Contribution of mobile phones in expanding human capabilities in selected rural districts of Tanzania

Grace E.P. Msoffe (Directorate of Library Services, The University of Dodoma, Dodoma, United Republic of Tanzania)
Edda Tandi Lwoga (Department of Mathematics and ICT, College of Business Education, Dar-es-Salaam, United Republic of Tanzania)

Global Knowledge, Memory and Communication

ISSN: 2514-9342

Article publication date: 31 May 2019

Issue publication date: 10 September 2019

Abstract

Purpose

This study aims to investigate the use of mobile phones in enhancing human capabilities and agricultural development among small-scale farmers in selected rural districts of Tanzania. The study assessed the potential capabilities acquired by farmers, factors that influence farmers in building their capabilities and achieving development outcomes.

Design/methodology/approach

The study used Sen’s capability approach as a guiding framework to investigate the link between mobile phones and agricultural development. A case study design was employed whereby focus group discussions were used to collect data.

Findings

The use of mobile phone services enabled rural farmers to build their financial, human and social capabilities. Rural farmers faced personal and non-personal conversion factors that influenced them in building capabilities and achieving development outcomes. The use of mobile phones led to various development outcomes. The typical development outcomes were related to access to information and communication services and reduction of transport costs. Rural farmers experienced family conflicts due to protectiveness exercised by couples through the use of mobile phones, criminal incidences such as theft and the fear of being recorded when making a phone call.

Originality/value

The study findings have the potential of influencing policy and practice. The findings are useful in promoting the value of mobile phones usage in empowering rural farmers and communities. The telecommunication sector and other key stakeholders can use the study findings in setting the basis for prioritising the improvement of telecommunication infrastructure in the rural areas.

Keywords

Citation

Msoffe, G.E.P. and Lwoga, E.T. (2019), "Contribution of mobile phones in expanding human capabilities in selected rural districts of Tanzania", Global Knowledge, Memory and Communication, Vol. 68 No. 6/7, pp. 491-503. https://doi.org/10.1108/GKMC-10-2018-0084

Publisher

:

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited


Introduction

In sub-Saharan Africa, majority of the population lives in rural areas and depends directly or indirectly on agriculture (Diao et al., 2007). In Tanzania, agriculture is the engine of economic growth and a source of farmers’ livelihoods. The agricultural sector employs more than 65 per cent of the total population and accounts for nearly less than a quarter of the GDP (Central Intelligence Agency, 2018). Therefore, agriculture is an essential activity for economic development and one of the potentially beneficial areas for the application of information and communication technologies (ICTs) for development. As information and communication are recognised as important components of any development activity, they are essential requirements for agriculture development (Garforth et al., 2003; Lwoga et al., 2011). Thus, access to relevant information is vital to improving agricultural performance and livelihoods (Myhr, 2006).

Agricultural development is “the process that creates the conditions for the fulfilment of agricultural potential” (de Laiglesia, 2006, p. 10). Conditions such as knowledge accumulation, technology availability and allocation of inputs and output facilitate the realisation of agricultural potentials (de Laiglesia, 2006). The contribution of ICTs to agricultural development has been documented in the literature (Fu and Akter, 2011; Awuor et al., 2013; O’Donnell, 2013; Jain et al., 2014; Zhang et al., 2016). These scholars have shown that the use of mobile phones is effective in enhancing agricultural production and marketing, leading to an increase in agricultural production income levels among the farming communities (Lee and Bellemare, 2013; Senthilkumar et al., 2013; Abdel-Ghany, 2014; Engotoit et al., 2016; Fu and Akter, 2016; Zhang et al., 2016; Issahaku et al., 2017). The use of mobile phones can enhance timely access to accurate and reliable information. Penetration of mobile phones in the rural areas of developing countries provides opportunities for small scale farmers to access information and knowledge that was initially inaccessible (Baumüller, 2012, 2013). Scholars (Souter et al., 2005; Sood, 2006; Sife et al., 2010; Furuholt and Matotay, 2011) have documented a rapid increase of mobile phone users in rural areas of developing countries. In Tanzania, mobile phone subscribers reached over 40 million in June 2017 (Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority, 2017). With a population projection of 51 million people (Tanzania National Bureau of Statistics, 2017), the country has a mobile phone penetration of more than 78 per cent. The majority (70 per cent) of the Tanzanian population lives in the rural areas and 80 per cent of these depend on agriculture (World Bank, 2015). It implies that many of the mobile phone subscribers in Tanzania are rural farmers.

As has been the case elsewhere, the use of mobile phones in Tanzania has been very beneficial in improving access to agricultural information. For instance, mobile phones have increased fishermen’s bargaining power and improved access to knowledge about market opportunities. They (mobile phones) have also made it possible for farmers to increase efficiency in agricultural production (Myhr, 2006). Despite the widespread availability and use of mobile phones in Tanzania, the extent to which this ICT tool contributes to human capabilities is not yet clearly understood. Most of the available literature focuses on the use of mobile phones in enhancing agricultural and economic development. This study used a different approach by investigating how the use of mobile phones enhances human capabilities and agricultural development of small-scale farmers in two districts in Tanzania. The purpose was to identify the capabilities, which have been enhanced among farmers, to assess the factors that hinder farmers from building their capabilities and to determine whether the rural farmers were able to achieve their agricultural development outcomes.

Conceptual framework

According to Sen (1999, p. 75), capability is the alternative combinations of functioning that are feasible for a person to achieve. A capability is what a person can become or do with the things he/she possess or has access. It comprises things that a person can do and the things that a person has a possibility of doing. It is also referred to as a person’s positive freedom for achieving a particular lifestyle (Sen, 1999, p. 75; Gasper, 2002, p. 5). Functioning “reflects the various things a person may value doing or being” (Sen, 1999, p. 75). It includes “various components or aspects of how a person lives” (Gasper, 2002, p. 4), such as being healthy, being able to provide education for the family and take part in the community. The ability of a person to realise the desired and valued functioning depends mainly on a person’s capabilities. The Sen’s approach is based on the choices and opportunities that are available to people to enable them to live the kind of life they value (Giovanola, 2005). Therefore, Sen’s capability approach (CA) offers a different perspective on development, shifting from focusing on economic growth per se to human capabilities or individual freedom. This approach provides a framework in which an individual’s well-being can be evaluated and analysed (Robeyns, 2005). It is from this background that the present study used Sen’s CA as a guiding framework to examine the use of mobile phones in enhancing human capabilities and agricultural development among small scale farmers in rural Tanzania (Figure 1).

In the context of this study, mobile phones are the ICT tools that facilitate potential functioning and capabilities, which may lead to achieving development outcomes. The use of mobile phones to support agricultural activities is a capability, which provides an opportunity for farmers of doing better and enabling them to achieve their agricultural development outcomes. The conversion factors influence the use of mobile phones, the potential functioning, capabilities and the development outcomes. Therefore, having a mobile phone does not necessarily result in gaining capabilities and potential functioning. The conversion factors are the determinants of the potential functioning and capabilities that one may gain from the usage of mobile phones (Robeyns, 2005; Wahid and Furuholt, 2012).

Methodology

This is a qualitative study using a case study design whereby the researchers explored how mobile phones are used in agricultural activities. This approach gave insight into the problem under study and enabled the researchers to understand how farmers use mobile phones to enhance agricultural activities. Four focus group discussions were conducted with 40 small-scale farmers in two districts in Tanzania, namely, Manyoni District in Singida region and Mkuranga District in Pwani region. The two districts were selected because they are involved in agricultural production and there are mobile phone networks. Two focus group discussions (FGDs) were conducted in each district, whereby two FGDs involved 19 women and the other two FGDs involved 21 men. Purposive sampling was used to select participants who represent the phenomenon of interest and could provide relevant information for the study (Teddlie and Tashakkori, 2009). The study included small-scale farmers aged 18 years and above.

Standardised interview guide questions enabled respondents to discuss how mobile phones help them in their agricultural activities. The researchers analysed the data using thematic analysis (Braun and Clarke, 2006). The conversations during focus group discussions were recorded using a digital recorder and were later transcribed and interpreted accordingly for analysis. One of the researchers coded the transcripts independently and developed preliminary categories and subcategories contained in data. The analysis was shared among the research team who discussed and agreed on the final coding and categorisation of data. Finally, the themes were developed to reflect the emerging issues that cut across the categories. The direct quotations of the respondents’ extracts were included as evidence of the emerging issues and to add the respondents’ voices in the final report. Field notes as a reflective diary were maintained and used as supplemental information for the enhancement of reliability of the data. The researchers coded and analysed the data using a computer-supported analysis tool – Nvivo.

Findings

The results are thematically presented as follows: the use of mobile phone services, capabilities, conversion factors and both positive and negative development outcomes. A comparative analysis was conducted across location and gender categories. The results are presented as follows; numbers mean a sequence of study participants, while [….] means that some words have been skipped in the quotations. F refers to female participants and M means male participants.

Demographic characteristics

The study involved 40 small-scale farmers, 19 women and 21 men. Demographic characteristics (Table I) were assessed to provide an overview of the background of the respondents.

Use of mobile phone services

Rural farmers mainly used mobile phones to make phone calls, send short messages (SMS), send and receive money, while the use of mobile radio and internet was low. Few farmers acknowledged having used mobile internet such as WhatsApp and Facebook to access information on various issues and to communicate with their distant relatives.

Capabilities

The use of mobile phones enabled rural farmers to build their financial, human and social capabilities.

Financial capability

The use of mobile phones enabled rural farmers to send and receive money, negotiate for better prices of farm produce, access information on job opportunities in farming activities and access transport and delivery services for picking up farm produce.

Most participants agreed that mobile phones enabled them to send and receive money as indicated by participants in all FGDs. Rural farmers used mobile phones to send money for acquiring agricultural inputs or for concluding transactions on personal issues or to send money to the bank/credit and saving groups. As one interviewee said, “I use mobile phones to send money to the bank or the credit and saving group, named as vikoba” (F7, Mkuranga). Mobile phones were also used to receive money (in terms of loan) from fellows/credit and saving groups. As one participant said, “[…]. mobile phones have helped us to send money to neighbours or to contact our social groups to request for a loan” (F6, Mkuranga).

Another reported financial capability was related to the ability to contact middlemen and negotiate for better crop prices as indicated by participants in all FGDs. For example, one interviewee said, “We use mobile phones to contact middlemen in the market to know the best crop prices before taking our crop output to the market” (M3, Mkuranga). Interviewees in Mkuranga did not have direct contact with buyers, and therefore, they only relied on the crop prices reported by middlemen. However, farmers in Manyoni had direct contact with the final buyers, and thus, they were able to negotiate better prices and add value to their products.

Other financial capabilities experienced by participants related to the ability to save money through mobile money services as indicated in the three FGDs; contact transport and delivery services to collect their farm produce to the market as specified in two FGDs; and access information on job opportunities elsewhere as mentioned in one of the FGDs.

Human capability

The use of mobile phones enabled rural farmers to build their human capability in the following areas: consulting extension officers on farming issues, obtaining advice together with inputs and supplies from agricultural input suppliers, accessing text messages on agricultural issues from the district agricultural information system and accessing agricultural information through radio on their mobile phones.

It was clear that rural farmers contacted agricultural officers directly or in a case where their fellow farmers failed to assist in solving their farming problems. As one interviewee put it:

I usually contact my fellow farmers when I have failed to solve any problem on my farm, especially how to plant sesame. In case my fellow farmers are unable to provide an appropriate solution, I contact the extension officer to come and assist us (F5, Mkuranga).

Rural farmers contacted extension officers for advice on various issues, such as when and how to plant, which are the best seeds, how to protect their plants from diseases and pests, how to use pesticides and how to market their produce. The quotation below illustrates this, “I communicate with an extension officer to know which pesticides to use, how to plant seeds, and where to get the best seeds” (F5, Mkuranga). Some rural farmers indicated that they either made phone calls directly to the agricultural input suppliers to access their crop inputs or to their relatives for purchasing the inputs on their behalf.

Mobile phones were also used by rural farmers to access agricultural information through SMS, as indicated by two FGDs in Mkuranga. There was an NGO named ESACO that used to disseminate agricultural information to rural farmers in Mkuranga. Other farmers also used radio accessed on mobile phones to listen to the agricultural programmes, as mentioned in two FGDs that were conducted in Mkuranga.

Social capability

On social capability, the use of mobile phones enabled rural farmers to communicate with family/neighbours during an emergency in farming activities and share knowledge on farming issues amongst each other. In all FGDs, participants reported having used mobile phones to contact their fellow farmers and distant relatives regarding farming activities, social issues and emergencies, such as an injury during farming activities. Talking about the emergencies, one interviewee said, “[…] I was able to make a phone call to get help when I was injured on the farm, and I could not walk” (M3, Mkuranga).

Conversion factors

On the one hand, some factors enabled rural farmers to use mobile phones, (i.e. affordable airtime packages) and other factors (i.e. personal and non-personal factors) inhibited farmers from using mobile phones. On the enabling conversion factors, rural farmers indicated affordable airtime packages from the telecommunication agencies as a motivation for them to make phone calls or send SMS. One interviewee had this to say, “I use a mobile phone to communicate with my relatives because there are several offers availed by the telecommunication agencies” (M6, Manyoni).

On the other hand, factors that inhibited the use of mobile phones included personal and non-personal factors. Personal factors were related to lack of skills and awareness, low levels of education, language barrier, poor attitude and high costs of mobile phones and their services. On the issue of awareness, most rural farmers reported having not known the benefits of using mobile phones to access the internet. One interviewee argued, “Internet is bad because it disseminates immoral content” (F5, Manyoni). Further, even if they knew the benefits of the mobile internet to their agricultural activities, they lacked skills on how to use mobile internet as expressed by participants in all the FGDs. This view was echoed by one informant who said, “I like using the Internet, but I do not know how to use it” (M6, Manyoni). Other factors were related to the low level of education and language barrier as most of the interviewed participants had primary education. Most of the contents on the internet are written in English, while most of the interviewees were comfortable with Kiswahili language. In Tanzania, English is a medium of instruction at the secondary education level, while Kiswahili language is a medium of instruction at the primary education level. In addition, some men had poor attitudes or felt insecure when their wives use mobile phones due to jealousness. In their accounts of the events surrounding poor attitudes, one participant commented that “Some men do not like their wives to own mobile phones because they think that they will contact other men” (F3, Manyoni). The high cost of sending and receiving money, paying for airtime and buying smartphones were other cited factors of limiting farmers from using mobile phones.

Non-personal factors that inhibited the use of mobile phones included poor network coverage, lack of electric power and cheating on crop prices among middlemen. On the poor network coverage, rural farmers pointed out that the use of mobile phones was inhibited by either network failure or lack of telecommunication network coverage in all the surrounding villages as indicated in all FGDs. Commenting on a network failure, one of the interviewees said that, “The network may just disappear in the mid-conversation when using mobile phones” (M10, Mkuranga). Other responses to this question included: “I am failing to get good customers for my farm produce due to frequent network failure” (F8, Manyoni). The lack of electrical power to recharge their mobile phones, and therefore, over-dependence on expensive solar power was another limiting factor as indicated in two FGDs. One of the interviewees said that “I cannot charge my phone until there is sunshine” (F4, Manyoni). Talking about this issue, an interviewee said: “The place where I go to charge my phone is far, and I always pay about 300 TZS or 0.12$ to recharge my phone using solar power which is a bit expensive” (F6, Mkuranga). Rural farmers reported further that the middlemen cheat on the crop prices and the actual measurement of the farm produce using mobile phones as reported by participants in all FGDs. One respondent said that:

[…] the middlemen will agree on a certain price over a mobile phone conversation, but they change the agreed price and the measurements when they come to collect the farm produce (F8, Manyoni).

Development outcomes

Although mobile phones had positive development outcomes for rural people, rural farmers believed that mobile phones caused various negative outcomes in human, financial and social capabilities among the farmers.

On the one hand, a common view amongst interviewees was that the use of mobile phones enabled them to build their capabilities (financial, human and social), which enabled them to reduce costs and simplify communication. Rural farmers were able to reduce costs, which they could otherwise have incurred through travel to and from the city to look for markets or for purchasing agricultural inputs. This view was echoed by one informant, who said that “the use of mobile phones has enabled us to reduce transport costs by contacting middlemen and negotiate for crop prices” (F1, Mkuranga). Another interviewee reported:

[…] being able to make a call to the agricultural input supplier to deliver the required pesticides instead of incurring expenses of going to the shops to get the same products (M3, Mkuranga).

Rural farmers acknowledged further that the use of mobile phones enabled them to simplify the way they communicate for social purposes and to consult their fellow farmers, extension officers or input suppliers. On this matter, one interviewee had this to say: “I like using mobile phones because it has simplified the way we communicate such as it is now easier to be informed about funeral issues” (M2, Mkuranga).

On the other hand, rural farmers experienced negative outcomes through using mobile phones, including family conflicts due to jealousness between couples, incidences of theft and fear of being recorded when making a phone call, which can be used as evidence against the caller later.

Concerns on family conflicts were widely reported regarding the use of mobile phones in sending and receiving SMS. This is, especially, true when such messages involved inappropriate content and forwarded to the unintended number. It may raise suspicion of cheating between couples leading to lack of trust. One respondent had this to say, “Sometimes you may receive a wrong message, but your partner may think that you are cheating on your marriage which may lead to conflicts” (F6, Manyoni). Another interviewee said:

[…] my brother phoned me using a different number that my husband is not aware of, and after that, this issue led to a conflict to the extent that my husband took my phone and stayed with it for three days (F4, Manyoni).

Male participants agreed that the use of mobile phones might lead to family conflicts. One of the interviewees had this to say, “The use of mobile phones has to a great extent contributed to family conflicts and lack of trust among couples” (M3, Mkuranga).

Only a few respondents linked the use of mobile phones with criminal activities. A common view amongst interviewees was that some people (thieves) lie about their identities and steal money from mobile phone users or promise that they would pay their debts through mobile phones but fail to adhere to their promises.

The minority cited fear of being recorded during a mobile phone conversation as a limiting factor. One of the respondents had this to say, “…someone may record the conversation you are having on a mobile phone and use it later as evidence against you which may lead to a family conflict” (M9, Manyoni).

Discussion

This study aimed at assessing the use of mobile phones and their contribution in building rural farmers’ capabilities of achieving development outcomes. On the usage of mobile phones, the study results revealed that most farmers used mobile phones for making phone calls, sending SMS, sending and receiving money, whereas the use of mobile radio and internet was low. This finding supports the work of other studies in this area, which show that a low number of respondents used the internet (Lwoga et al., 2017).

The most apparent finding to emerge from the analysis is that the use of mobile phones enabled rural farmers to build their capabilities in three areas (financial, human and social capabilities). Financially, rural farmers were able to send and receive money, negotiate for prices, sell farm produce, access job opportunities in the agricultural sector and access transport and delivery services for picking up and delivering farm produce. Similar findings were reported in another study on the importance of mobile phones on increasing bargaining power and access to markets in Tanzania (Myhr, 2006). Small scale farmers in rural areas have depended on traders, middlemen and processors, who were buying their agricultural produce at low prices (Birthal and Joshi, 2007; Magesa et al., 2015). This has resulted in the exploitation of rural farmers whose primary source of income is sales of agricultural produce (Goyal, 2010). The study findings show that mobile phones have, therefore, increased farmers’ abilities to negotiate for prices, to sell their farm produce and do money transactions without the assistance of the middlemen. The farmers’ efficiency has improved a great deal in terms of time and monetary costs. This implies that farmers could make informed and independent choices of securing better markets and prices for their produce. According to Sen (1999, p. 75), a capability is referred to as a person’s positive freedom to achieve a particular lifestyle. Therefore, various mobile phone services have enabled farmers to build their financial capabilities by connecting them with potential buyers/end-user markets. Using mobile phone services, farmers can interact directly with potential buyers, which give them the ability to bargain, negotiate and make better decisions.

Other capabilities were human capability: mobile phones enabled farmers to consult extension officers on farming issues, access advice together with inputs and supplies from agricultural input suppliers, access text messages on agricultural matters from the district agricultural information system and access agricultural information through inbuilt radios on their phones. These findings support the findings of earlier studies (Jensen, 2007; Sanga et al., 2013; Kiberiti et al., 2016), which reported that farmers used mobile phones to access various agricultural information from different stakeholders. Information is an important component in any development activity (Mchombu, 2003). The findings show, further, that farmers were able to access agricultural information using mobile phones. This is a positive change that would not have been possible without the use of mobile phones. Mobile phones have given farmers the ability to access timely and relevant information. The increased farmers’ ability to independently access information is a human capability as it expands the capabilities of these farmers in accessing significant development inputs (Smith et al., 2011).

The use of mobile phones made farmers able to build their social capability through: communicating with family/neighbours during an emergency in farming activities and sharing knowledge on farming matters. These findings support the findings of previous studies (Souter et al., 2005; Hellström, 2010; Sife et al., 2010), which revealed that mobile phones improved social relationships, that is, they have enabled farmers to improve their social networks and respond to farming emergencies; hence, farmers can be able to take part in the community and overcome their vulnerabilities. The use of mobile phones has also given farmers the ability to form new linkages and networks, which can later be useful in trading their agricultural produce. Networking with other farmers, potential buyers and traders can facilitate trading. Networking can also increase farmers’ participation in setting market prices for their farm produce and have control over the market price through collective action (Hellström, 2010). These findings show that mobile phones empowered farmers to connect with families, friends, other farmers and potential buyers, and gave them the opportunity of making better choices and overcome vulnerabilities. This is a component of human capability as pointed out by Sen (1999, p. 75) and Gasper (2002, p. 4). It is important to create awareness on the importance of mobile phones in enabling rural farmers to build their financial, social and human capabilities.

Another important finding was that some conversion factors enabled rural farmers to use mobile phones to build capabilities and achieve their development outcomes (i.e. affordable airtime packages), while other conversion factors inhibited the use of mobile phones. Personal factors included: poor perception towards mobile internet, low level of education, lack of skills to use the internet, language barrier, high costs of airtime and smartphones and the fact that some men do not like their wives to contact male customers/suppliers. Non-personal factors were: lack of electricity to charge mobile phones, poor telecommunication network coverage and the fact that some middlemen cheat on either prices or measurements of farm produce. These findings corroborate with the findings of other studies (Rashid and Elder, 2009; Wahid and Furuholt, 2012), which showed that conversion factors have some influence on the farmers’ use of mobile phones, and thus, moderate the capabilities or functioning. It is, therefore, important to consider all the conversion factors to facilitate the use of mobile phones by rural farmers.

The most interesting finding was that the use of mobile phones led to various development outcomes. On the one hand, the common development outcomes were related to the simplification of communication services and the reduction of transport costs. On the other hand, the use of mobile phones made rural farmers enter into family conflicts due to protectiveness especially between couples, criminal incidences (e.g. theft) and fear of being recorded when making a phone call, which can be used later as evidence against the caller or mobile phone user. Similar findings were reported in Kenya showing that the use of mobile phones and the internet have led to both positive and negative outcomes; negative outcomes may include idleness and reduced individual productivity (Nyambura Ndung’u and Waema, 2011). It is important, for telecommunication agencies and agricultural extension officers to educate rural farmers on the positive and negative outcomes of using mobile phones. This would enable farmers to make informed decisions regarding various opportunities available to them via mobile phones. There is a need to conduct regular farmers’ needs assessment, develop appropriate agricultural electronic content and services with user-friendly interfaces, promote benefits of mobile phones and mobile internet, introduce affordable solar-powered mobile phones and improve telecommunication network coverage in the rural areas.

Implication of the study findings

The findings have the potential of influencing policy, practice and further research. Possible recommendations of the study findings include:

  • The government should prioritise and develop pro-poor policies with the purpose of making mobile phone services affordable to the rural people. Such policies may facilitate rural farmers to benefit from opportunities of using mobile phones.

  • Telecommunication agencies should promote the use of mobile internet services among rural people. Promotion strategies can involve internet offers targeting rural areas and making sure that useful content/applications/services are available through the internet.

  • Responsible agencies should develop agricultural related content in local language (Kiswahili) and make it available on the Internet. This may encourage rural farmers into using mobile internet for accessing the content, which they understand.

  • Local authorities should educate farmers on the use of mobile phones including the benefits and challenges. This will increase awareness on the use of mobile phones among rural farmers and alert them of the negative outcomes.

  • Further analysis of the rural farmers’ needs for suitable mobile phones services should be conducted. More information will be obtained, which can contribute to addressing rural farmers’ needs in designing future mobile phone services in the rural areas.

Conclusion

Based on the findings, it can be concluded that mobile phones have a substantial contribution in building farmers’ financial, human and social capabilities. These capabilities have helped rural farmers to do what they wish to do, have given farmers the freedom to choose the type of life they want, enhanced opportunities for increasing income and to reduce farmers’ vulnerabilities. The findings revealed, further, that mobile phones facilitated rural farmers to realise most of their agricultural development outcomes through the gained capabilities. Further, the conversion factors were found to play an important role in facilitating capabilities and realising development outcomes. It is, therefore, important for key stakeholders in the agricultural and telecommunication sectors to take into consideration the conversion factors aiming at creating a better environment for farmers to utilise the opportunities of using mobile phones.

Further studies should investigate the contribution of the mobile internet among small-scale farmers in rural areas and actors that can motivate them to use all mobile phone services more effectively. Such studies can be action-oriented research with control and experimental groups around technology and mobile phones.

Figures

Research model of the contribution of mobile phones for rural farmers' capabilities

Figure 1.

Research model of the contribution of mobile phones for rural farmers' capabilities

Demographic characteristics of respondents (N = 40)

Variable Categories Frequency (N) (%)
Location Mkuranga 21 52.5
Manyoni 19 47.5
Gender Men 21 52.5
Women 19 47.5
Age (years) Below 20 2 5
20-29 6 15
30-39 18 45
40-49 10 25
50-60 4 10
Educational levels Secondary education 2 5
Primary education 35 87.5
No formal education 3 7.5
Occupation Crop farming 27 67.5
Crop farming and livestock keeping 3 7.5
Crop farming and small business 2 5
Crop farming and skilled work 8 20
Farm size (hectares) Below 2 5 12.5
2-6 29 72.5
7-3 6 15
Farm Ownership Self-owned 37 92.5
Hired 3 7.5
Duration of using mobile phones (years) 1-3 16 40
4-7 21 52.5
8-11 3 7.5
Acquisition of knowledge on using mobile phones Self-acquired 15 37.5
Assisted by friends/relatives 21 52.5
Assisted by mobile phones agents 4 10

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Corresponding author

Grace E.P. Msoffe can be contacted at: gracemakenga@gmail.com

About the authors

Dr Grace E.P. Msoffe is a Senior Librarian and Director of Library Services at the University of Dodoma (UDOM) in Tanzania. She holds PhD in Information Science from the University of South Africa. She facilitates information literacy training to students and researchers at UDOM and nationwide. Her research interests include information access, information management, application of ICT and Web 2.0 technologies.

Professor Edda Tandi Lwoga is currently working as an Associate Professor at the College of Business Education (CBE). She is also the Deputy Rector responsible for Academic, Research and Consultancy at CBE. Prof Lwoga holds PhD in information studies from the University of KwaZulu Natal. She supervises postgraduate students and teaches e-learning, Web 2.0 tools and information literacy programme to undergraduate students at MUHAS. She has also facilitated a wide number of workshops and short courses in the field of evidence-based practice, systematic reviews, scientific writing, Web 2.0 technologies, reference management, search strategies and text mining, online publishing, etc. Professor Lwoga has published widely including 42 peer-reviewed journals and seven book chapters/books.