Assessment of the role of agro-input dealers in dissemination and communication of integrated soil fertility management: The case of Siaya and Trans Nzoia counties

Lack of access to necessary agro-inputs contributes to low agricultural productivity and slows the overall economic growth and development in most parts of sub Saharan Africa (SSA). Agro-input dealers make inputs more easily accessible to rural-based smallholder farmers. Despite their importance, little is known about the strategies agro-input dealers use in the dissemination and communication of information and knowledge on agricultural technologies. This study assessed the role played by agro-input dealers in disseminating and communicating integrated soil fertility management (ISFM) practices and information to smallholder farmers. The study was conducted in Siaya and Trans Nzoia counties in Kenya, and looked at agro-input dealers’ awareness of ISFM practices, communication channels used to access agricultural information and the support services offered to farmers by agro-input dealers. The study also assessed the agro-input dealers willingness to pay (WTP) for the communication tools that can help them better communicate soil fertility management practices to their clients was also assessed. The study interviewed 144 agro-input dealers randomly selected across the study area. Two surveys were conducted, with the first survey focusing on awareness of ISFM practices, communication channels and support services provided to farmers while the second survey examined the WTP for two agriculture information communication tools (namely Maize doctor and Soil map).The result from logit regression model estimated showed that gender, age, educational level, experience in agro-input business and visit by extension staff significantly influenced the agro-input dealers’ awareness of ISFM technologies. Paired sample T-test on the mean numbers of farmers that benefitted from the support service from agro-input dealers showed a significant difference across gender of the farmers. Factor analysis of the communication channels that agro-input dealers used to access agricultural information indicated that community based (Cosmopolite interpersonal) channels of communication were the most preferred communication channels among the agro-input dealer network in two study areas. The study also found that male agro-input dealers were willing to pay more for the Maize doctor and Soil map tools compared to female agro-input dealers. Also, agro-input dealers with more education and those who had been visited by extension agents and researchers were willing to pay more for communication tools compared to those with less education and who had not been visited by extension agents and researchers. The study underscores the important role played by community based channels of communication in the ISFM knowledge dissemination. The study findings suggest the need to improve the provision of extension services to agro-input dealers to enable them effectively communicate information about ISFM technologies to farmers. Such initiatives on capacity building should take into consideration gender of the agro-input dealers.