An increase in advice from diverse sources is becoming counter-productive for smallholder farmers in many developing countries.
BY CHARLES DHEWA
Besides over-saturation, there is no shortage of conflicting advice.
Many farmers are wondering why they are being blamed for not taking farming as a business when the majority of formally educated graduates are busy looking for jobs rather than using knowledge they have acquired from school/college/university to improve their agricultural-driven local economies.
eMKambo is intrigued by how some farmers, who participate in African agricultural markets, succeed through listening to their own advice.
For curious smallholder farmers, listening to your own advice is equivalent to combining your intuitions with observations and ideas from the market.
Without such a combination, it is difficult for farmers to improve their perceptions on price and profitability.
Rather than depending entirely on advice from other people, farmers who frequent markets ultimately hone their pricing and marketing skills.
They become aware that better pricing decisions are based on a trade-off between margin and price perception.
Such decisions can only come from actively participating in agricultural markets and identifying commodities that determine market behaviour.
Empowering farmers to stop defending what is no longer working
It is from active market participation that farmers develop personal knowledge mastery and fact-based market awareness.
They become aware of the risks associated with depending on the commercial intuition of traders.
With time, some of the farmers will become knowledge brokers able to analyse market data toward improving their overall market perception in ways that reveal the impact of all commodities.
Without evidence from the market, farmers will continue defending practices that are no longer working.
Rather than looking for easy answers, markets enable farmers to explore more options and opportunities.
On the other hand, taking advice from everyone can lead many farmers to pour their energy into strategies that do not result in significant improvement.
Interested in progress than in change for its own sake
Listening to personal advice and intuition triggered by agricultural markets prompts farmers to be interested in progress rather than be satisfied with change for its own sake.
They suddenly become aware of the importance of getting rid of old knowledge in order to create space for new knowledge.
Part of relying on one’s personal advice as an agricultural value chain actor is building the capability to replace obsolete knowledge with new knowledge.
In a world saturated with all kinds of agricultural ideas, value chain actors are better off focusing on top quality knowledge than a lot of mediocre content from everywhere.
Unfortunately, due to too much information being pushed to farmers and other value chain actors, they have to painstakingly sift through huge volumes to find the desired knowledge.
The extent to which too much information or knowledge is becoming counter-productive is shown by how social media streams such as WhatsApp are now clogged with trivia than valuable knowledge.
Listening to personal advice is one way value chain actors can filter all this information into knowledge.