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 service units that can teach and train extension workers on the job to improve their daily services so that they will be able to transfer these innovations to the rural farmers.
Agricultural Extension Programmes in Nigeria
- Agricultural Development Projects.
- Agro-service centres.
- Operation Feed Yourself.
- Farm settlement schemes.
- River basin and rural development authorities.
- National agricultural land development agency.
- Directorate for Food, Roads and Rural Infrastructure (DFRRI).
- National Fadama development project.
- National Accelerated Food Production Programme.
- Tikonko Agricultural Extension.
- Green Revolution.
- TEKO veterinary service programme.
- Operation Feed Your Industry (OFYI).
- Do It Yourself (TESITO).
- Back to Land.
- Operation Feed the Nation.
Importance of Agricultural Extension Programmes
- To change peoples’ outlook towards their living conditions.
- To teach rural people to recognise and take interest in their problems so as to overcome them.
- To teach farmers improved practices using various methods, demonstrations, lectures, film shows, symposia and radio.
- 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 women on home management.
- To plan and execute farming educational programmes.
ADOPTION OF INNOVATION
Agricultural research organisation normally brings new innovations to the farmers through extension agents. The adoption of innovations or new ideas and techniques in agriculture is not always automatic. Depending on several factors, the rate of adoption of a particular innovation varies with individuals.
Factors Affecting the Rate of Adoption of Innovation
- Level of education: The more educated a farmer is, the higher the rate of adoption of innovation. It will take a longer time for an illiterate farmer 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 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 organisations or extension officers usually categorise farmers according to the rate of adoption of new innovation.
These categories are:
- Early adopters.
- Late adopters.
- Never adopters
a) Innovators: Innovators 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 is 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 Innovators
- Expert advice: There is need for the extension officer to constantly be with the 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 to implement the new ideas they have discovered.
- Provision of farm inputs: Essential farm inputs such as chemicals, fertilizers, seeds, 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: The innovators have to be assured that their produce will be purchased at an encouraging price. This will boost the morale in the practice of the new idea or innovations.
- Organising agricultural shows: This should be done to enable the innovators to 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 subsidised to encourage them.
- Market information: The extension agencies should provide vital market information to the innovators.
b) Early Adopters: 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 practised by some for others to see the result.
- The new idea must have run into a hitch.
- The new idea must have 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 practised by all farmers.
- The new idea was smoothly executed without problems.
- The new idea was a simple and an easy one.
c) Late Adopters: 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 practising 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 programmes.
- Poor communication system also accounts for high number of late adopters.
- It may also be as a result of a weak extension system.
- Cultural and traditional belief systems 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.
d) Never Adopters: 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 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 tell the extension agent that they cannot teach them farming as they have been doing it ever before the latter was 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 farmers 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.