Meaning of agricultural extension
Agricultural extension can be defined in any of the following ways:
- Agricultural extension is process whereby modern farming techniques and
research findings are taken to the farmers through extension workers and, problems of the farmers are taken to research institutions for solution
education involving the spread or dissemination of information on recent improved development in agriculture from researchers to the farmers through extension against
- Agricultural extension is the process system or service which assists farmers of
farm people through education procedures in improving farming methods and
Roles or functions or objectives of agricultural extension
- Increase in agricultural production: It encourages farmers to increase their
production of food crops, cash crops and livestock
- Teaches improved farming practices: It teaches farmers improved practices in
the cultivation, rearing and processing of crops and livestock
- Collection and collation of basic information: It helps to collect and collate basic
information relating to rural programmes
- An intermediary between farmers and research institutes: It acts as an
intermediary between farmers and research institutes
- Supervision of agricultural loans: it helps to supervise the beneficiaries of
- Changes people’s attitude towards their problems: it helps to change people’s
attitude towards their problems.
- Raises standard of living: it helps to raise the standard of living of the farmers.
- Identification of proper marketing channels: it helps to identify proper
- Acquisition of skills: it helps to acquire skills and specialization in the production
of crops and livestock.
- Teaches land management techniques: it introduced and teaches farmers, land
management techniques which increase land fertility and productivity.
- Teaches improved practices in product processing: it enables farmers to be
taught improved practices in processing of livestock and crops.
- Implementation of auxiliary programmes: it helps in planning, organizing and
implementing auxiliary programmes, e.g. young farmers clubs.
- Assistance to foreign experts: it enables extension officers to give necessary
assistance to foreign experts visiting states on the invitation of government in
order to carry out various feasibility studies in various fields of agriculture.
- Supervision of agricultural development programmes: it assists in supervising
and evaluating agricultural development programmes
Problems facing agricultural extension in West Africa
Problems facing or militating against agricultural extension in West Africa include:
- Inadequate farm input: Farm or agricultural input are inadequate and often get
to the users (farmers)very late
- Non-involvement of extension officers: The subject matter specialists
(agricultural extension officers) are often not properly involved
- Inadequate transport facilities: inadequate transport facilities for extension
- Inadequate motivation of extension agents: Extension agents are not
- Poor supervision of farmers: The supervision of the farmers by the extension
agents is weak or poor
- Delay in information: Information to farmers is usually delayed and distorted
due to poor training of the extension agents
- Inadequate of the tradition and customs of local communities: Many agents
are ignorant of the traditions and customs of their system. Making it difficult for them to receive audience
- Inadequate extension workers: Very few extension workers are available to
work with too many farmers i.e. there is low extension-farmer ratio
- Poor communication facilities: Poor facilities for extension communication
which limit the scope and efficiency of coverage
- Illiteracy of the farmers: target farmers are largely illiterate and find it difficult
to follow instructions
- Inadequate monitoring of extension agent performance: Poor or inadequate
monitoring of the activities poor performances of the extension agents because of difficulties, therefore, mediocrity is often perpetrated
- Inadequate extension tools: Extension tools and facilities are grossly inadequate
for the extension work to succeed
- Conservatism of farmers: The conservatism of farmers makes changes difficult
- Undefined roles for agents: There is no properly defined roles for the extension
workers. Hence, they are not effective in their work
Target group of the extension agent
- Commercial farmers. Subsistence farmers
- Farmers’ cooperative societies
- Nomads; youth organization e.g. young farmers club
- Non-governmental organizations
- Fishermen/fish farmers
- Community development associations
- Bee keepers
Methods of disseminating new ideas and techniques to farmers
Methods used in disseminating new ideas and techniques to farmers are grouped into three classes: (i) Individual method (ii) Group method and (iii) Mass media method.
- Individual method
The individual method includes farm and home visits, aimed at direct contact between farmers and the extension agents. The purpose is to give advice or assistance on a wide range of farm and home problems. In order to succeed, it may require the assistance of volunteer leaders or administrators to arrange meetings so as to develop public relation with organizations and important individuals. Examples of individual methods of disseminating ideas and innovations include (i) home of the farmer (ii) office or farm (iii) telephone call, (iv) correspondence (v) result demonstration.
Advantages of individual method
- It gives and obtains information that will be useful to farmers and / or
- It can only work for a small group of farmers
- More attention is given to the individual farmers than any other method
- It may involve the use of telephone which makes information dissemination
Disadvantages of individual method
- It is a time consuming method
- It is also a very tedious method
- Extension agent cannot reach many farmers
- It may be very expensive e.g. telephone calls
- Group Method
The group method involves the working together will groups of farmers under the supervision of the extension worker(s). Examples of group methods include: (i) symposia (ii) lectures (iii) debates (iv) Group discussion (v) excursions (vi) field trips (vii) group demonstration plots (viii) agricultural show.
Agricultural show provides forum for interaction between and within farmers and manufacturers. It is also effective in stimulating farmers’ interest to adopt new farm or agricultural techniques or improved practices. It also provides avenues for of agricultural produce.
Advantages of group method
- It enables extension workers to reach out to many farmers at a time
- It saves time and money
- It is not as tedious as in the case of individual method
- Farmers tend to show more interest in what may be introduced
Disadvantages of group method
- Some member of the group may easily discourage others
- Extension agent may not always find all members of the group to be present all
- Extension officers may not be enough to carry out their jobs in many groups
- Mass media
Mass media involve the dissemination of information through special media of communication to the farmers. The method is used to create awareness and interest in the new ideas and techniques among the majority of the farmers. In other words, this method enables many people to know about the new innovation. Mass media include the use of radio, television, newspapers, film shows, pamphlets, banners, handbills and hand-outs.
Types of mass media
There are two major types or group of mass media. These are electronic media and print media.
- Electronic media: This involves the use of electronics like, radio, television, film show, etc. to disseminate information to farmers. Through the electronic media, many people can easily be reached if only they have the means. It is an expensive method by which farmers can easily be contacted.
- Print media: This involves the use of media like newspapers, banners, handbills newsletters, hand-outs, pamphlets, etc. to disseminate information to people. Just like the electronic media, information can get to many people but illiteracy, combined with poverty would prevent many people from getting the desired information.
Mass media, (electronics and print) have the same advantages and disadvantages.
Advantages of mass media
- They can reach out to a large audience provided it is within means
- They may not require the presence of extension agents
- The new techniques and innovation can easily reach the farmer at a fixed date and time e.g. either on radio or television
- Time wasting and stress involved in going round the farmers are eliminated
- Farmers can put the new ideas to use by themselves
- The information, especially print media last long
- The printed information can be posted or received by mail
- Pictures (in electronic) can easily be served as teaching aids
- It is useful in information dissemination to deaf but literate famers.
Disadvantages of mass media
- They are very expensive to operate e.g. talks on radio or television
- They are only useful to the educated farmers; illiterate farmers can never
- They are only available to farmers who are wealthy enough to own television
and radio sets
- Farmers may find it difficult to ask questions on matters which they do not
Agricultural extension programmes in West Africa
Agricultural extension programmes are the media or channels through which new ideas and techniques are disseminated to rural farmers. In other words, they are bodies or agencies which have extension workers on the job to improve their daily services that they will be able to transfer these innovations to the rural famers.
Importance of agricultural extension programmes
- To change peoples’ outlook towards their living conditions
- To teach rural people to recognize and take interest in their problems so as to
- To teach farmers improved practices using various methods, demonstrations,
lectures, film shows, sympodial, radio etc.
- To act as a link between farmers and research institutions/Government
- To teach farmers efficient management on the farms
- To assist in obtaining loans and credits
- To assist in locating markets for their farm produce
- To monitor the use of Agric loans
- To assist farmers to locate sources of farm input
- To evaluate the success or otherwise of the extension programme
- To educate rural woman on home management
- To plan and execute farming educational programmes
Adoption of innovation
Agricultural research organization normally brings new innovations to the farmers through extension agents. The adoption of innovations or new ideas and techniques in agricultural is not always automatic. Depending on several factors, the rate of adopting of a particular innovation varies with individuals
Faction affecting the rate of adoption of innovation
- Level of education: The more educated a farmers is, the higher the rate of adoption of innovation. It will take a longer time for an illiterate farmers to accept new ideas in farming
- Attitude of the farmer: Most farmers that develop positive attitude toward new innovations are more likely to succeed than those that do not respond at all
- Financial status of a farmer: Experience has shown that wealthy farmers are ever willing to accept and experiment on new farming techniques that than very poor or peasant farmers
- Size of the farm: The bigger the farm, the higher the rate at which a farmer will be willing to accept new ideas. Also the smaller the farm the slower the rate of adoption of innovation
- Presence of extension worker: the presence of extension worker within the farming community may help the individual farmer to accept the new ideas or techniques in farming
- Result of demonstration plots: The result from demonstration plots, particularly, if it is a good one will promote the acceptance and adoption of the innovation but when the result is not good, farmers will abandon the whole idea concerning the innovation.
Categories of farmers based on adoption of innovation
Agricultural research organization or extension officers usually categories farmers according to the rate of adoption of new innovation. These categories include:
- Early adopters
- Late adopters
- Never adopters
Innovations are farmers who introduce changes or new ideas of farming into a new area. Such ideas may reach the innovators through the extension agents, mass media, or they might have seen it done in another place. The proportion of such people are usually very small. They may suffer some losses due to inexperience or error during the cause of doing their work. As a result of these reasons, they will require encouragement.
How to encourage the innovation
- Expert advice: There is need for the extension officer to constantly be with
innovators to render expert advice to them concerning what they are doing
- Granting credit facilities: The extension agent can assist these farmers to source
for loans to enable them important or critical for the success of the new innovation must be easily available to the farmers
- Provision of farm inputs: Essential farm inputs such as chemicals. Fertilizer,
seed, etc. which are important or critical for the success of the new innovation must be easily available to the farmers
- Granting insurance cover: There should be insurance cover, particularly on the
new ideas and innovations the farmers are trying to establish. Whether they succeed or fail would not have much impact for the farmers since there is an insurance on the programme
- Providing market for produce: This innovators have to be assured that their
produce will be purchased at an encouraging price. This will boost the moral in the practice of the new idea or innovations
- Organizing agricultural shows: This should be done to enable the innovators
exhibit or display their products for the purpose of attracting others
- Prizes/Awards: Prizes and awards should be given to the innovators
- Subsidy: The activities of the innovators should be subsidized to encourage hem
- Market information: The extension agencies should provide vital market
information to the innovators.
Early adopters is the second group that comes in immediately after the innovators. Depending on a number of factors as discussed above, the percentage of early adopters may be high or low.
If the percentage is low (say 10% or below), it shows that:
- The new idea was not uniformly accepted
- The new idea has to be practiced by some for others to see the result
- The new idea must have run into a hitch
- The new idea must have run into been too complex to understand if the
percentage is high (say 30% or above) it shows:
- The new idea was uniformly accepted
- The new idea was practiced by all farmers
- The new idea was smoothly executed without problems
- The new idea was a simple and an easy one.
Late adopters are the third group of farmers that can accept new ideas and techniques. In most cases, the number or percentage of late adopters is usually very high.
Reasons for high number of late adopters
- They may be illiterate farmers
- They may be poor or peasant farmers
- They may have conservative attitude
- The idea may be too complex for them
- Some of the farmers must have waited to see the result of that of a person
practicing them now
- Some of the farmers must have run into problems in the course of implementing
the new innovation
- The farmers may be disenchanted with inconsistent government policies and
- Poor communication system also account for high number of late adopters
- It may also be as a result of a weak extension system
- Cultural and tradition belief system do slow down the adoption of new ideas
- When the result of the new technique is not significantly better than the existing method, the people drag their feet
Never adopters is the last group of farmers that will never accept nor adopt the new innovations. This group of farmers no matter how best the extension agents will try to convince them, will never change their mind. High level of illiteracy, poverty and conservatism are the major reasons for these farmers’ unwillingness to adopt new innovations.
Factors responsible for their unwillingness to accept or adopt innovations
- Illiteracy: These farmers who are never willing to adopt innovation are mainly
illiterates who can never appreciate any good work
- Conservative attitude: This group of farmers are never willing to accept new
ideas. They will prove to the extension agent that cannot teach them farming as they have been doing it ever before they were born
- Poverty: As a result of the high level of poverty, these farmers are never willing
to spend a mite of money to acquire new idea. They might need everything free of charge
- Lack of exposure: Most of these farmers lack exposure. Hence, they can never
appreciate good work or idea that may come to them
- Fear of tax payment: These farmer see extension officers as tax collectors. They
believe the officers are sent by government to use the introduction of innovation as a means of collecting taxes from them.
Qualities, functions/roles and problems of agricultural extension officer or agent or worker
Agricultural extension officer/worker
Meaning: An agriculture extension officer or worker is a person who is involved in the dissemination of new ideas and techniques from the research institutes to the farmers. He acts as an intermediary between researches and the farmers.
Qualities of a good extension worker
- Originality: For an extension officer or worker to succeed as an agent of change,
he must be original. He must have the native intelligence to be original in his thoughts, words and action
- Leadership: He must be a leader among leaders. He must be able to know the
way i.e. his goal and lead the rural farmers to grasp and embrace that goal. He must be patient and able to inspire the rural farmers to achieve the goal
- Initiative: A good extension worker must have initiative to tackle problems
himself before referring them to supervisors. He must be able to take steps without being directed
- Organizational ability: The success of any extension activity will depend on how
it is planned, organized and executed. He should be able to organize training of leaders
- Problem solving ability: A good extension worker must be able to recognize
problems, define them in simple terms and solve them if they fall within his training and experience
- Clear judgment: He must possess great foresight, he must be able to appreciate
the problems of the farmers on the ground and know what to do to solve them
- Reliability/honesty: An extension worker must be reliable, a man of his words. If
the agency sends him down to the rural area, he should go down to deliver the piece of information and bring back feedback. If the rural farmers discover that he is reliable, they can then assimilate the new innovation and research findings
- Communication skill: An excellent extension worker must possess good
communication skills e.g. good command of local language, boldness and oratorical abilities
- Freedom from local politics: A good extension worker must not be involved in
the local polities so as to win the confidence of all members of the target group
- Respect for culture and traditions: He must be a good mixer for him to succeed.
He must be able to come down to their level. He should dress like them, eat whatever they present, possibly drink their water, while not losing his goal for doing all these. By these wise behavior he will win the hearts of the rural farmers. He should not feel superior to the farmers so as to achieve his goal. He must be approachable
- Technical knowledge: With sound training, an extension worker must be able to
impact knowledge. He should be able to motivate these adult learners to acquire knowledge
- Punctuality and availability: He should be able to attend all pre-arranged
meeting, seminars, workshops, etc. promptly and always make himself available
Roles of an extension worker
- He provides agricultural consultancy services: He consult and reflects on rural or agricultural development project for the farmers
- He plans and executes programmes: He plans and executes farming educational programmes
- He organizes and supervises farmers’ groups: He organizes and supervises farmers’ groups i.e. meeting, co-operatives and their workers; meetings
- He conducts and organizes training for farmers: He conducts or organizes training for farmers
- He liaise with other agencies: He liaises with other agencies that may have influence on the rural environment and the farmers
- He assist in improving farmers’ outlook: He helps to improve the outlook of farmers towards their problems or difficulties
- He acts as intermediary between researchers and farmers: He acts as a connecting lick (intermediary) between the researchers and the farming communities
- He teaches farming practices: He teaches improved farming practices to farmers
- He evaluates extension programmes: He evaluates agricultural extension programmes and projects
- He supervises agricultural loans usage: He supervises the utilization of agricultural loans
- He locates marketing channels: Extension agents do assist farmers to locate marketing channels for farm produce
- He sources for farm input: Extension agents also assist farmers to source for farm input like fertilizers, seeds, chemicals etc.
- He sources for farm loans: Extension workers also assist the farmers to source for loans to enable them buy various input and produce crops and livestock.
Problems facing an agricultural extension officer
Problems facing an agricultural extension worker or officer in the discharge of his duties include:
- High level of farmers’ illiteracy: High level of illiteracy among farmers may affect
the rate of adoption of new farming techniques
- Absence of credit facilities: Absence of credit facilities to farmers make them
uninterested and prevent the implementation of accepted innovations
- Insufficient motivation of extension agent: Insufficient motivation of the
extension workers by way of better remunerations for their effort tends to retard their performance
- Inadequate resources: Extension workers do not have adequate resources, such
as money, to travel or enough materials to supply their target farmers
- Unfavorable attitude of farmers: Unfavorable attitudes of rural farmers towards
government programmes, tend to make extension work a bit difficult
- Inadequate trained extension agents: Inadequacy of well-trained extension staff
makes the extension worker have a wider area and more farmers than he can cope with
- Unco-ordinated efforts by government agencies:Unco-ordinated efforts by
government agencies may lead to confusion and rejection by farmers
- Poor transportation network: Poor transportation network by way of lack of
vehicles and motor able roads, militates against the extension worker
- Inadequate evaluation machinery: Inadequate evaluation machinery makes it
difficult for he agent to assess their own achievement or success
- Non-involvement of farmers in planning programmes: Rural farmers, the
ultimate consumers of extension programmes are not involved in planning programmes are not involved in planning programmes which results in non-commitment to such programmes when it is introduced
- Language barriers: Language barriers do lead to improper dissemination of new
innovations by the extension worker
- Inadequate publicity: inadequate publicity by way of mass media are not fully
utilized in publicizing extension programmes.
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