Four resource-poor farmer groups in KwaZulu-Natal participated in a study to explore how to meet their need for printed agricultural information materials (PAIMs) to promote small-scale commercial organic farming. Participatory rural appraisal methods (focus groups, semi-structured questions, information tabulation, voting, ranking, sorting and observation) were used to determine how farmers access innovative agricultural information, their preferences for information channels, the effect of literacy and language on their use of printed information, and the provision of relevant printed information materials. Participants evaluated five PAIMs. The findings show that there is a critical need for appropriately repackaged PAIMs to reach farmers. Intermediaries, on whom farmers rely for external (mostly oral) information, could expose farmers to alternative information channels and/or sources. Materials written in the farmers' first language, isiZulu, were preferred, while at least one functionally literate farmer was a member of each of the participating groups, thereby facilitating group literacy. The study concludes that printed materials on their own are not sufficient to meet small-scale farmers' new information needs, and recommends a collaborative, action research approach to ensure that farmers are involved in developing their agricultural knowledge and information systems.
© 2005 by K. G. Saur Verlag GmbH, Federal Republic of Germany