Evaluation of the Co-operative Extension Center, University of Agriculture Makurdi Benue State, Nigeria
The study was undertaken to evaluate the Cooperative Extension Centre (CEC) of the University of Agriculture Makurdi (UAM), Benue State, Nigeria. Data for the study were collected from 150 respondents (128 respondents were farmers and 22 respondents were extension staff of the CEC, UAM) using a simple random sampling technique. This was done through the use of a set of structured interview schedule (for farmers) and copies of questionnaire (to extension staff of the CEC. Percentage, mean scores, bar chart and component bar chart were used in the data analysis. It was evident from the study that, the CEC, UAM operated that far with 22 staff and meager physical and material resources.
The results of the study indicated that only the use of inorganic fertilizers (urea, NPK and SPP), improved crop varieties and crops storage procedures introduced by the centre were on adoption level on 5-points scale. The study also revealed that there was regular contact between extension agents and farmers in the study area (77.3%) and up to 40% of the farmers were visited four times in a month. The study further indicated that farmers perceived great level of achievement of CEC’s extension task in the study area.
There was improvement to some extent in the socio-economic life of the farmers such as membership of formal organizations, participation in agricultural/rural development acl:ivities, and knowledge on improved innovations etc using percentage. However, most constraints were found affecting the performance of the centre as perceived by both farmers and the extension staff such as high cost of improved innovations, lack of operational funds, poor access roads, lack of credit incentives, poor modern storage facilities etc. It was therefore [ecommended that enough budgetary allocation should be made by the University for the Centre to acquire enough training facilities in all aspects of farminglhome economic activities for enhanced output.
Also, more staff should be employed in the centre to cope with it’s manpower requirement. The centre should be moved to its permanent site to provide a more conducive working environment for the staff. The present 50-billion naira loan scheme announced by the Federal Government should be a reality, sustained and made a yearly , affair to ease farmers of problem of farm operational costs for effective adoption of introduced improved innovations. The CEC should also facilitate generation of capitallcredit among farmers through groups formation and cooperative unions.
1.1 Background information
Most Nigerian universities have faculties of agriculture to address the issue of low agricultural productivity, the inability of these faculties of agriculture to make impact on the transformation of Nigeria agricultural development is largely due to the fact that, the curricular and course contents of their academic programmes are sometimes unsuitable to the future employment of the trainees. Many students undergoing training in any of the faculties of agriculture at first degree level view it as a stepping stone to post graduate instructions, leading to teaching and research positions. They do not consider themselves becoming practical farmers that will be managing their own farms after the training (Williams, 2002). Another weakness of the faculties of agriculture is that, both the instructors and the students sometimes lack practical exposure to actual farming experience.
They have therefore not had the opportunity to develop the skills needed to farm efficiently in crops and livestock. Most faculties of agriculture in most Nigerian Universities operate like “cultural island”, completely cut off from the realities of the farming communities in their catchment areas which they are meant to serve. Their research activities have had little or no effect on the productivity of the farmers, but merely used for their teaching purposes or for staff career advancement in the “publish or perish” syndrome (Williams, 2002). According to Zubairu (1999) and Williams (2002), some academic departments in the faculties of agriculture have evolved strictly on disciplinary lines without production orientation.
Some academic staff in the faculties of agriculture go through their university career with little or no sustained practical orientation in agricultural extension. This makes it difficult for graduates of agricultural discipline from such universities to function effectively as agents of change. Adams (1982) in Williams (2002) emphasized the importance of universities of agriculture in agricultural and rural development of any country.
Williams (2002), arren (2003) and Elliot (2004) viewed an agricultural university as an institution of higher learning which integrates teaching, research and extension in agriculture to solve the practical problems of the farming communities it is established to serve and to teach farmers how to better utilize the resources at their disposal. The main thrust is its research activities towards solving felt problems of the farmers and teaching the users of the outcomes of such research activities. Williams (2002) stated that agricultural universities allow a two-way flow of information from the universities research system to farmers and vice-versa so that the problems of farmers could be tackled more realistically.
The agricultural universities also train their students practically and the knowledge is always relevant to the problems they will face on the job after graduation as agriculturists. He further stated that in the ..United States of America (USA), the Land Grant Colleges and the Universities came into existence as a result of the Morril Act in 1862. The Hatch Act followed in 1887 for the establishment of experimental stations attached to the LGUs for experiments in all aspects of agriculture and home economics. The Smith Lever Act of 1914 led to the establishment of Co-operative Extension Service (CES), Resident Teaching and Extension (RTE) which made the LGUs unique organizations in the world and also has been responsible for the rapid stride made in the development of agriculture in the United State. of America today.
The problem facing India like Nigeria has been one of converting the traditional agriculture into one based on modern science and technology. The idea of starting
Farm Universities (FU) as they were called earlier in India was contained in the report of the University Education Commission (UEC) in 1950. The government of India decided to set up specialized universities whose principal purposes were to provide . integrated approaches to agricultural problems. The first agricultural university was established in 1960 at Pantnagar in Uttar Pradesh where the large portion of land was made available by government.
The establishment of this university marked a turning point in agricultural education (AE) in India with its modern outlook in agriculture together with its rich diversity of courses (Williams, 2002; Warren, 2003). The responsibility of Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) was to integrate research, teaching and extension education, which greatly transformed Indian agriculture. Most of the states in India have agricultural universities on their own which function in an integrated coordinated manner, not only meant to be seat for higher learning alone but provide educational services to those not resident on their campuses (Vijayaragavan,
2004; Williams, 2002).
The impact of agricultural universities in the United States of America and India is tremendous as emphasized by Williams (2002). The agricultural universities ake
their research findings available to extension agents who in turn link up the farmers for the purpose of providing solutions to their farm and home problems. They also cobordinate resident teaching and extension training activities, provide two-way flow of ideas from the field level upward: (relaying farmers problems to the universities for possible solutions) and from top downward (relaying the proffered solutions to the farmers for use).
The use of universities of agriculture (UA) as the fulcrum of societal change in Nigeria as noted by Adebayo and Ajayi (2002) had its foundation from the establishment of the universities of agriculture at Abeokuta and Makurdi in 1988 and later at Umudike in 1999. The reasons for the establishment of these universities as observed by Williams (2002) were to: deliberately address agricultural knowledge disseminations to farmers; correct the inherent weaknesses in the existing faculties of agriculture in Nigerian universities. The University of Agriculture, Abeokuta was established to cover the south-western ecological zone, which include: Oyo, Ogun, Osun, Ondo, Ekiti and Lagos states.
The University of Agriculture, Makurdi, was establish to cover the middle belt ecological zone, which includes states like; Niger, Kwara, Benue, Taraba, Kogi, Nassarawa and Federal capital Territory. The University of Agriculture, Umudike, was established to take care of south eastern ecological zone, which include states like: Anambra, Akwa-Ibom, Rivers, Ebonyi, Bayelsa, Enugu, Imo and Cross River.
Evaluation of the Co-operative Extension Center, University of Agriculture Makurdi Benue State, Nigeria
1.2 Problem statement
The University of Agriculture, Makurdi (UAM), was established in 1988 to cover the middle belt agro-ecological zone of Nigeria. The mission and mandate of the university were to focus on the provision of prompt solutions to farmers practical problems in order to raise farm productivity and to accelerate drives towards national food self-sufficiency. The university aimed at easy access to the fruits of scientific agriculture by farmers.
This means that the university should be capable of conducting relevant research, which should be capable of solving farmers’ problems as well as making the technologies generated available to them at all times. Thus, UAM was expected to impart on farmers, modern techniques of agricultural production, processing, storage, marketing, home economics technologies as well as improve the socio-economic and cultural practices to raise the standard of living of farmers (CEC, 2000). The Co-operative Extension Centre (CEC) is one of the key components of the UAM.
It was establish in 1989 with the expectation of complementing other programmes in the university and it is hoped to be a major actor in the information dissemination network. It is also expected to maintain grassroots presence with the farming communities, documenting their farming problems and relaying these back to the researchers in the university for solutions which in turn could be conveyed back to the farmers. The centre was expected to provide back-up services and perform definite roles of educating the farmers and disseminating information to them.
The efforts of the centre are expected to facilitate the free flow of improved technologies from the university to the farmers in the catchment area. Specifically, CEC
was established to:
i, bring the fruits of scientific agriculture to the door stepslfarm gates of agroindustrial establishments in form, amount and time they are needed most through effective linkages between the researchers and the end users;
ii. sensitize researchers to the pressing needs of farmers, agro-allied industrialists and consumers with respect to production, processing, marketing and storage;
iii. move the country rapidly towards national food and fibre self-sufficiency through dramatic increases in farm produce and reduction in post-harvest losses; and
iv. enhance farm incomes, living standards and reduction in rural poverty .
The question now relates to the extent to which the CEC has achieved the above high-lighted and predetermined objectives after 16 years of its establishment. To what extent has each of these objectives been achieved? To provide an answer to this question, this study was designed to evaluate the cooperative extension centre,University of Agriculture, Makurdi, Benue State Nigeria.