NEEDS FOR DISSEMINATION OF INNOVATIONS IN AGRICULTURE TO RURAL FARMERS
This paper discusses Innovations in Agriculture and process of their dissemination to the rural farmers. It focused on the major Innovations in different areas of agriculture such as soil science, crop science and animal science. Also the paper highlighted the needs for innovation in agriculture and methods of disseminating agricultural innovations to the rural farmers. It also highlights on the problems associated with disseminating innovations and solutions to the identified problems. The paper identifies some strategies that will be adopted to make innovations acceptable and useful to the rural farmers.
Rural farmers account for the greater part of the population of any developing countries such as Nigeria. However, the world population is ever increasing to outweigh the resources available in meeting the daily demands. Although this population increase cannot be easily controlled, a number of measures could be applied to the area of resources utilization in order to properly manage the limited resources for the service of the growing population. One of such approach is agricultura innovations. Innovations, essentially as a beneficial change of practices and processes, play an important role in developing agriculture as a sustainable basis for economics growth and income generation for rural households. Agriculture being the bed rock from which innovation and creativity are mostly created is an important income source for rural households and thereby contributes to sustainable financing of social sector services in rural areas, (Irz, Lin, Thirtle and Wiggins; 2001). It occupies a key position in the Nigeria economy judging by its critical role of providing food security, provision of employment, revenue generation and provision of raw materials for industrial and agricultural development.
Agricultural development and innovation in the context of this paper implies a shift from traditional methods of production that includes new technological components (such as new varieties, cultural practices, commercial fertilizers and pesticides), new crops and new farming systems (Madukwe and Eric 1999). Similarly, the food and agricultural organization, FAO (1993) suggested that in order to enhance agricultural development and innovation, new commodities and new methods of production must be developed. Therefore, the major issues or problem lies with the process of disseminating information about these innovations to the rural farmers.
An innovation according to Hornby (2000) is the act of introducing new things, ideas or ways of doing something. Anyanwu (2001) described innovations as new idea, method, practice or techniques which gives the means of achieving sustained increases in farm productivity and income. It is also a system of network focused on bringing new products into use. Innovations involve knowledge, inventions and development. It account for the changes affecting rural society and the new expectations of people living at those area. It is also the development of new customs value through solutions that meet new needs or adding value to old customs by providing new ways of maximizing their current level of productivity.
Brunori, Rand, and Proost,(2007) defines innovations as problem solving and opportunity taking activity. Both problems and opportunities they say, are the major key motivators in the innovation process. In this content, information is needed, to exploit opportunities in time, raise awareness about the potential negative impacts of current choices and to get know about opportunities and sustainable solutions to the problems (Leisa, 2002). Success in enhancing food production, providing income and other opportunities and ensuring that the agricultural sub-sector perform its manifest function in furtherance of rural and over all national development depend largely on the affective dissemination and communication system adopted to implement various agricultural innovations in the rural areas. In another development, Barnett (1985) maintained that innovation is any thought, behaviour or things that are new because it is qualitatively different from existing forms. Myers and Marquis (1971) believed that innovation is not a single action but a total process of interrelated sub processes. It is not just the conception of a new idea, nor the innovation of a new device, nor the development of a new market, rather it is the process of all these things acting in an integrated fashion.
Innovation as has been viewed above is a novel way of doing things better or differently. It is worthy to note that innovation is so broad and extensive that it cuts across all areas of human endeavor especially in production related fields. Among such fields or areas is in agriculture.
Agricultural innovation in this context therefore, is that aspect of agriculture which is centered on developing knowledge (ideas and working attitude) and technologies, there by bringing new products, process and enhancing agricultural production. Similarly, Blait (1996) pointed out that the least expensive input for improved rural agricultural development, is adequate access to knowledge and information in areas of new agricultural technologies such as improved seedlings, fertilizer, market prices and modern storage system for food security. Farmers in Nigeria seldom feel the impact of agricultural innovation either because they have no access to such vital information or because it is poorly disseminated (Ozowa, 1995). Aina (2007), also was of the opinion that farmers would benefit from global information, if information centers, are cited in rural areas complete with all information and communication gadgets. Advances in information and communication technologies, offers opportunities for technical changes from which both extension staff and their clientele can benefit. Since a number of positive changes and innovations have been known to exist in the field of agriculture, interest and contributive attentions should be paid to the area of information dissemination within agricultural sector.
Dissemination according to Hornby (2000), is “the spread of information, knowledge etc so that it reaches many people”. The word dissemination originated from agriculture during the period of the early men. It originated from a Latin word disseminare meaning “scattering of seeds”. In a general term, dissemination means, broadcasting a message to the public without a direct feedback from audience. In agriculture, dissemination takes the form of extension. Extension therefore, is a communication, a process whereby various participants and stakeholders are linked and exchanged information necessary for sustainable agricultural development (Ani, 2001). Dissemination in agriculture can than be described as an organized way of passing innovations from research personnel to the rural farmers and getting back their responses on the production problems to the research institutes through the extension or dissemination agents. Extension agents here are groups of recognized individuals whose responsibility is to get information from the ministries and research institutes and pass to the rural farmers. The characteristics of a good information source are relevance, timelessness, accuracy, cost effectiveness, reliability, usability, exhaustiveness and aggregation level (Stratrasts, 2004). According to Oladele (1999), the efficiency of technologies generated and disseminated depends on effective communication which is the key process of information dissemination. The extension agent makes sure that innovations are adequately adopted and rightly applied by rural farmers by teaching them the discovered methods. They serve as middle men between the research personnel and the rural farmers. Research personnel’s are the inventor or persons whose responsibility is to experiment and find solutions to problems being faced by the rural farmers. When such problems are solved, a better way of doing things than the initial is then made to be enjoyed by the public with a particular reference to the rural farmers through dissemination by the agents.
The rural farmers can be referred to as those farmers living in rural areas (Ndem, 2013). They can also be referred to as the “innovation motivator”. This is because the problems of the rural farmers’ later result to innovations when their improvement solutions are discovered by the research institute. The rural farmers account for a greater population of a developing country like Nigeria. They lack basic amenities, no access to education and so rest on outdated ways of cultivation which is mainly on subsistence and little commercial level upon their abundant natural resources. Since the rural farmers has been known to occupy a higher population of farmers and having enough natural resources, there is then the need to increase the rate at which innovation are passed to those class of people in order to utilize the natural resources for optimum food supplement to the physiological demands of the entire population.
When the rural farmers lack access to knowledge and information that would help them achieve maximum agricultural yield, they are not only grope in the dark but are driven to the urban centers in search of formal employment, as the only option for survival (Munyua, 2000). Therefore, the above explanation reviewed that agricultural innovations are needed mostly in the rural parts by the rural farmers. It is worthy of note that if all parts of a society is developed, the role of extension workers in dissemination of agricultural innovation would have been directional and structured thereby making it much more easier. Since the reverse is the case in Nigeria, agricultural innovation must continually be needed especially by the rural farmers if the population must be served.
Innovations in Agriculture
Innovations in agriculture have to do with the modern methods and practices used in different agricultural units. It takes different terms and methods, which could be in term of better methods of processing in all area of agriculture, general improvement and introduction of new varieties and species of crops and animals, restructuring and modernization of existing practices for the purpose of better and more convenient ones which will lead to increase in food security and skilled manpower. It covers all areas of agriculture such as soil science, crop science, animal science, agricultural economics and administration, processing, marketing etc. Some of the major and current innovations in agriculture are,
(1) Use of chemical fertilizers such N.P.K 15:15:15, N.P.K 10:10:20, N.P.K 12:12:17 to enhance the productivity of our crops.
(2) Use of chemical herbicides to control weeds which attacks crops e.g. delsate, Atrazine, Diurons etc.
(3) Use of knapsack sprayers for spraying of chemicals to the weeds.
(4) Introduction of drugs and vaccines used in maintenance and curing of livestock diseases. such drugs are oxystocine, vitamins of different kinds, iron injection etc.
(5) Use of incubators in hatching of eggs to ensure easier and quicker supply of chicks.
(6) Use of mechanized equipments and farm implements such as bulldozer, tractors, harvesters, sprayers etc to commercialize agricultural production.
(7) Use of sophisticated storage facilities in storing of agricultural produce examples, Rhombus, silos, crumbs etc.
(8) Processing of crops with the use of grinding and drying machine.
(9) Use of refrigerators in storing of perishable agricultural produce.
(10) Use of ICT (information communication technology) and mass media in disseminating of agricultural information to the rural farmers.
Needs of Innovation in Agriculture
The needs of innovations in agriculture include the following, (1) To help farmers produce enough food for the rapidly growing population.
(2) To assist farmers provide raw materials for industries and for export.
(3) Increased ability to purchase and use products of modern industries and services.
(4) To help modernize agriculture by introducing modern equipments and machine.
(5) To help modernize rural areas through agricultural improvement and by making farming attractive, provide employment for the unemployed youths and farm families.
Methods of Disseminating Agricultural Innovations
The means or method of disseminating agricultural innovation involves the following
Individual Methods: this involves the extension worker working on one to one basis with the farmers. Individual farmer receives the individual attention of the extension personnel. It is effective when dealing with illiterate farmers who have small farm .example of the individual method includes farm and home visit, office call and contact, telephone call, personal letters (Ndem 2013).
Group Method: This is the type or channel of communication that is very effective in persuading farmers to use new practices. They are more frequently used in extension work than the individual methods. Examples are result demonstration-presentation which shows how to perform or use a procedure, or the effect of applying a technique or practice.
Discussion: This is a conversation between two or more farmers discussing a topic of common interest. Field trip: Here, a group of farmer travels to an agricultural organization in order to observe agricultural practice or products. Training and visit system:- This is a world bank sponsored approach designed to give each extension workers a well defined job with timely training technical back stopping and adequate supervision.
Mass Media Method: Okereke (1981), defines mass media as the process of transmitting information to larger audiences, which include all means of transmitting messages such as radio television newspapers posters and magazines. It stimulates the interest of farmers in new practices. Examples are newspaper, magazines, leaflets and audio visual media such as radio, television and projected visuals.
Problems of Innovations in Agriculture
Despite the huge achievement of innovations recorded in agriculture, there has been set backs which when tackled, the problem facing agricultural innovation will be a history. Among such problems are
– Lack of basic infrastructure
– Fear of tax payment
– Poor Radio and Television Signals In Most Village
Illiteracy: As one of the problems of innovations, we all know is a weapon of liberation from poverty, ignorance and conservation, the lack of this vital instrument among farmers has constituted more difficulties in the adoption of modern techniques in the development of agriculture in Ebonyi State. Akinsanmi (2005) maintains that the technical advice provided to rural farmers by the extension workers have not been successful because of the high degree of illiteracy among farmers. He pointed out that the average rural farmers is unwilling to learn new farming techniques and adopt new ideas. Old people are generally conservative and prefer to cling to centuries old habit of farming.
Poverty: Most of the rural farmers have no access to financial back up or funds to purchase news letters, leaflets on Agricultural information. Some of them are very poor and as a result of their high level of poverty, these farmers are never willing to spend a mith of money to acquire new idea. They might need everything free of charge.
Lack of Basic Infrastructure: Most farmers in Africa live in areas where there is lack of basic infrastructure such as telephone, electricity, good road network, pipe bone water, hospital etc which helps in improving the farmer’s standard of living and as well encourages the extension workers to work.
Fear of Tax Payment: Some of the rural farmers sees 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.
Poor Radio and Television Reception Signals: Ozowa (1999) reported that poor reception quality is one of the obvious constraints in the use of broadcasting media in Nigeria. In most of our rural area the problem of poor signals of radio and television is very high to the extent that even those farmers who has access to radio and television receives no signals.
Solutions to the Identified Problems
- The education of the country’s indigenes should be taken more serious. Government should map out measures to make basic education (primary and secondary schools) a mandatory and compulsory task for her indigenes, which will help the people in adapting to changes in agriculture easily.
(2) More grants, loans, subsides etc should be given to farmers by government in order for them to acquire those necessities such as education, infrastructure, research farms etc which will help promote innovations.
(3) Basic amenities should be provided for the rural farmers so that they will be easily distributed to the extension workers and other agricultural bodies responsible for disseminating agricultural innovations. Good road network, electricity, good water and most of all electronic media such as radios, televisions, handsets etc should be make available for the rural farmers.
(4) Government should look into the rate of tax and polices mapped out for agricultural sectors, make them moderate and reduce policies that will reduce the number of private agricultural firms, because when there are less firms, research will be less resulting to less innovations.
(5) The government and private organization, should assist in the installation of radio and television antennas or mast at strategic positions in the remote areas for better radio and television signal reception.
(6) More awareness campaign or sensitization programme should be organized by government and non- governmental bodies on the need for the rural farmers to adapt to changes and innovations that might be continually communicated to them either through personal/face to face interaction or through the media.
Food crisis in Nigeria can be arrested through the effective/efficient dissemination of agricultural innovations. However, some farmers in rural areas are illiterates and there is need for the agricultural innovation to be extended and interpreted to them thereby enhancing their farming operation and practices. Innovations in agriculture have to do with the modern methods and practices used in different areas of agriculture. It cuts across all areas of agriculture such as soil science, crop science, animal science etc, thus it helps the farmers to produce enough food for the rapidly growing population. Also it helps in modernizing rural areas through agricultural improvement thereby making farming operation attractive, provides employment for the unemployed youths and farm families. However the means of disseminating this agricultural innovation involves individual, group and mass media. While the major problems facing agricultural innovation involves poverty, illiteracy, tax payment, lack of basic infrastructure etc.
Finally, since innovation has been playing a very important role in agriculture, there will be a need for the government of the country, private organization and every other parastatals to put their resources in agriculture in order to savage its growth especially in area of funding, education and development. When these are all taken into consideration, there will be food for the hungry mouths and the issues of food security and exportation will be achieved.
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