The ability of complex partnership patterns in ICT platforms to supply services to women farmers

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Women farmers’ demands for agricultural knowledge

When it comes to the types of access to and use of knowledge, women farmers’ demands differ from those of men farmers. Even if we consider only a limited economic dimension of knowledge, the complementarity of the rationales behind the role attributed to this resource for women farmers has been highlighted by several authors (Doss 2001; Quisumbing & Pandolfelli 2010; Doss & Morris 2001). Access to and use of knowledge have been identified in the literature as components structuring the demands of women farmers.
Reports by development agencies posit that female farmers have unequal access to knowledge (The Food and Agriculture Organisation 2014; The World Bank 2009). Female farmers in low-income countries face various constraints to access to knowledge, inputs and services, as stated in the report by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (2014). The authors of the report stress that this results in a difficulty to innovate, making these women less likely to adopt different agricultural practices.
Similar findings are reported by the World Bank in the ‘Gender in Agriculture Sourcebook’ (World Bank 2009). Case studies presented in the report provide evidence of several factors generating this exclusion and hindering women farmers from accessing different types of resources, such as knowledge. These barriers relate primarily to social status and cultural dimensions. It is moreover highlighted that, based on biased representations of intra-household dynamics in public policies in developing countries, agricultural knowledge and technology transfer are not adapted to their needs. It is for instance assumed that husbands will transfer the knowledge to them, which is not necessarily the case, and if there is indeed a transfer, it might not meet women’s demands. Regarding technical content, female farmers have demands that differ from those of male farmers, because they are placed in particular social relations. As a result, women farmers use resources for different reasons relating to the social context in which they are embedded (Haile et al. 2012) and, in this particular case, knowledge. In a review of the literature, Doss (2001) shows that this economic resource is used by female farmers for producing nutritious food crops, increasing farm yields and ensuring food security for the family. Knowledge is also used for investment purposes (purchasing livestock, land, property) (Johnson et al. 2016), and for more personal reasons, enabling women farmers to integrate the community (for knowledge exchange via different farm groups) (Quisumbing & Pandolfelli 2010). The latter can also be a strategic line of reasoning used by women to secure economic returns (Baden 2013) and to gain access other resources and markets, collectively or individually (Fischer & Qaim 2012).

Greater inequality for women farmers with regard to advisory services after policy reforms

Given women farmers’ demands for certain types of agricultural knowledge and their key role in agriculture, they need help to inform their technical choices. Research studies show however that major policy reforms have increased gender inequalities, by not facilitating female farmers’ access to advisory services and their use of the technical content. This is an outcome that became particularly evident after the policy reforms that occurred in the 1980s/1990s.

A profound alteration with the structural adjustments: increased privatisation of farm advisory systems

Agricultural extension services’ support systems in sub-Saharan Africa were strongly impacted by the policy reforms that occurred via the structural adjustment programmes during the late 1980s/early 1990s, in the context of the Washington Consensus11 (Rusike & Dimes 2004). As a result, several African governments shifted their interventions and Kenya was one of these countries. These large reforms profoundly altered the policy landscape in this region (Hugon 2013).
A substantial portion of the economic policy reforms and instruments were adopted by several sub-Saharan African countries (Hugon 2013). This included the dismantling of state marketing boards, trade liberalisation, reduced inflation, and increased privatisation of state enterprises and services. Regarding the latter, in the 1990s, more than 50% of the state-owned enterprises were divested in several African countries12.
Rusike & Dimes (2004) shows that 40 out of the 47 African countries implemented economic policy reforms in agriculture in the early 1990s. In several of the sub-Saharan African countries, governments decided to introduce a mix of policies and public investment to encourage private sector development and new forms of public-private partnerships (PPPs). It also involved non-governmental organisations to speed up technological change. Due to the difficulties met by the public extension services system, donors started promoting private sector-driven agricultural research and development (R&D) and technology diffusion in African countries. The idea also became prevalent that markets could provide high-powered incentives motivating private-sector managers to work harder compared to public sector administrators. Thus, under the structural adjustments, it was expected of the private sector to increasingly take over in certain areas of policy intervention (Hugon 2013), in particular public farm advisory services (Rusike & Dimes 2004).
In this regard, the structural policy adjustments and reforms led to large budget cuts in public farm extension programmes (Rusike & Dimes 2004). In addition, there was a decline in donor support and private-sector funding. As a consequence, public sector extension services were dismantled, leading to an increased privatisation of these services. It also resulted in a substantial reduction in the number of extension officers and in a range of farm advisory services available to farmers (individual visits to the farm, face-to-face interaction, personalised advisory services). Demand-driven farm advisory services were introduced (Snapp et al. 2003; Ong’ayo et al. 2016), where it was expected of farmers to request for a service, based on their needs (Davis 2008). As such, demand-driven services depended on a farmer’s ability to articulate her/his needs, to be aware of and have easy access to services which she/he believed could provide a solution to the problem at hand (Garforth et al. 2003b). These reforms created exclusion of certain social groups, however, especially female farmers (Elson 1995).

ICTs in farm advisory intervention: a solution for providing a vast population of farmers with technical knowledge

Major technical changes and ICT developments are occurring worldwide, including in developing countries (Indjikian & Siegel 2005; Martin 2016). According to statistics from the International Telecommunication Union (2018a), in 2016, 96% of individuals in developing countries had mobile cellular subscriptions13 and 44% had active mobile broadband subscriptions. Moreover, 34% of households had a computer, 40% had internet access at home and 39% of the total population used the internet. These figures do however vary by continent, with ICTs use generally being lower in Africa compared to other regions. Approximately 20% of the total population in Africa used internet services in 2016, compared to 82% Europe. Even though the numbers are lower in Africa compared to other regions, statistics show that the access to and use of various ICTs and internet services are steadily increasing.
Regarding extension services, the literature makes a number of hypotheses on the ability of ICTs to create new opportunities for remote and marginalised farmers (Zanello 2012; Munyua et al. 2009). In the ICT report published by the World Bank, an ICT is defined as: “any device, tool, or application that permits the exchange or collection of data through interaction or transmission. ICT is an umbrella term that includes anything ranging from radio to satellite imagery to mobile phones or electronic money transfers.” (George et al. 2011, p.3). In theory, these technologies could improve the ability of small-scale farmers’ in low-income countries to access the knowledge they need to improve productivity (Deichmann et al. 2016; Nakasone et al. 2014).
Based on these promises of ICTs, governments in the sub-Saharan African region are trying out innovative ways via these technologies and the use of the internet for providing their farming population with technical knowledge (Aker et al. 2016; Martin 2016). The use of ICTs is rapidly developing in the farm advisory services sector, particularly in certain sub-Saharan African countries, where it is reflected in public policy objectives. ICTs in farm advisory intervention include radio and television programmes, mobile phones combined with radio programmes, internet kiosks, call centres for farmers and rural tele-centres (Goyal 2010). This is the case of Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan and Uganda. All countries emphasise the importance of ICTs in the agricultural extension services sector via national extension policies14.

The organisational features of knowledge-based platforms

Analysis of the literature review shows that there is a gradual progression around the conceptualisation of knowledge-based platforms. The special issue in Agriculture and Human Values from 1999 introduces the notion of platforms in agriculture as organisational tools in processes of collective action around natural resources management (Maarleveld & Dangbegnon 1999; Ravnborg & del Pilar Guerrero 1999; Steins & Edwards 1999b; Steins & Edwards 1999a; Roling & Maarleveld 1999). While still indistinctly defined in this special issue, recent articles present examples of more concrete platform models and of their organisational forms (Mukhebi & Kundu 2014; Rodenburg et al. 2016).
Furthermore, the institutional dimension of knowledge-based platforms appears in the report published by the World Bank (George et al. 2011) and in the one by the the Food and Agriculture Organisation (2014). The authors from these reports are of the opinion that platforms should be based on models that are economically sustainable in the long-term. The question of financial sustainability is discussed in the literature review by Nakasone et al. (2014). PPPs for platform development are encouraged by Karippacheril et al. (2013). These authors are of the view that such partnerships can ensure financial sustainability of the platforms. Furthermore, development agencies such as the World Bank encourage governments and other stakeholders to develop knowledge-based platforms through PPPs (George et al. 2011). This is based on the assumption that PPPs can address monitoring issues for governments seeking to achieve public policy objectives (George et al. 2011).

The consideration of women in the services and technical content of knowledge-based platforms

With reference to Gadrey’s (1990) two levels of service relations, this section focuses mainly on the ‘lower level’, namely where the supply of agricultural advisory services meets the demands of farmers.
From the farmer’s perspective, agricultural extension services must generate reliable knowledge to solve problems as they arise. Since the seminal work of Goffman (1961), many studies have shown the numerous requirements that must be taken into consideration for advisory services to be effective – in particular the need for interaction between service providers and clients (Gadrey & Gallouj 1998; Ostrom 1996). The service economics theory emphasises the importance of two main services modalities to achieve such objectives.
The first modality is the efficiency of the service, where the advisor and the client develop interaction to foster co-production regarding the problem or issue at stake (i.e. a technical problem on a specific farm) and the solution (i.e. a response adapted to the features of the farm), called ‘front-office activities’ (Labarthe & Laurent 2013b). Front-office work “is performed in the beneficiary’s presence and allows for the co-construction of the demand and ⁄ or the co-production of the response.” (Labarthe & Laurent 2013b, p.21). Here, the service quality is dependent on the level of trust in the social relations established between advisor and farmer (Prager et al. 2016). It is undeniably a service where the farmer is active in defining the problem and in producing the solution. In this regard, certain knowledge processes are near impossible to codify (e.g. in the case of tacit-to-tacit knowledge exchange), as they frequently require face-to-face contact to provide adequate advice (Nonaka et al. 1996). The provision of agricultural advice can involve different levels of interaction between advisors and clients, giving rise to disparate levels of standardisation of the service (Laurent et al. 2006) . The higher the degree of interaction, the more the advice will be personalised and adjusted to the specific conditions of the farm.
The second modality stems from the fact that the analysis does not limit itself to individual interactions (Labarthe & Laurent 2011). The conditions of success in co-constructing knowledge includes front- and back-office activities, and depends on both the beneficiary’s and the service supplier’s sense of belonging to society at large (Gadrey & Gallouj 1998; Gadrey & De Bandt 1994). Hence, the advice must be based on robust knowledge, relevant to the question at hand and accessible for advisers (on technology, risk assessment, etc.) (Labarthe & Laurent 2013b). Back-office work “takes place outside the beneficiaries’ presence and allows for the standardisation of the service offer and for capitalising on existing knowledge. It consists of activities such as technology monitoring, training advisors, accumulating technical references (building and using databases, etc.) and even the production of original knowledge (through experimentation and R&D)” (2013a, p.21).
These two interrelated dimensions go hand-in-hand with an increased intensity in the co-production of knowledge (Labarthe & Laurent 2011). This implies that the co-production of knowledge is not only created during direct interaction between the extension officer and the farmer, but also for activities taking place during non-interactive activities with the farmers. Thus, knowledge is used to implement a solution and needs to be adjusted when transferred to the farmer (Labarthe & Laurent 2013a).
The characteristics of farmer-service provider interactions are therefore considered to be a major component in the effectiveness of advisory services. However, this pattern is called into question for knowledge-based platforms. To what extent do they guarantee a certain level of interaction? How is the technical content tailored to female farmers’ needs? Is there still a need for interaction with an advisor if available knowledge is directly accessible? These questions call for an in-depth analysis of the conditions of interaction between women farmers and platform service providers.
In this context, institutional economics of services has developed an innovations performance analysis framework to analyse the effectiveness of farm advisory services. Additionally, criteria from gender studies are required to complete the advisory service performance framework, to analyse whether platforms can be inclusive of women farmers. Gadrey & Gallouj (1998), Gallouj et al. (1999) and later Labarthe (2006) developed this framework for analysing the performance of advisory services48 (cf. Table 2.1 in Box 2.3).
The innovations performance framework will thus be used to analyse the performance rationales of ICT platforms in agriculture in respect to the consideration of gender equality objectives.
The institutional economics of services emphasises the importance of interactions and different dimensions of service performance. It also provides methods to evaluate the potential of platforms with regard to: (i) the levels of co-production of knowledge and supply of information to female farmers; and (ii) the potential inclusion or exclusion factors for women farmers in farm advisory services intervention.


Table of contents :

1.1. Demands of women farmers and their role in the agriculture sector
1.1.1. The key role of women in agriculture
1.1.2. The importance of female farmers in policy intervention in agriculture
1.1.3. Women farmers’ demands for agricultural knowledge
1.2. Greater inequality for women farmers with regard to advisory services after policy reforms
1.2.1. A profound alteration with the structural adjustments: increased privatisation of farm advisory systems
1.2.2. Changes in advisory services jeopardised female farmers’ access to technical knowledge
1.3. New information and communication technology devices in agriculture
1.3.1. ICTs in farm advisory intervention: a solution for providing a vast population of farmers with technical knowledge
1.3.2.Internet-based ICTs and knowledge-based platforms in farm advisory services The organisational features of knowledge-based platforms Platforms’ capacity to deliver effective services to farmers The gender dimension of platforms
1.3.3. Emerging issues with the introduction of ICTs in agriculture The question of access to and technical content of ICTs Potential gender divide produced by internet-based ICTs
1.4. Kenya is an emblematic country in this context
1.4.1. Kenya: A hub for ICTs in agriculture
1.4.2. Knowledge-based platforms in farm advisory intervention gain importance
1.4.3. Women farmers are targeted with ICT-based farm advisory methods by the Kenyan Government
1.4.4. Factors excluding for women farmers to adopt ICT devices
1.5. To conclude: ICT platforms ability to include women farmers?
2.1. Theories underlying the models of structural adjustment policy reforms of the 1990s lead to gender inequalities
2.1.1. From state-led to market-led policy interventions in developing countries
2.1.2. The reorganisation of the farm advisory system was based on a number of assumptions
2.1.3. Economic models of the policy reforms in the agricultural sector increased gender inequalities
2.2. Alternative theoretical proposals to study gender relations in technological innovations
2.2.1. Gender and gender relations in public policy
2.2.2. Gender relations a as fundamental social relation Contemporary gender principles for implementing objectives of equity in public policy and ICTs The integration of the gender equality dimensions in knowledge-based platforms supported by public policies The consideration of women in the services and technical content of knowledge-based platforms The social integration of women defining their ability to access knowledgebased platform services
2.3. To conclude: The articulation of gender relations in ICT platforms can be explored based on three interlinked theoretical frameworks
3.1. Methodological framework: three levels of investigation
3.2. Local and national scale
3.2.1. Geographical location
3.2.2. Demographic characteristics
3.2.3. Rate of internet use by the rural population
3.3. Presentation of the material and survey collection processes
3.3.1. Ethical standards
3.3.2. Review of the literature and policy documents of the Kenyan Government.
3.3.3. Internet use for different population groups: statistical data from the Kenyan population and housing census
3.3.4. Qualitative interviews at three levels of investigation Assessment of policy goals in the development of knowledge platforms and gender integration based on institutional interviews Interviews at knowledge-based platform level for an assessment of the supply of services to farmers Demand for advisory services
3.4. Conclusions: The multi-level analysis methodology enables the possibility to organise the qualitative and quantitative data into five main results
4.1. Policies and strategic frameworks for analysing gender relations
4.2. The articulation of gender relations in public policy intervention
4.3. The gender equality dimension of the Kenyan farm advisory services system
4.3.1.Gender equality objectives in front-office activities of the farm advisory system
4.3.2.Gender equality objectives in back-office activities of the farm advisory system
4.3.3.The consideration of the gender equality dimension in institutional coordination processes
4.4. Gender equality objectives in ICT platforms used in advisory services
4.4.1. ICTs and platforms: tools in place to reach women farmers
4.4.2. The place of ICT platforms in the policy work of the Kenyan Government.
4.5. To conclude: The political economic dimension of ICT platforms
5.1. Identification of internet knowledge-based platforms in Kenya
5.2. Diversity of knowledge-based platforms
5.2.1. Presentation of knowledge-based platform typologies
5.2.2. Financial models of the identified platforms and partnership patterns
5.3. Evidence in the integration of gender equality objectives in platforms
5.4. To conclude: Three findings raise questions about women farmers’ inclusion in platforms
6.1. Women farmers’ multidimensional demands
6.1.1. Education and knowledge access
6.1.2. Psychological well-being
6.1.3. Health
6.1.4. Time use
6.1.5. Cultural diversity and resilience
6.1.6. Good governance
6.1.7. Shared culture and religion
6.1.8. Living standards
6.1.9. Environmental resilience and diversity
6.2. Women farmers’ expectations in ICT knowledge-based platform rationales
6.2.1. Strategic co-production concerns for different stakeholders
6.2.2. A gap between the vision of farm women and the vision of platform designers as to the essential conditions for building relevant advice
6.3.Performance rationale analysis of gender equality integration in two ICT platforms
6.3.1.Female farmers’ demands with the innovations performance analysis framework
6.3.2. The financial dimension
6.3.3. The technical dimension
6.3.4. The relational dimension
6.3.5. The innovation dimension
6.3.6. The civic dimension
6.4.To conclude: ICT platform rationales underpinning gender equality policy objectives
7.1. Access to internet services: a key point determining use of ICT knowledge-based platforms by women farmers in Kenya
7.1.1. Access to the internet in Kenya
7.1.2. Access to ICTs as possible ways enter into use with platforms
7.2. Internet use in Kenya
7.2.1. Internet use and economic activity
7.2.2. Education and internet use Internet use and levels of education between women and men farmers . Education of women farmers having a computer at home for internet use
7.2.3. Intra-household status of women and men farmers, and internet use Marital status Relationship status
7.3. Factors influencing internet use in Kenya: reporting on the marginal effects
7.3.1. Internet use per gender in rural Kenya
7.3.2. Women farmers’ internet use
7.4. In conclusion: A digital gender divide is becoming reality
8.1. The importance of collective spaces for women to make use of knowledge
8.2. Women and men farmers access points for entering into the use of the internet .
8.2.1. Differences in internet use locations between women and men farmers
8.2.2. Collective spaces to use the internet are key to women farmers but differ in respect to levels of education
8.2.3. Attending community centres to use internet services: Innovative practices by women farmers who never attended school
8.3. Differences in reported internet use locations between sub-groups of farmers: the importance of collective spaces for women still stands
8.3.1. Community centres
8.3.2. Cyber cafés
8.3.3. The mobile phone
8.3.4. Equal access to education cannot alone solve a digital gender gap
8.4. The role of advisors: mediators between platforms and farmers
8.4.1.The social relations between Kenyan women farmers and extension officers
8.4.2. Farm advisors’ role in innovative back-office activities
8.5. Conclusively: How can platforms be inclusive of women farmers?
9.1. Critical points for the inclusion of gender equality in ICT platforms
9.1.1. The integration of the gender dimension in ICT platforms in public policy
9.1.2. The ability of complex partnership patterns in ICT platforms to supply services to women farmers The heuristic value of the platform typology framework Lessons learned from gender equality integration in two platforms
9.1.3. How access to ICT platform services can be assured for women farmers
9.1.4. The consideration of women in ICT platform services supply: co-production and interaction
9.2. Theoretical contributions
9.2.1. Advancement of the State of the Art
9.2.2. Levers of action
9.2.3. Avenues for future research Institutional economic approaches allow us to analyse how institutional developments affect the inclusion of gender equality goals Can ICT platforms contribute to a technological lock-in situation?
9.3.To conclude: ICT platforms in advisory services intervention are always gendered


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