Agricultural extension can be defined in any of the following ways:
- It is a 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.
- Agricultural extension is an informal, out – of- school voluntary agricultural education involving the spread or dissemination of information on recent improved development in agriculture from researchers to the farmers through extension agents.
- Agricultural extension is the process, system or service which assists farmers or farm people through educational procedures in improving farming methods and techniques.
OBJECTIVES OF AGRICULTURAL EXTENSION
- To help people living in rural areas to recognize and take interest in their problems.
- To convince people to make themselves available to be taught how to raise their standards of living by their own efforts, using their own resources and initiatives, and encourage local leadership.
- To educate farmers to abandon unproductive traditional ways of farming for improved and scientific farming techniques.
- To help improve the health of rural dwellers through better nutrition, using their own farm produce.
- To help accelerate rural development / collection and collation of basic information relating to rural programmes.
- Identification of proper marketing channels.
- To help farmers to access and supervise the use of agricultural loans.
- To link farmers with research institutes.
ROLES OR FUNCTIONS OF AGRICULTURAL EXTENSION
Agricultural extension is very important for the development of agriculture in West Africa. Government should encourage agricultural extension services for the following reasons:
- 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 agricultural loans.
- 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 marketing channels for the farmers to sell their products.
- Acquisition of skills: It helps the farmers to acquire skills and specialisation in the production of crops and livestock.
- Teaches land management techniques: It introduces 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, organising 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 NIGERIA
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: There is inadequate transport facilities for extension staff.
- Inadequate motivation of extension agents: Extension agents are not sufficiently motivated.
- 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 extension agents.
- Ignorance of the tradition and customs of local communities: Many agents are ignorant of the traditions and customs of their target communities and often run foul 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 agents performance: There is poor or inadequate monitoring of the activities or 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 extension workers. Hence, they are not effective in their work.
- Language barrier: As a result of the low level of education of most farmers, there is lack of understanding between the extension workers and the farmers.
- Non-involvement of farmers: During the planning of extension services, farmers are not involved in the entire programme. This may lead to the failure of such programme.
- Corruption of extension personnel: Some extension personnel are corrupt as they divert fund meant for extension services for their personal gains.
Target groups of extension agents
- Commercial farmers. Subsistence farmers.
- Farmers’ cooperative societies.
- Nomads; Youth Organisations e.g. Young Farmers Club.
- Non-governmental organisations.
- Fishermen/fish farmers.
- Community Development Associations.
- Bee keepers.