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The potential use of Information and Communication Technologies to enhance agritourism in Lesotho
Mpiti, Konosoang Cecilia
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Agritourism represents a significant form of strategy that supports the rural communities and enhancing the sustainable rural development. Over the years, technology has changed the nature of business transactions between the consumers and suppliers of goods and services. As within any other industry, changes driven by technology pose a major challenge in agritourism especially to farmers that do not have access to and knowledge about available technologies in agritourism. This study explores the different Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) available to agritourism farmers in rural communities. It also explores the information that agritourism farmers need in order to successfully run their farms, the different barriers and factors that inhibit the use of technologies by farmers as well as how these technologies can be used to enhance agritourism development in rural communities of Maseru in Lesotho. The study is interpretative in nature and has employed an inductive approach. It involved four types of participants which include farmers, farm employees, tourists and government. Multiple-case studies were used as a research strategy selecting commercial farms using a non-probability sampling and judgmental techniques. Primary data was collected using face- to-face interviews with the respondents and a literature review was used to collect secondary data. Data collected from the interviews was analysed using content analysis techniques. The main reason for using content analysis was to analyse the data collected and to get a valid overview of the different case studies which assisted in strengthening the interpretation and enhancing the outcomes of the research. Since the study focuses on the factors that determine the use of ICT, it proposes a framework adapted from the Information Innovation Adoption Model to explain the behaviour of farmers and employees concerning ICT use. Despite the fact that ICT is being used and available albeit limited, the findings revealed that it is still a new concept to small farmers especially in rural communities of Lesotho. Farmers still do not know which specific ICT to use and how to use it and by whom in different areas of agritourism projects. On the proposed framework, the researcher included farm employees and tourists as participant and some the factors that are significant within the ICT ecosystem. From the framework, only factors that are significant and have a relationship with ICT use in agritourism will be evaluated. These consist of the farm size, farmer’s age, income, attitude, education, farming experience, distance. The findings revealed that, while ICT has the potential to enhance agritourism development in rural communities, issues like high cost of ICT, accessibility, lack of infrastructure, lack of ICT skills, lack of training, education and awareness are some of the barriers that inhibit the potential use of ICT in rural communities of Lesotho. The study also made some recommendations on how to improve or overcome some negative impacts affecting the agritourism farmers with regards to the use of ICT in rural communities.