ICT BASED INNOVATIVE FARMER EDUCATION PROGRAM TO BRIDGE INFORMATION AND KNOWLEDGE GAP OF AGRICULTURE: A CASE STUDY IN SRI LANKA
1 University of Turku (FINLAND)
2 University of Colombo (SRI LANKA)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2013 Proceedings
Publication year: 2013
Conference name: 7th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 4-5 March, 2013
Location: Valencia, Spain
Abstract:Agriculture is the mainstay of Sri Lankan rural sector which occupies 75% of total population. Farmers face constraints in gaining access to information and knowledge that could improve their livelihoods to maximize crop productivity. Information and Communication Technology (ICT)-based farmer education serves as a means for effective transfer of knowledge, information and technology to farmers while being engaged in their cultivations and enabling them to apply the knowledge directly to improve their farming output. To bridge the existing knowledge and information gap for farmers, University of Colombo Institute for Agro-technology and Rural Sciences, Sri Lanka has built the e-learning program (Online Diploma in Agro-technology) for farming community in Sri Lanka both in local language and English, which is an ICT-based agricultural education system to improve productivity, income and socio- economic status by disseminating a fresh expert agricultural advice to farmers. Agricultural experts generate lessons based on relevant information and knowledge on all agricultural practices received in the form of text and digitally converted lessons developed on online Learning Management System in Moodle. In 2009, a prototype was implemented with 60 farmers all around the country. Participants were trained for on-line learning mode. Learner support was provided through online tutors. Quality was ensured according to quality standards developed by Commonwealth of Learning. This is the first-ever attempt by the university system of Sri Lanka in providing an opportunity for farming community to pursue further education with ICT to be competitive in the Knowledge-Economy. At present around 500 farmers are following the program.
In this article, an analysis of registered farmers’ who followed the course regarding corresponding effect of following of e-learning program is reported. Data were gathered on a pre-tested questionnaire, formal, informal discussions and participatory observations. Results were analyzed using statistical methods (Percentile and Wilcoxon Signed-Rank Test). The built system provided a platform for rural youth to have access to meaningful education using alternate modes of delivery. Farmers are particularly interested in this as our operation is designed in local language without having any fixed learning times of the day. Through this it was possible to reach the people who have never dreamt of education through online modes. At the beginning of the course they had no competency with computer usage and ICT applications even some of them never had touched a computer before taking up the course. Therefore, it was a major challenge to train them for ICT. After an orientation on ICT and Internet usage it was possible to train them and ICT was rapidly accepted by farmers. Now they are able to use Internet without any difficulty, all of them have e-mail accounts. The analysis showed that about 80% of farmers have followed the e-learning program which increases yield, income and social status. There was a significant relationship existed between following the course and income and social status of the farmers. On an average 75% of the farmers studied with this course showed a good follow-up with positive impacts. ICT based education can be considered as a good method of giving information and knowledge for people who are not benefited from formal method of education such as farmers to improve their socio-economic status.
Keywords: ICT based Farmer education, Socio-economic status, Information and knowledge gap.