The effectiveness of communication strategies in the tobacco out grower schemes: a case of small scale farmers in Kalomo

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Malundu, Bubala
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This study was done in Kalomo District in the Southern Province of the Republic of Zambia to determine why small scale tobacco farmers do not seem to benefit from tobacco out-grower schemes despite it being lucrative. Essentially, it was an effort to find out whether there is effective communication between the principal agents and the farmers in the tobacco out-grower schemes. It is necessary for both the out-grower farmer and the principle agent to communicate efficiently and effectively so as to attain a win-win situation. However, currently the problems facing the tobacco industry might be an indication of the trade policies which have failed the markets. Therefore, these have resulted in unfair trading in the tobacco industry where the tobacco buyers are the winners and the tobacco growers are losers. Further, failure could result from lack of government being present in the small scale tobacco industry. The implication is that the small scale tobacco farmers have been left at the mercy of the buyer who takes advantage of the situation to craft contracts which the illiterate small scale tobacco farmers do not understand, but agree to because they need the inputs. This ends up in a situation of horse and rider: buyers making huge profits for themselves while the peasant farmers are left with peanuts. Finally, one of the biggest causes of market failure is communication hiccups. Infact, the stated causes of market failure are anchored on communication related issues. It is, therefore, important to examine the communication strategies whether they have anything to do with this tobacco contract farming and the problems experienced by the farmers. To undertake this study, the researcher used the descriptive research design. Then it employed a convergent parallel mixed method. This implied that the study collected the data through quantitative and qualitative methods which helped in the interpretation of the overall results. In the quantitative method, the researcher used self-administered questionnaires while in the qualitative method the researcher collected the data through observation method, in-depth interviews and focus group discussions. In this regard, it is important to look at what role the communication strategies played in the tobacco contract farming and the problems experienced by the farmers. In line with this, two theories guided the research. These are the Multi Step and the Knowledge Gap Theories. These v two theories were essential to determine whether there were communication and knowledge gaps in terms of the communication strategies used in the small scale tobacco sector in Kalomo. The findings of the study were that the media has not made the sufficient strides in helping plugging knowledge gaps on production and marketing skills for these farmers. This has ultimately contributed to the problems of poverty as the farmers are less likely to make informed decisions about what kind of input is likely to earn them a much better life. The study recommended that there was need for improved telecommunication services and infrastructure in order for peasant farmers to have access to information regarding tobacco growing. Further, there was need for farmers to be educated more on tobacco growing through village learning. This study recommends that there should be a partnership between community journalism and community media to provide necessary integration to promote community identity and development so as to improve human potential.