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 necessaryskills and equipping them with working materials, likedigital pens and record books to keep logs of contactsessions with farmers. The record book is envisaged toenhance extension's accessibility to his/her clients'recorded information, while the digital pen facilitatescommunication of information to a central database.
Promote professionalism and the image of extension: Thisfocuses on facilitating extension to become activemembers of relevant professional bodies, whereby they canhave access to scientific and/or position papers andequally gain from presented scientific findings.
Recruit extension personnel: The Government should scale-up the number of front-lineextension officers in ratios 1:400 and 1:500 ofextension against small-scale crop farmers, extensionagainst small-scale livestock farmers and extensionagainst small-scale mixed farm farmers, respectively. Inthis respect, provinces are required to meet these ratiosby employing more extension personnel who meetprescribed educational standards, and accordingly, assistthem to build capacity in order to meet intended provincialgrowth and development targets.
Re-skill and re-orientate extension workers: This isintended to train (through short courses and internaltraining) current extension officers in knowledge and skills,as prescribed in the Norms and Standards for Extension.Further to this, extension officers who lack the necessaryqualifications are being encouraged to upgrade these andare offered financial aid to do so.
Provide ICT infrastructure and other resources: This is toprovide extension officers with relevant technologies, suchas computers, Internet facilities and connection toInternet-based extension knowledge and informationsharing 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 anational policy for extension to provide effectiveframeworks that will enhance achievement of the goals setfor extension delivery. Itsmain thrusts should include creating policy and operationalcoherence among agriculture, forestry and fishery units atnational and provincial levels and to refocus extension tobeing on the farmer, taking into account the vast diversitythat is contained in the sector.
Adesina Olufemi Samson
Department of Agricultural Extension and Communication Technology