THE ROLE OF AGRICULTURE EXTENSION IN INCREASING FOOD PRODUCTION AS A STRATEGY IN REDUCING POVERTY
The majority of agricultural producers in Nigeria still use the traditional approach in crop production with technological change very slow and minimal. In view of this, Agricultural Extension Services have been adopted by the government as a major agricultural transformation strategy. Nevertheless, the expected impact from the intervention has not been realized due to inadequate funding, lack of logistics, insufficient Field Staffs and non-participatory modes of technology transfer. This is the problem which the study investigated taking Kano State as a case study. The study was guided by the following objectives; the examination of the nature of the extension services provided and the assessment of the institutional and logistical arrangements put in place for the extension services delivery. The study further sought to assess the modes of agricultural technology dissemination, examine the feedback mechanisms and, based on the findings, recommendations were made towards effective extension services delivery. A case study method was adopted in which Kano State was chosen to facilitate the ease of data collection.
Respondents were selected through a simple random sampling technique to gather data from the farmers using structured questionnaires from three purposively sampled Local government area of Dawakin Kudu, Gwarzo and Kombotso Local government area. Institutional survey involving the Directorates of Agriculture in the selected Local government area was also embarkedupon. The study identified that 100 percent of the farmers received agricultural technology whilst an average of 53.3 percent of them received non agricultural technology. The study also identified a deficiency in logistical supply, inadequate and irregular government funding. It was also revealed that 89 Agricultural Extension Agents were required in the Local government area but 47 of them were available, creating a huge deficit of 42. Recommendations were made to help provide solutions to the challenges of extension services provision in the country. Some of these include disseminating technology to farmers in manageable groups of a maximum of twenty, increasing logistical and EFS capacity, motivating Field Staffs, institutionalizing provision of credit in kind and establishing a National Extension Services Provision Fund to help make extension services delivery sustainable.
1.1 Background of the Study
Agriculture is the main source of income for around 2.5 billion people in the developing world. It remains the backbone of many African economies, accounting for 57 percent of total employment, 17 percent of GDP and 11 percent of export earnings on the continent (World Bank, 2008). In Nigeria, the sector contributed 34.5 percent to GDP and US$2,197 million foreign exchange earnings mainly from cocoa, timber and non-traditional agricultural exports in 2009 (ISSER, 2010). According to the MoFA (2010), 50.6 percent of the total labour force in the country is engaged in farming, forestry, fishing and hunting, with women accounting for 51.8 percent in 2009. In spite of the key role agriculture plays in the growth of the economy of Nigeria, the sector has recorded a decline in its contribution to GDP, employment, government revenue and foreign exchange earnings in recent years. MoFEP (2010) has stated that whereas the agricultural sector grew in 2010 by 4.8 percent and contributed 32.4 percent to GDP, the services sector grew by 6.1 percent and contributed 32.8 percent as its share to GDP, displacing the Agricultural sector as the highest contributor to GDP.
The decline in growth of agriculture is caused by lack of access to markets and credits, low level of technology especially mechanization, inadequate post-harvest infrastructure (storage, processing, transport), low uptake of research findings by stakeholders and limited availability of improved technological packages especially planting materials and certified seeds (MoFA, 2007). Given these challenges, for agriculture to assume its leading role as the greatest provider of employment and reduction in poverty of the majority of the rural people, agricultural development is imperative. Agricultural extension services are now a major activity and basic element in programmes and projects formulated to bring about agricultural development and improvement in the quality of lives of the rural poor farmers (NDPC,2011). Through provision of extension services, the field extension staffs are mandated to transfer proven and accepted farming practices to farmers in a participatory manner and to assist them to secure microloans to help them get started on their own farms or expand them.
The field extension staffs are also expected to teach rural farmers post- harvest processing and storage of the foodstuffs. They also provide credit and market- access assistance to the farmers to secure capital for their activities and to sell their surplus crops to generate income for their families (MoFA, 2007). With the inception of agricultural extension services in the country some decades ago, agricultural modernization has not been achieved. The Dawakin Kudu District (2010) has stated that most of the beneficiary farmers of extension services intervention in the district still produce foodstuffs meant for home consumption, do not have access to market for their produce and rely on natural rain for the cultivation of their crops, hence the failure of the rains sometimes lead to poor yield thereby perpetuating their poverty. It is in this regard that the study is undertaken to unearth the problems of extension services delivery in theregion.
Despite the positive growth experienced by the agricultural sector since the mid 1980s, bottlenecks that inhibit agricultural productivity remain. A study conducted by Asuming et al (2008) indicated that average yields in agriculture have remained stagnant. They noted that generally, increases in agricultural production have been achieved primarily by farmers using extensive methods such as increased land area and manual labour. Agriculture is predominantly practiced on a smallholder basis on family-operated farms. The majority of agricultural producers in Nigeria still use the “cutlass and hoe” approach in crop production with technological change very slow and minimal (Asuming et al,2008).
Agricultural extension services provision is underpinned by ‘productivity gap theory’ (Waddington, 2010). This theory states that, extension services can be organized and delivered in a variety of forms, but their ultimate aim is to increase farmers' productivity and income. Productivity improvements are only possible when there is a gap between actual and potential productivity. He suggests two types of ‘gaps’ contribute to the productivity differential - the technology gap and the management gap. He concludes that provision of extension services can contribute to the reduction of the productivity differential by increasing the speed of technology transfer and by increasing farmers' knowledge and assisting them in improving farm management practices.
The productivity gap theory, however, is flawed in that it cannot solely contribute to reduction of the productivity differential without making allusion to any assumptions. It must be noted that agriculture in Nigeria is rain-fed. In the face of provision of extension services, variations in weather conditions, particularly unfavourable weather, could decrease farm productivity and income to even widen the productivity gap and exacerbate the spate of the rural poverty. The theory itself is limited in its assertion because it poses certain pertinent questions. What is the nature of the extension services provided to the farmers? This is true, in that, ordinary provision of extension services might not trigger agricultural transformation and reduction in rural poverty of the farmers unless the extension services are timely, relevant and responsive to the farmers’ critical needs. Again, what is the commitment of key stakeholders involved in the delivery of the extension services to the farmers? Agricultural transformation through extension services is possible if MoFA supplies the required AEAs and logistics and release enough funds timely to the Local government area.
Furthermore, is extension services provision a top priority of the government? If there is no legal and effective policy framework guiding the operations of extension services in the country, it is not likely to be sustainable. It must be emphasized that agricultural extension services have been officially organized in the country since 1987 but agricultural transformation and reduction in rural poverty have not been achieved. It is therefore envisaged that effective provision of agricultural extension services can only bridge the productivity gap. It is in this light that the study is conducted to investigate the actual problems hampering the effective extension services provision to rural farmers in Nigeria taking the agricultural extension services delivery in the Kano State of Nigeria as a SituationalStudy.
1.3 Research Questions
The discussion raises a number of questions which require answers. As a result, the study aims at providing answers to the following questions:
i. What is the nature of the agricultural extension services provided to the farmers in the Kano State?
ii. What are the institutional and logistical arrangements put in place for effective agricultural extension services delivery in the studyarea?
iii. What are the techniques used to disseminate the agricultural technology to the farmers in theregion?
iv What are the feedback mechanisms for the extension services delivery in the region?
v What should be the national policy intervention and direction for effective provision of agricultural extension services and agricultural development in the region?
1.4 Statement of Objectives
The broad objective of the study is to examine the problems of agricultural extension services delivery and their effects on agricultural development in the Kano State of Nigeria. The study therefore seeks to achieve the following specific objectives;
i. To examine the nature of the agricultural extension services provided to the farmers in the Kano State
ii. To assess the institutional and logistical arrangements put in place for effective agricultural extension services delivery in theregion
iii. To assess the modes of agricultural technology dissemination to the farmers in the region
iv. To examine the feedback mechanisms for the extension services delivery in the region
v. To make recommendations towards the national policy interventions and directions for the provision of agricultural extension services and agriculturaldevelopment.
1.5 Scope of the Study
The research was conducted in the Kano State of Nigeria. Three Local government area of the region were selected to form part of the study based on purposive sampling. They are Dawakin Kudu, Gwarzo and KombotsoLocal government area. These Local government area were selected to form part of the study because majority of the inhabitants are engaged in traditional agriculture and live inpoverty. The study is focused on the provision of agricultural and non- agricultural technology extension services. They include farmer training comprising field visits, group meetings, field days, on-farm trials and demonstrations and provision of technical services comprising facilitating farmers’ group formation, linking farmers to credit institutions, assisting farmers to get access to market and teaching farmers of post- harvest processing and storage, farm record keeping and disease prevention such as HIV/AIDS and malaria. The study is concentrated on food crops and livestock farmers who are beneficiaries of agricultural extension services in the study area. District Agricultural Extension Officers and Agricultural Extension Agents served as secondary units ofstudy.1.6 Justification of the Study
Majority of Nigeria’s population lives in rural areas with agriculture as their main economic activity. With the rural sector producing the bulk of the nation’s output of food, the standard of living of the rural people needs to be improved. One way of achieving this is a carefully planned and implemented agricultural transformation strategy necessary to accelerate the pace of agricultural modernization for increased yield and income. Among the objectives of the provision of extension services is to transfer improved agricultural technology to the farmers and assist them to secure micro loans and get access to market to enable them increase farm productivity to create wealth for improved living standards.
As a result of this, provision of extension services has been high on the agenda of the government of Nigeria for some time, but little success has been achieved. This has been blamed on several challenges including inadequate funding of extension services programmes, lack of extension logistics and inadequate and ill-motivated extension field staffs. These challenges invariably underpin the conditions under which the AEAs disseminate the agricultural information to the farmers. Therefore, there is the need for objective examination of the problems affecting effective agricultural extension delivery in the Kano State of Nigeria so that recommendations could be made from the study to reverse the situation.
The research also sought to provide an entry point for revising the strategies of the National Extension Services Policy and restructuring the extension services delivery with the view of making it more efficient and effective in transforming traditional agriculture into a modern one for rural poverty reduction in the study area. Another significance of the study is that the findings of the research will be useful to the agricultural extension services providers management team since the sustainability of their services depends on the patronage and level of commitment of their clients, as well as the performance of their services. The significance of this study also lies in the fact that the successful conduct and documentation of the findings into manuscript would not only add to the body of literature as data base but also serve as a guide for further research into other social, cultural and economic dimensions of the lives of the people in the region. The findings of the research will also serve as inputs and lessons to the government and those agencies championing the campaign for ruraldevelopment.1.7 Limitations of theStudy
The researcher encountered some difficulties during the data collection stage. Some of the District Directors of Agriculture were not reluctant to provide information to the researcher with the reason that similar studies conducted in their area had not led to any impact on their services. However, as a result of constant dialoguing and persuasions, this limitation was overcome. At the level of the farmers, poor record keeping by majority of the rural folks posed as a major limitation in quantitative data collection. The researcher therefore had to employ various skills and knowledge acquired to be able to generate data as accurate as possible.
1.8 Organization of the study
The research has been organized into five chapters. The first chapter introduces the research, identifies the key problem under investigation and asks the relevant questions. It further states the specific objectives of the research, defines its scope, gives a justification for the topic and outlines the limitations of the research. This chapter is relevant to the study because it puts the research into perspective and helps to check digressions. The second chapter presents a review of relevant literature on agricultural extension services system in developing countries in terms of extension services models and their approaches and methods of agricultural technology dissemination, funding, constraints of extension services provision and the impacts of extension services on poverty reduction. This chapter provides the theoretical and analytical background needed to design a methodology for the research. The third chapter contains the research design adopted, the data requirement and the sources of the data, the data collection tools employed, the sampling technique, the key data variables and the framework for data analysis and reporting. This chapter provides a guide as to the conduct of the field survey.
The fourth chapter gives a brief background of the location, topography and the structure of agriculture in the selected Local government area. Again, data collected from the field were analyzed in terms of the socio-economic characteristics of the farmers, nature of the extension services provided, logistical and institutional capacity, mode of technology transfer and feedback mechanism. This chapter provides answers to the research questions and forms the basis for the recommendations made for effective extension services delivery. The fifth chapter constitutes the key findings of the study, a set of recommendations and a general conclusion. This chapter is relevant to the study because it discloses information that was however unknown and hence adds to the existing knowledge.
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