Assessment of the impact of agricultural extension services on the improvement of farming practices of rural farmers in yala Local Government Area.
Background of the study
Before the discovering of oil in Nigeria, Agriculture was the mainstay of the nations economy. The practice of agriculture itself is as oil as mankind, evolving from very primitive levels through modern improved practices. However, even with the innovations recorded in the improvement of tools, breeding of crops and animals species among others the world over, the practice of agriculture has largely remained un-coordinated among the rural populace of Nigeria.
In Nigeria today, it is believed that majority of the citizens are still engaged in agriculture. Ofteng (1997) observed that over 75% of the Nigeria population is involved in agricultural occupation of this percentage, it is believed that majority dwell in the rural communities of the country. These are hardly accessible and lack the basic essentials to support profitable agricultural practice. Hence, not withstanding the generational practice of this life saving career over many centuries in our nation, agriculture have remained in it lowest ebb native ancient, archaic and full of drudgery among the majority of our farming populace, Uchendu (1989). In this regard, the resultant output in always very meager and discouraging. In contrast, the demand for food and other agricultural products is constantly on the increase due to astronomic rise in the human production. This low level of output coupled with the low per capital in come of Nigeria farmers are responsible for the subsistence level at which agriculture still operates in our nation.
The Nigerian government at all levels over time formulated polices and programmes aimed at improving agricultural practice among farmers. The federal government in line with food and agricultural organization (FAO) regulations have embarked on programme aimed at setting up good functional agricultural polices that will provide both qualitative and quantitative food and producing animals and plants that are rich in protein and at minimum cost for both the rich and poor. Others are to increase the supply of animal and plants that can attain market weight at the shortest possible time. Develop local- based industries that will employ the citizens and provide the necessary finished products. Increase the supply of local raw materials eg timber, cotton, groundnut etc. produce plants and animals for export purposes. Regulate the influx of foreign agricultural products so as not to stifle or kill agro- based industries in the country.
Another desire of the government is to formulate good and functional agriculture based programme. Some of the programmes embarked upon by successive Nigerian government as noted by Akinsanmi (1995) include Operation Feed the Nation (OFN) between (1976-1979), Green Revolution (1979-1983), National Acceleration food production programme (NAFPP) (1973) and River Basin Development Authorities. Other are the Directorate of food, Roads and Rural Infrastructure (DFRI) (1986), Agricultural Development Projects (ADP) (1975) and the farm settlement scheme under which extension services were in corporated.
Currently, the federal government programmes can be viewed under the cassava, cocoa, rice initiatives and gum Arabic development programme. Considering the fact that most of these programme laudable as there were failed to over haul the nations agricultural practices over the years, leaves more questions unanswered. Some of these efforts often look life panic half measures which hardly address the real problems playing the rural farmers. Improper co-ordination of these programme and other constraints are the bane of Nigerian agricultural success. As observed by Obtunbosun (2002) programmes to increase food production practices are not matched by those designed to improved marketing and distribution under these programme are the adoption of extension services, supply of input and credit facilities to farmers trace for hiring services among others.
In consideration of the high level of illiteracy of farmers and their inability and unwillingness to accept modern ways of farming, agricultural extension is seen as a veritable tools for change. Extension are agents charged with the responsibility of spreading scientific knowledge in farming to the rural farmers in a bid to improve their over all practices and boosting food production.
However, we shall view or highlight the origin, definition and some objectives of agricultural extension services that are related to this work. Extension was first originated in British university system early in the 17th century to refer to teaching activities away from the main university campus or for audience other than the students enrolled for university education (Akinyode, 2002).
This principle was however taken over by the American when the country was in search of solution to her agricultural and technological problems. So the term “Agricultural Extension came into common use in the united state of America early in the 20th century. Then, farmers advisory services were developed in association with the laud granted colleges. Each state of the union was granted laud by the federal government on which to develop agricultural experiment stations and to build associated educational institutions or college (Obibuaku, 2004). Today, these colleges are mostly the major universities, but are still the head-quarters of the country. Based extension services. Agricultural extension services according to Jones and Gargforth (2002) it is an informal, out of school system of education designed to help rural people to satisfy their needs, interest and desire”. Bruin (2001) opined that agricultural and legitimate activities which seek to enlarge and improve the abilities of farm people to adopt more appropriate and new practices, to adjust to changing conditions and social needs. This is so because knowledge gotten from research institute is disseminated to the rural farmers on the field. Also at the end of the training feed-back is taken to the research institute.
Leagan (2005) defined agricultural extension objectives as a direction of movement that aimed at” Some of the objectives of agricultural extension includes:
- Bring to the farmers the knowledge and help that will enable them farm more efficiently and to increase their income.
- Encourage the farmers to grow their own food, set a good table and live well.
- Help the members of the farm family to a large appreciation of the opportunities, the beauty and privileges of rural life, and to know something about the world in which they live.
Agricultural extension” is an officer who receives training on agricultural activities and works with local farmers to induce a positive change in their practice. He functions as a teachers and basically provide a two way communication link between his organization and clients. The aim of an extension worker is to effect a positive change which goes a long way to increase productivity and welfare of the nation, which is the main reason why federal, state and international bodies are formulating programmes and seeking for ways of enhancing agriculture to meet up with the needs of man. In line with this, Akinyode (2002) stated that extension programme is an approved organizational package of activities undertaken by government or ministry officials for the welfare of the local farmers.
Statement of the problems.
Agricultural practices evolve from the way of life of the people, such that to a large extent their customs and cultural affiliations determine the mode of farming. This reality is responsible for the absence or very slow pace of change from the primitive ways majority of farmers in Nigerian go about their farming practices. This has continued many centuries after the invention of modern agricultural practices, tools and equipment by man.
Notwithstanding, new discoveries in agriculture with the help of science and technology farmer in our country still hold tenaciously to old ways which is to say the least, discouraging and unrewarding. A number of factors are know to account for this situation of which Uche (1998) have investigated and proffered solutions. Ogieva (1998) and others points to the fact that majority of Nigeria farmers are illiterates who dwell in rural communities more so, these areas lack the basic social amenities such as electricity, pipe borne water, good access roads, good housing, hospitals and schools to mention a few following closely also in the fact that farmers economic studying is very low and their technical know- low poor.
The result of this scenano is perennial low productivity in our agricultural sector in defiance to all governmental efforts.
Agricultural extension is the link between research laboratory and the individual farmer which carry to the farmers new techniques developed by the agricultural research scientists and bring back for investigation farmers problems requiring solution. Obibuaku and Mustafa, (1988) concluded that poor organization polices of the research institute are among the problems that seem to causes ineffective linkage between the farmers and extension agents. Akinsanmi (1997) stated that as a result of this problems of research institute and the level of education of farmers, the right information that suppose to help them to adopt the new farm practices faster are not properly reaching them. With this, the chance of the farmers to adopt the new practices is not there. Therefore, the implication of this is that the system of agriculture practice in the area will remain traditional and the standard of living of the farmers can not be improved. Leagan (2003) observed that this problems of education can be solved by providing a quality education of farmers through the extension agents, standardize the research institute in other to ensure free flow of information. The benefit of this is that the new practices will be adopted by the farmer faster and system of agriculture change in the area.
Purpose of the study.
The overall purpose of this study is to determine the impact of agricultural extension services on the improvement of farmers agricultural practices. Specifically the study intends to:
- Identify farm resources made available to farmers by extension services.
- Determine the impacts extensions service have made on the productivity of farmers.
- Determine the farm practices adopted by the rural farmers as a result of the influence of agricultural extension services.
- Identify factors which limit effective adoption of the contribution of agricultural extension services towards the improvement of practices by rural farmers.
Significance of the study.
The impacts of agricultural extension services on the improvement of farmers can not be over emphasized. This study will help the farmers to know why is necessary to participate on the extension services programmes.
The findings of this study will be of great benefit to the research institute in identifying those problems face by the extension workers in the field during demonstration.
Specifically, the extension agents will use the finding of this study to modify their techniques and understand the best way in which agricultural information should be disseminated to farmers.
It will also help the government and policy makers to be better positioned in planning and designing of meaningful policies and programmes that will enhance information delivery.
Finally, the study will be of great importance to future researchers who would be interested in carrying out further researches on this subject matter.
These research questions were raised to guide the study:
- What are farm resources made available to farmers by extension service?
- What are impact made by extension services on the productivity of farmers?
- What are the farm practices adopted by the rural farmers as a result of the influences of agricultural extension services?
- What are the factors that limit the effective adoption of the contribution of agricultural extension services toward the improvement of practices by rural farmers?
Scope of the study.
The scope of this study is restricted to assessing the impact of agricultural extension services on the improvement of farming practices. The study covered farm resources supplied by extension services, their impacts on farmers productivity, the adopted farm practices and constraints on adoption of extension services.
The study will be conducted among farmer and extension agents in some selected farming communities of Yala Local Government Area of Cross River State.