1.1 Background of the study
In the post-second World War years, development co-operation was based on transfer of technologies to developing countries. According to the model of social labour division in western cultures, technical knowledge transferred by extension services and utilized by farms (Roth, 2001). The introduction of western technology to non-western farmers was intended to increase production capacity and improve the market position of agriculture.
According to Israel and Wilson (2006), developing an understanding of extension sources and channels used by clients to obtain information is a pre-requisite for efficient educational programming because messages that go unheard or unseen cannot lead to change.
Though early extension effort based on direct communication with clients, changes in society and technology have resulted in programmes using diverse array of communication channels to reach clients, both directly and through surrogates.
Many clients, especially other people continue to rely on more traditional channels for agricultural information while using newer technologies as a complement (Howell and Hebron, 2004, Vergot et al, 2005, Boz and Ozca, 2010).
In a very concise way, development communication is application of the process. In other words, development communication is the use of the principle and practice to exchange ideas in order to fulfill development objectives. It calls for a point where we should stop thinking for the people in a patron –client form but should start thinking with them to meet
with their needs and wants to succeed (Nwosu, 1990). Development communication as a concept dates to the 1950s.
However, the attempt did not stop there; several research efforts have been put in place in order to authenticate the application of the concept of development communication. It is, therefore, considered a wise option in the pursuit of national development, as against the centralized media system where only the interests of the urban minority are taken care of (Okenwa, 1997).
In this dispensation, opinion leadership as it concerns the rural setting in the realization of the concept of development communication become not only important, but also very necessary. This is because, the rural dwellers thrive in an environment of interpersonal form of communication, opinion leaders assume priority and importance. In this respect, village and community opinion leaders serve as the linkage between their people and those that package development communication information and messages.
Communication in this regards, includes those situation in which a source transmits a message to a receiver with conscious intent to affect the latter’s behaviour. It is a vital part of personal life and also important in different fields such as business, education, agriculture, rural development and other situations where people encounter each other. Unlike message sending, communication requires response of others. There must be sharing of meaning for effective communication to take place (Baron, 2002).
According to Ekumankama and Nwankwo (2002), the poor exposure of farmers to appropriate agriculture information is one of the major reasons for low yield recorded by many Nigerian farmers. This has been of great concern to agricultural communicators and policy makers in the country over years. This study therefore sought to ascertain the role of
opinion leaders in the development of arable crop farming in Odekpe in Ogbaru Local Government Area of Anambra State, Nigeria.
1.2 Statement of the problem
Nigeria has elaborate agricultural research and extension systems. A wealth of research results therefore exist in the agricultural research system in Nigeria. However, these results are not fully made available to the end-users, the farmers. Committee for Transformation of Anambra State (CTA, 1998) has identified limited accesses to agricultural development in West Africa. These implications, therefore, call for research as to find out which communication channels are available and which ones are being used to disseminate farm innovation messages to farmers? Which of the channels do the farmers prefer but are constrained in use? What is the relative usage of the channels by farmer? To what extent are messages relevant to agricultural information needs of the farmers?
1.3 Purpose/objectives of the study
The general purpose of this study is to ascertain the sources of agricultural information used by the arable crop farmers in Odekpe in Ogbaru Local Government Area of Anambra State. The specific objectives include to:
1. ascertain how interpersonal communication channels available and accessible to farmers.
2. determine whether interpersonal communication channels are sources of agricultural information.
3. ascertain how opinion leaders have been able to influence the development of arable farming.
4. determine farmers’ acceptability of opinion leaders as the only credible source of information in terms of development communication messages open to the rural people.
1.4 Research questions
1. To what extent are interpersonal communication channels available/accessible to farmers?
2. To what extent does interpersonal communication channels serves as sources of agricultural information?
3. How do opinion leaders influence the development of arable farming?
4. To what extent do farmers accept the opinion leaders as the only credible source of information in term of development communication messages open to the rural people?
1.5 Scope of the study
A study of this nature ought to have a very wide scope but as a result of financial constraints this research has been limited to Odekpe Community in Ogbaru Local Government Area in Anambra State.
1.6 Significance of the study
The significance of this study is based on the importance of using the right channel of communication for rural development (interpersonal communication). It will provide a key for understanding and predicting outcomes of communication process. It will also reveal the needed platform on which the position of opinion leadership in pursuit of the objectives of using communication to bring about development will be appraised. However, it will also
add to stock of knowledge already existing in the area of opinion leadership and development communication.
1.7 Operational definition of significance terms
For the purpose of this study, some variables have been identified and defined.
Opinion Leaders: This is leadership by an active media user and who interprets the meaning of media messages or contents for lower-end media users.
Development Communication: It refers alternatively, as either a type of marketing and public opinion research, or the use of communication to facilitate social development.
Farmer: Is a person engaged in agriculture, raising living organisms for food or raw materials.
Arable Farming: It refers to the branch in agriculture that is concerned with the cultivation of mainly field crops on fertile or viable land, e.g. cereals, vegetable and plants that produce oil or cloth.
Influence: It embraces the way opinion leaders disseminate messages and affect the people to work, think or behave.