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The potential role of science communication in Pakistan

by Saima Siddiqui [1], 5 June 2012

Towards the understanding of science communication and its potential role to bring prosperity in the rural and agro-based community of Pakistan

by Naeema Siddiqui (Institute of Social & Cultural Studies , University of the Punjab, Lahore, Pakistan), Saima Siddiqui (Centre for Integrated Mountain Research, Punjab University Lahore Pakistan; Department of Earth Sciences, University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, Italy), Uzma Bano (Beacon house School Systems, Lahore, Pakistan), Ayesha Khalid and Hamza Sajjad Butt (FCC - A Chartered University, Lahore)

Abstract

Public communication of science and technology is generating knowledge and a rapid awareness in a variety of areas including rural, agro-based and related disciplines. Quick scientific and technical packages are developed for dissemination to the pertinent clients mostly located in countryside areas.
At times, this knowledge was transferred to rural communities by an all-time well-known method of 'face to face communication' via a large team with hundreds of field workers and additional mediators. The alarming people bomb has made it impracticable to reach a certain target group or individual farmer families on regular intervals to modernize them on most recent developments on regular basis. With the advent of the concept of science communication particularly through the electronic and news print media, cable TV and particularly through Internet which has emerged rapidly over a short span of time.

This is the most powerful and effective medium of communication that human history has ever witnessed so far. This medium has provided web based systems, services and solutions to many of the communication oriented activities in sharing of scientific research knowledge which could have been dreamed only, a few years ago.

In Pakistan, the agriculture was and remains a mainstay of the economy not only for the rural sector in particular but for Pakistan itself in general. The adoption of science communication is becoming a significant success factor for protecting the economic and social viability of the agricultural sector.
Agriculture being the ancient professions on the planet earth and has been a way of life for millions of people since the time unknown. Agrobased community in Pakistan has been practicing agriculture on the basis of information provided by their intimates and added up with various new concepts over the time.

This research is based on a survey in some selected model villages near Pakpatan, well known for its cash crop yield. The results of this survey indicate that Idea of public science communication has modernized the local rural community in terms of most recent awareness regarding the agricultural practices to increase their agro-yield manifolds.

They can handle their crops now against deadly disease and their long term protection. This awareness has brought a kind of prosperity in their day-to-day life and also they dedicate this prosperity to the revolutionary advent of science and technology communication and its access to common man.

Introduction

Pakistan is basically an agro-based state and agriculture is still the mainstay of its economy and contributes 24 % of the total GDP and is one of the chief source of income as foreign exchange for the Government of Pakistan.
Despite of immense importance, the speed of agricultural development in Pakistan is very slow (Khan, 2002, Irfan et al., 2006). There is a clear and vast gap between the real time and forecasted agricultural yield. This clearly shows that if the farmers get acquainted with the latest means of communication and technology, surely they can enhance the domestic produce many folds.
So the introduction of the state of the art in the field of agriculture is inevitable. For this purpose, the people associated with this particular vital area of GDP earnings, should know the right and timely use of modern infra-structure with enough knowhow and ultramodern communication ways.
The previous research (Muhammad & Garforth, 1995), has also proved that In order to meet your desired targets, one should be familiar with the latest technologies along with the mass media (radio, TV & print media) and above all internet and personal mobile communications.

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Fig.1(a): Location of Pakistan in the world community.

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Fig.1(b): Location of study area with test sites in green dots source: Sarhad Hydel devlopment organition, 2006

Materials and Methods

The study was carried out in some selected model villages near district Pakpatan in Pakistan.
The soil here is well-known for its fertility and a major part of its population makes their living on agriculture. The data were collected through a scheduled interview with 125 farmers. The data were organized and analyzed by using data analysis and graphing software Origin Pro.

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Fig.2(a): Interviewing local farmers. (b): View of rice fields in Pakpatan area.

Results and Discussions

Are mass media effective to increase agricultural awareness and knowledge?
The analysis of data presented in figure 3(a) shows that the significant sources of agricultural information were farmer associations (89.6%), pesticide companies (84.8%), cable TV (62.4%), field staff (53.6%), print media (44.8%), mobile phone coverage (40 %) and FM and AM radio (36%).
The results concerning radio are differing to those of Hanif (1992) and Ali (1994), according to them radio was the main source of information in educating farmers about suggested agricultural practices.

The reason of this may be the frequent use of mobile phones and access to internet resources which are quick and efficient sources of information.
The results regarding farmer associations are in agreement with those of Akhtar (1997) and Shuaib (2000), who found that fellow farmers were the main source of agricultural information.

Figure 3(b) shows that the majority of respondents (68%) gave first preference to cable TV as major source of agricultural information in comparison to print media, FM and AM radio, mobile phones and internet.
Only a few number (20.8 %) gave second preference and minor number (11.2 %), third preference to cable TV.
The data also shows that 38.4% and 59.2% of the respondents gave first and second preference respectively to FM and AM radio as source of agricultural information. The data reveals that 37.6 and 32.8% of the respondents gave second and third preference to print media, respectively and only 29.6% gave first preference to print media.
The farmers were also asked to rank different mass media on the basis of their effectiveness.

Based on data analysis cable TV was ranked first among all communication sources.
Also mobile phone and internet communication playing an effective role in disseminating agricultural information among the farmers. 39.2 % and 33.6% respondents gave second and third ranking to mobile and internet communication respectively.

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Fig.3(a): Distribution of farmers based on their agricultural awareness through mass media.

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Fig.3(b): Distribution of farmers based on their prefrences given to agricultural information sources.

Conclusion

Majority of farmers consider farmer associations and pesticide companies as their main sources of agricultural awareness pursued by Cable TV (62.4%) and field staff (53.6%).
Between the print and electronic media the farmers ranked cable TV, FM and AM radio, print media and internet and mobile phone coverage first, second, third and fourth, respectively considering their effectiveness. Farmers awareness about different communication methods reveals their interest towards opting new scientific methodologies and use of latest technologies for better agricultural production. The farmers are well aware of different effective sources of agricultural information which brings prosperity in rural and agro based areas of Pakistan. The results are satisfactory with respect to the idea of public science communication that has modernized the local rural community in terms of most recent awareness regarding the agricultural practices to increase their agro-yield manifolds.
This awareness has brought prosperity in their day-to-day life.

References

Akhtar, M.M., 1997. Factors affecting the adoption rate of improved agricultural practices. M.Sc. Thesis, Department of Rural Sociology, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad-Pakistan

Ali, M., 1994. An inquisition of the constraints hampering agricultural extension work: A case study of Faisalabad tehsil. M.Sc. Thesis, Department of Rural Sociology, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad-Pakistan

Hanif, S., 1992. Comparative effectiveness of various sources of information for cane growers in Crescent Sugar Mills' Zone Area. M.Sc. (Hons.) Thesis, Department of Agriculture Extension, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad-Pakistan

Irfan, M.; Muhammad, S.; Khan, G.A. and Asif, M., 2006, Role of Mass Media in the Dissemination of Agricultural Technologies Among Farmers., Int. J. Agri. Biol., Vol. 8, No. 3.

Khan, S.R.A., 2002. Agriculture of Pakistan: Challenges and Remedies. The Environ Publication, Lahore

Muhammad, S. and C. Garfoth, 1995. Farmer's information exposure and its impact on their adoption behaviour. Pakistan J. Agri. Sci., 32:262-5

Shuaib, M., 2000. Socio-economic issues in adoption of modern agricultural techniques in rural Faisalabad. M.Sc. Thesis, Department of Rural Sociology, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad-Pakistan

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