Development support communication for better farming methods : study of communication actions among farmers in Tswaing Local Municipality
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There are various factors that can ensure agricultural projects sustenance in a community but this study focused on the role communication, planning and implementation plays in sustaining these development projects and ensuring productivity in terms of better farming methods. Based on the development communication theory, the study sought to determine the role of communication, channels used by development agents and partners within the Tswaing local municipalities (TLM) to involve farming communities in their own development and the changes the projects. The development communication corresponds with not so ideal paternalistic approach that is top-down and one-directional. The failures of this dominant approach became evident, a number of alternative approaches were proposed, culminating in the new paradigm, which supported equal status between benefactor and beneficiary, two-way communication, dialogue, and community participation, and emphasising the value of beneficiaries and their culture and traditions. Development support communication (DSC) theory therefore supports development in communities but the approach may be applied effectively in small scale development efforts, such as individual farming projects and agricultural community projects, provided the benefactors are willing to learn from the community, and do not "negotiate" development from a position of status or power, in order to identify the community's real needs. This study examined the communication practices and influence on agricultural projects as provided by the development agents and partners in the TLM targeted at farmers to identify how they describe their communication approach, what communication approach their organisations employ and how the organisation communication approach is perceived by their beneficiaries. Research was conducted by means of a qualitative approach using semi-structured interviews, which were contrasted with focus group discussion and participant observations at the field site. Using various purposively selected participants in the TLM, a cross-sectional research design was adopted for the study. Variables relevant to the study were identified and explained through a thorough literature review after which the methodology to solicit the necessary data and information to address the research questions was determined. Both systematic and purposive sampling techniques were used for the study. Data obtained from the field were analysed. The study revealed that though development partners particularly advisors, technicians and extension officers communicated to communities on some of the projects and individual farming projects, the components of development support communication was not wholly employed. The projects that employed communication among other things have been sustained whilst the ones with little or no communication are in deplorable state. The study also revealed that interpersonal communication was the most common means of communication used by development agents and partners, to contact communities and convey information and support and this helped in improving better farming methods and social change to the lives of the people in the TLM. There is a need for an integrative model of development support communication that could be applied to ensure a participatory rather than a top-down nature of diffusion of information from the approach as well as its focus on farming projects. These characteristics are then combined with the DSC aspects which are aimed at assisting beneficiaries to empower themselves by acquiring information, to formulate their problems, to suggest solutions and to take their own decisions by focusing on their own needs and interests for better farming methods. This includes aspects such as information sharing on an equal level, beneficiary participation, and communication planning and support as well as implementation in the TLM. The study established that both project implementers and communities face challenges in sustaining development projects. However, project implementers did not adopt the three components of development support communication such as, advocacy, social mobilisation and behaviour change to assist farmers in the TLM. It is therefore recommended that development agents, partners and farmers should develop communication strategies for their projects whilst focusing on sustenance of the projects to ensure better farming methods.
- Humanities