An investigation into the information needs and seeking behaviour of Small-Scale cattle farmers in Katima Mulilo Rural Constituency of Zambezi Region, Namibia

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Mabuku, Kabelele Melba
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The need for information is felt at all levels of society regardless of an individual’s location or intellectual achievement and it is believed that there is a lot of information around that people can use to make decisions, increase knowledge levels and reduce uncertainty. Yet, there are still categories of people in our societies that still face challenges in accessing it. One such group are the small-scale cattle farmers of Katima-Mulilo constituency of Namibia. The purpose of the study was to investigate into the information needs and seeking behaviours of small-scale cattle farmers of Katima-Mulilo rural constituency of Namibia. A survey method was used in this study and both quantitative and qualitative methods were employed. Cluster sampling technique was used to sample the villages while the cattle farmers were randomly selected and Purposive sampling technique was used to sample the key informants (veterinary medical officers, extension officers and officials from the NGO’s. The questionnaire and focus group discussion guide were used to collect data from the cattle farmers while the interview guide was used to collect data from the key informants. The critical incident technique was used to collect data from focus group discussions. Respondents were asked to recall some previous incidences that they had encountered which prompted them to seek information in order to make a decision or solve a problem. Quantitative data was analysed using the SPSS software while Qualitative data was analysed thematically using content analysis. The study revealed the following information needs of cattle farmers: animal health information,market information, information on animal husbandry, information on new technologies, and information on agriculture policies. The major information sources used by cattle farmers were interpersonal sources for example friends, relatives and neighbours and information sources which were used to a lesser extent were extension officers, veterinary doctors, radio, newspapers and books. The satisfaction levels with various sources showed that farmers were satisfied with information obtained from veterinary doctors and extension officers but were least satisfied with information obtained from friends, relatives, neighbours, other cattle farmers and personal experience and were more dissatisfied with information obtained from radio, books and newspapers. The study established that the preferred channel of communication was oral communication. The challenges faced by farmers when seeking information e.g. high illiteracy levels, language barrier, format in which information was packaged, inadequate numbers of personnel’s, inaccessible roads, distance to information centres and agriculture radio programs being aired at odd hours were also stated. Cross tabulations were performed to establish the influences that some demographic variables like age, gender and education levels attained had on the type of information required, information sources used and challenges faced and the study revealed positive significance levels on gender and education levels of the respondents. The study concluded that there is an increasing need to work in partnership and to share knowledge and skills in order to provide locally relevant services that meet the information needs of smallholder farmers in Namibia. It was also noted that the information received by farmers indicated that it was not to the expected level therefore the study concluded that government and local authorities should develop the existing services, information and communication systems to facilitate the farmers to access relevant information on time in order to gain best agricultural productions. Based on the findings of the study, majority of the cattle farmers were illiterates. This study therefore recommended that there was need to educate farmers on various information sources which could enable them access and use information that could be useful to them. The study results and conclusion made the following recommendations; there is need for the government and other relevant authorities in charge of disseminating information to do the following: extension should be designed with the farmer’s information needs in mind, implement policies that would guide and support extension education, information to be presented in the local languages both during field days meetings with the farmers and in print form, government to employ more extension officers and veterinary doctors to enhance on information delivery, information on radio should be aired in the evening when farmers are back from the fields.
Information Behaviour , Farmers-Services for-Namibia , Agriculture-Namibia-Information Services , Small, Scale farmers-Services for-Namibia