Improving communication channels in out grower schemes: A challenge for small holder farmers growing tobacco in Chipata, Zambia
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This is a report of the study that was done in Chipata District in Zambia to determine why the majority of small holder tobacco farmers do not benefit from out grower schemes. The research and writing of the report was the final phase of the partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Master of Communication for Development degree of the University of Zambia. The study employed both quantitative and qualitative methods of data collection. In the former a Questiormaire and Famers Matrix were used. In the later Focus Group Discussions, in- depth interviews, personal interviews, and participant observation were used. Data analysis was multifaceted. Quantitative data was analyzed using the Statistical Package of Social Sciences (SPSS). A total of 194 people participated in the study of which 124 were males and 70 were females. This study established that while tobacco production has the potential to improve rural livelihoods, resources for communication activities continue to be difficult to mobilize, and development organizations find it difficult to put people at the centre of the communication process which has made if difficult for the majority of small holder farmers to benefit from out grower schemes. The study revealed that tobacco farmers and their families had continued to work for low prices every season, when tobacco companies and tobacco manufacturers continue to record huge profits. The study concludes that tobacco out grower schemes do not benefit the majority of small holder farmers. The study observed that tobacco out grower schemes have many stakeholders and each of them has a role to play to make sure small holder farmers benefit from the out grower schemes. The study recommends that the government puts in place the communication infrastructure necessary to benefit rural farmers. This includes increasing the fiber optic cables in the country. The government must also create a conducive business environment to allow entrepreneurs to engage in communication related businesses in rural areas. This is in addition to coming up with a well defined policy on contract farming which currentiy is not there. The government must also commission comprehensive studies to investigate the role of communication in out grower schemes and the contributions of out grower schemes to poverty reduction among rural households. The study recommends that tobacco companies must support learning and environmental management initiatives in the communities and work with the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives at the local level. The rural farmers, the study recommends, must come up with the village learning Groups and Community Agriculture Worker concepts to facilitate information flow to improve tobacco production and marketing. Lastly, the study recommends that media must put people at the centre of communication process by providing them with information relevant to effectively participate in the economy thereby improving their livelihoods.