ICTS As A Bridge Between Climate Information And Livelihood Strategies Among Rural Women In Kitui County, Kenya

Citation:
Yohannis MA. ICTS As A Bridge Between Climate Information And Livelihood Strategies Among Rural Women In Kitui County, Kenya.; 2019.

Abstract:

The study was motivated by the increasing challenges of climate variability and climate change, which create problems, such as food insecurity in Kitui County in Kenya. In the current digital age, ICTs are core to all sectors to facilitate access to and enhance efficiency across various services. Although the role of ICTs in improving life in Kenya is widely acknowledged, the focus of most ICT-related developments has been on human experiences at the level of disease and needs for communication and mobility. Less obvious is how such technological interventions may be used to address seemingly abstract yet grave concerns like climate change and its impact on the quality of human life. This study, therefore, investigated the various scenarios where ICTs were deployed in relaying relevant localized climate information to help rural women farmers in Kitui County to make relevant decisions to improve their farm productivity and their livelihoods by extension. The study incorporated an ICT system to the Sustainable Livelihoods Framework (SLF) that consisted of Digital Capital and ICT Tools, thereby improving on the SLF. This modified SLF, mainstreamed ICT-driven climate information and provided the ideal means by which such information was leveraged to ensure enhanced sustainable livelihoods. Gender and Development (GAD) theory, Bourdieu’s ideas of social capital theory, and the Information Needs Assessment Model (INAM) further strengthened the SLF by addressing household power dynamics and climate information relevance in the rural communities. The research drew from emerging variables to demonstrate that regardless of the context in which the SLF was formulated, its versatility makes it the most appropriate tool for such studies in rural Kenya. The specific objectives of this study were threefold: (1) to assess the extent to which rural women access and use ICT tools in the utilization of climate information including weather, seasonal forecasts and agro-advisories; (2) to analyze the extent to which the use of ICT-based climate information by rural women influence maximize access and utilization of livelihood assets; and (3) to examine the livelihood strategies employed with the increasing availability and use of ICT-based climate information. The author adopted a mixed-methods approach for data collection and analysis that was guided by the SLF. Specific methods used, apart from on-desk review, were a household survey of 419 respondents, 14 key informant interviews, and two focus group discussions. The study merged theoretical and applied research outcomes to narrow the gap between the theory and practice of ICTs use while linking it to climate information and enhanced rural livelihood strategies. The outcome from the research findings highlighted the need for interventions to empower rural women in the use of ICT tools in exploiting the full potential of climate information, the need for tailoring modern scientific climate information to local needs, translated into simple formats and the local Kikamba language, the need for complementary services such as affordable credit, insurance, livelihood diversification opportunities and access to livelihood assets that can further strengthen their household resilience to climate variability. The results show that community radios combined with mobile phones are the most accessible and cost-effective ICT tools for rural women’s access to real-time, relevant climate and agro-advisory information. There is evidence that the women’s livelihood strategies have been enhanced which strengthened their livelihood assets, thereby improving their livelihoods under the wider rubric of the sustainable livelihood framework. The contribution to knowledge for this research was an enhanced SLF where the various responses and systematic analysis made the framework relevant in gaining insights into the link between climate information and livelihood strategies through ICTs among women in ii rural communities in Kitui. The modified framework and the research findings are also timely in light of the increasing realization of ICTs potential in contributing to climate change adaptation and mitigation. Also, the thesis builds on the growing body of literature that generated a rich repository that other researchers can use to advance knowledge, and the outcomes are eight peer-reviewed articles. The output of this study is replicable to other counties in Kenya because rural households depend on agriculture for their livelihood and this economic sector is not exempt to climate change and variability necessitating the need for local specific climate information. The recommendations to the research are that it can be extended to examine outcomes that will look at improved income, sustainable resource utilization, and food security, physical and emotional wellbeing. Further we provide policy recommendations and made suggestions to shape future climate change adaptation policies, plans, and strategies in Kenya that integrates gender equality into ICT and climate change to help farmers adapt to climate change/variability for sustainable development. Keywords: ICT Tools; Digital Capital; Climate Information; Enhanced Sustainable livelihood Framework; Livelihood Strategies

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