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CAB Reviews

A reviews journal covering agriculture, global health, nutrition, natural resources and veterinary science

CAB Review Open Access

Communicating with smallholder farming families - a review with a focus on agro-dealers and youth as intermediaries in sub-Saharan Africa.


The CABI African Soil Health Consortium (ASHC) aims to improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers through better access to practical information about integrated soil fertility management. The next phase focuses on two types of intermediaries to reach smallholder farmers: agro-dealers and youth. This review reflects this focus and is therefore biased towards recent publications relevant to these intermediaries and also the impact of gender on provision of and access to agricultural information. There is a consistent demand for information on new varieties, pests and diseases, use of pesticides and fertilizer, as well as weather, credit and markets. The most frequently used sources of information are still the more traditional ones. Extension services, family, friends and neighbours, and agro-dealers are all important face-to-face sources of information. Radio dominates as the main mass media source. Local agro-dealers are often included by smallholder farmers among the most frequently used sources of information and they enjoy a degree of trust. There has been considerable investment by donors in extending and strengthening agro-dealer networks over recent years, including more emphasis on their roles as sources of information and advice. A new type of tech-savvy young entrepreneurial farmer is emerging who is more likely to wield a smartphone than a hoe. This is especially important against a background in which, despite the median age in African being just 19.7 years, the average age of farmers is estimated to be over 55. Family farming is receiving renewed emphasis. During its phase 2, which will run from 2015 to 2019, ASHC will share its experiences, successes and failures, and lessons learned in working with agro-dealers and youth intermediaries. In this way it aims to help others to communicate their key messages more effectively including via these intermediaries.