The use of information and communication technology by emerging commercial farmers in their development in the Western Cape, South Africa
Smidt, Hermanus Jacobus
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Although many researchers have shown JCT can enable development it remains a great challenge to understand the link between ICT4D projects and the development of emerging commercial agriculture. There is a need to realize the potential of information and communication technologies (JCT) for emerging commercial farmer development in order to achieve agriculture expansion and transformation in South Africa. This is important in order for them to partake in the knowledge economy visualized in the 2030 National development plan of South Africa and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in 2030. However in South Africa, it is not yet established which specific JCT are used, how they are used and the extent of deployment if used in the emerging commercial agricultural sector. Few studies have focused on the factors that influence the use of JCT in South African emerging agriculture. This study investigates and attempts to understand the usage of JCT by emerging commercial farmers and the issues that influence ICT use on the West Coast of the Western Cape Province in South Africa. The study investigates the different forms of JCT used, how they are being used, what they are used for, how important these technologies are as enablers of production and the factors that affect their use. The study involved a survey response of 42 emerging commercial farmers and 46 of their farm employees in the Matzikama and Cederberg municipalities. A literature review draws from studies globally. regionally and in South Africa on how ICTs have penetrated and contributed to delivering development in emerging commercial agriculture. Although most emerging commercial farmers cannot afford to adopt JCT fools that are essential in their farming activities almost all who were interviewed acknowledged !he importance of JCT to their businesses. However, among other JCT, mobile phones and television were found to be primarily used for social and entertainment reasons rather than for agricultural purposes. The general findings showed that occupation on farm and JCT Literacy influence the use of ICT by farm employees. On the other hand the gender, capacity of the farmer, off farm income and farm size influences the use of ICT by emerging commercial farmers. Our literature review established some examples from the studies of other researchers and the efforts of multi-lateral institutions such as the FAO and ITU to illustrate how we can improve policy. I recommend that the South African government develop an e-agriculture strategy to monitor development and validation of good practices on the use of ICTs in agriculture and rural development. This strategy will examine emerging trends on the role of ICTs and the challenges faced in reaching scaled, sustainable information service models. This can increase the sustainability of emerging commercial agriculture to contribute to the improvement of the lives of the poor in rural areas. Finally I present research questions for future research.