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Repositioning agricultural extension for sustainable agricultural development and national economic regeneration

Agricultural Extension in Nigeria is linked with both the political and modern agricultural history in Nigeria. It involves dissemination of information, innovation and technology to the farmers /clientele in the language they understand in other to improve their knowledge, develop their skills change their attitude and aspiration so as to increase Agricultural productivity, farmers standard of living, income generated from Agriculture and  GDP of the Nation.  The application of agricultural extension grew in implementation of several agricultural programmes implemented in Nigeria. Such programmes include Operation Feed the Nation, OFN (1976), the River Basin Development Authority, RBDA (1973), The Green Revolution Programme, (1980), the Directorate of Food, Roads and Rural Infrastructure, DFRRI (1986), the National Directorate of Employment NDE (1986) and host of others, which later failed in their given mandate.

If agriculture is stagnant, it offers only a stagnant market, and inhibit the growth of the rest of the economy. The core of the doctrine 'Balance of growth, is that neglect to develop agriculture makes it difficult to develop anything else' (Lewis, 1961). For Nigeria (and many other developing countries) at present, agriculture remains the gateway to several desired ends, which includes poverty reduction, rural transformation, employment generation, food security and improved nutritional health profile of the citizenry, Harbison (1967), noted that modernizing nations may not solve many of their most pressing problems unless they find a way of "revolutionizing" rural life. This way is already known to be Extension services, fortunately the sector is almost dead in Nigeria.

In other to reposition agricultural extension for sustainable agricultural development and national economic regeneration the following needs to be in place;

  • Ensure visibility and accountability of extension:  redeem the image and relevance of extension to farmers, by training extension officers with necessary skills and equipping them with working materials, like digital pens and record books to keep logs of contact sessions with farmers. The record book is envisaged to enhance extension's accessibility to his/her clients' recorded information, while the digital pen facilitates communication of information to a central database.
  • Promote professionalism and the image of extension:  This focuses on facilitating extension to become active members of relevant professional bodies, whereby they can have access to scientific and/or position papers and equally gain from presented scientific findings.
  • Recruit extension personnel: The Government should scale-up the number of front-line extension officers in ratios 1:400 and 1:500 of extension against small-scale crop farmers, extension against small-scale livestock farmers and extension against small-scale mixed farm farmers, respectively. In this respect, provinces are required to meet these ratios by employing more extension personnel who meet prescribed educational standards, and accordingly, assist them to build capacity in order to meet intended provincial growth and development targets.
  • Re-skill and re-orientate extension workers: This is intended to train (through short courses and internal training) current extension officers in knowledge and skills, as prescribed in the Norms and Standards for Extension. Further to this, extension officers who lack the necessary qualifications are being encouraged to upgrade these and are offered financial aid to do so.
  • Provide ICT infrastructure and other resources: This is to provide extension officers with relevant technologies, such as computers, Internet facilities and connection to Internet-based extension knowledge and information sharing systems, with particular reference to 'Extension Suite Online'.

In addition to repositioning agricultural extension for sustainable agricultural development and national economic regeneration there should be a national policy for extension to provide effective frameworks that will enhance achievement of the goals set for extension delivery. Its main thrusts should include creating policy and operational coherence among agriculture, forestry and fishery units at national and provincial levels and to refocus extension to being on the farmer, taking into account the vast diversity that is contained in the sector.

 

Complied by:

Adesina Olufemi Samson

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Tel: +2348060028685

Department of Agricultural Extension and Communication Technology

Federal University of Technology Akure, Nigeria.

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Tuesday, 24 May 2022

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