays $5 USD per month for 3.5GB of data (Cellcard, n.d.a). Based on this potential accessibility of both cell phones and internet, ICT appears to be a great tool that can be used to boost agricultural extension services in Cambodia.
The data of NIS (2013) also show that 32.8 percent of the total population has radio and 65.6 percent of the total population has a TV. There are 13 local TV stations, and a number of TV channels have agriculture programs and most of these channels broadcast agriculture programming on weekends. For radio, there are approximately 188 frequencies broadcasting nationwide (DMC, 2014). According to Roberts (2011), approximately 79 percent of Cambodian people used radio and TV as the main source of getting information. Therefore, there is an opportunity for farmers to enjoy both weekend entertainment and agriculture programs (Pandey 2011).
The literacy rate is a challenging factor. Even though the nationwide literacy rate increased to 79.7 percent as of 2013, rural people still have lower education (NIS, 2013). On the other hand, among the literate population, only 8 percent nationwide are able to understand English; if we break down this statistic, we see that only 3.5 percent of the rural population can understand English while up to 21.7 percent of the urban population can use English for communication (NIS, 2013). That said, visuals, like pictures and videos, would be a great way to share information and exchange technical knowledge with farmers.
In summary, ICT is a promising tool to extend outreach of agricultural extension services in Cambodia. There is nationwide cell phone and internet coverage, and farmers have great access to cell phones, radios, and even television. Although there are challenges of illiteracy, using pictures and videos might be a strong approach to use for information sharing and transferring technical knowledge. We can make things more user-friendly by developing produts with straightforward and familiar language for farmers. To apply ICT tools effectively, a framework on awareness—whether farmers know about your information or not, whether they have interest in learning more or not, and whether it's perceived as doable—is neccessary. the table below provides a framework to reclect this: Farmer Awareness, Interest, and if it's perceived as Doable (AID) (Bell, 2015). Dealing with agricultural extension issues will help solve farmers’ problems and help them improve living standards through improving agricultural productivity.
Cellcard. n.d.a. iNET. Retrived on March 21, 2016. http://www.cellcard.com.kh/cellcard-internet
MoP. 2014. Census of Agriculture in Cambodia 2014. National Institute of Statistics. Ministry of Planing.
MPTC. 2015, September . Factsheet: Ministry of Posts and Telecommunication of Cambodia. Retrieved February 14, 2016, from Ministry of Posts and Telecommunication of Cambodia: http://www.mptc.gov.kh/site/detail/381#.VsFEhuZmdLE
NIS. 2013. Cambodia Inter-Censal Popluation Survey 2013 Final Report. Phnom Penh: National Institute of Statistics, Ministry of Planning.
Oxfam America. 2016. A farmer declares victor. Retrieved March 21, 2016. http://firstperson.oxfamamerica.org/2016/03/a-farmer-declares-victory/
Pandey M. 2011. Mission Report: Making the Mass Media Work Better for Agriculture, Cambodia Agriculture Value Chain (CAVAC) Program
Roberts, M. 2011. The Media Map Project: Case Study on Donor Support to Independent Media, 1990-2010 in Cambodia. Media Map.
Saing Chan Hang, Hem Socheth and Ouch Chandarany. (2012, June). Foreign Investment in Agriculture in Cambodia. (P. D. Dorina, Ed.) CDRI, 60(June), 3.
TRC. 2015. Internet subscribers: Telecommunication Regulator of Cambodia. Retrieved February 14, 2016, from Telecommunication Regulator of Cambodia: http://www.trc.gov.kh/internet-subcribers/
VOA, 2016, March. Why Is Cambodia’s Prime Minister Spending His Time on Facebook? Retrieved March 17, 2016. http://www.voacambodia.com/content/why-is-cambodia-prime-minister-spending-his-time-on-facebook/3160604.html
Annex: AID framework
A Aware –Are peoplereadily“Aware”ofyourinformation
You need toknowyour audienceand usemultiple channelstomakesurethey knowaboutyour “product”or information.
ICTdramaticallyexpandspotential reach and access.However, promotion through multiplechannelsistypicallyneeded sothat audiencesknowabouttheinformationorservice. FarmRadioInternationalworkwithestablished trusted programs toquicklygain accesstoawideaudience.Their programsarecomplemented bycell phoneand othermedia.
I Interested–Are people“Interested”and do theywantto learnmore?
You need toemotionally connectwithyour audience, build trust,meettheirneeds and interestsand respondto their feedback.
ICT(especiallytheuseofvideoandvisuals)dramatically expands thepotentialto build trustand makean emotional connection with theaudience. Inthisrespect,DigitalGreen (DG)and Shamba Shape-Up (SSU)featurepeople“justlike me” sothe audiencecaneasilyrelatetothe message.Further,mobilebased GPS systemsallowreal-timefeedbackin thefield.DG systematicallyand efficientlycollectandmonitor feedback ona dashboard in order toadapttheirmessageandapproach to betterconnectwith andmeettheneedsof theiraudiences.
D Doable(Actionable)–Can people easily“Do” somethingto tryyourideas?
You need toprovideinformation such thattheaudiencewantto (i.e.,thereisobviousbenefit) and can easilytesttheproduct orinformation.
Theuseofvideoandvisualspresentspowerfulways touseICT tomakeimplementationeasy. The proliferation of“howto” videoson YouTube isa simple exampleofthepowerof ICT.
Source: Bell MA. 2015