The purpose of the study was to investigate the intermediary role that opinion leaders can play in the dissemination of agricultural technologies among the rural farmers in Lesotho in order to bridge the gap between extension and the farmers. A structured questionnaire was administered to 200 randomly sampled maize farming households, representing a 20 percent sample, from three villages in the Qeme area, namely Ha Mohasoa, Ha Pita and Ha Jimisi. Opinion Leadership was measured on the basis of number of nominations within and beyond the sample. The research findings confirm the importance of opinion leadership, which exists among both male and female farmers, but varies according to the degree of influence (number of nominations). Thirty-nine percent qualified based on influence as opinion leaders, but the strong opinion leaders were between 6 – 10 percent. Of the various personal and environmental factors that were assumed to have influence on opinion leadership, only some but not all actually had influence. The factors having influence were age, marital status, gender, farming efficiency and exposure to mass media. Factors having no influence were formal education qualifications, scale of farming operation and the reliance on farming as a source of income. Competence and accessibility appeared to be key dimensions of opinion leadership. However, in the study area, accessibility – was formal to be a precondition for the effective flow of information – was not a constraint. Ninety percent of all opinion leaders were, for example, assessed to have a high or very high accessibility. This accessibility was influenced by friendship, and gender, but social status appeared to have no bearing on it. Physical accessibility was also an important factor, which was emphasized by the finding that 85 percent of the strongest opinion leaders resided within a distance of less than 2km from the followers. In general, the opinion leaders were of a polymorphic type and seem to be consulted over a wide variety of subjects or commodities. Although there were indications of the stronger opinion leaders being more involved in reciprocative consultations, this tendency was much less pronounced than what has been found among white commercial farmers in South Africa (Düvel, 1996). Based on the similarities of findings of this study and those of Adupa&Düvel (1999) on small scale farmers in Uganda, it was recommended that more research should be conducted to interrogate and exploit the use of opinion leaders in the diffusion of information and innovations in Lesotho.
Dissertation (MSc (Agric))--University of Pretoria, 2007.