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Why Extension Is Essential in Soil Conservation and Agricultural Productivity (1)

By Mohammed Kuta Yahaya 

The term “extension” was derived from the practice of British universities of having one educational programme within the premises of the university and another away from the university buildings. The programme conducted outside the university was described as “extension education.” The expression connoted an extension of knowledge from the university to places and people far beyond. The term “Extension Education” was first introduced in 1873 by Cambridge University in England to describe a particular system dedicated to the dissemination of knowledge to rural people where they lived and worked. 

Within a short time, the idea had spread to other parts of Britain, Europe and North America. Extension work is an out of school system of education in which adults and young people learn by doing. It is a partnership between the government, the land-grant institutions, and the people, which provides services and education designed to meet the needs of the people (Kelsey and Hearne, 1966). 

The term “Agricultural Extension” was only adopted in 1914 when the United States Federal Smith-Lever Act of 1914 formalized a nation-wide cooperative federal-state-county programme and gave operational responsibility for this to the land grant colleges and Universities. 

In the beginning, agricultural extension was concerned primarily with the improvement of agriculture, using conventional teaching methods. As time went on, home economics, youth programmes and rural community resource development were included. Agricultural extension spread to tropical Africa, the Caribbean, Asia and Latin America following the involvement of the United States of America (USA) in bilateral AID programmes after the Second World War. 

The history of agricultural extension in Nigeria is interwoven with that of agricultural development in general. This is because it is concerned with all areas of agriculture. During the pre-colonial era by the British, conscious efforts were made in selection, introduction and teaching of the practices involved in producing good varieties of crops and breeds of animals. Farmers selected the best seeds for multiplication, from which the seedlings are been transplanted to their farms. 

Similarly farmers introduced to their farms improved seeds and animals from their neighbouring communities and from trans-Saharan traders from neighbouring countries. The farmers themselves experimented upon and projected their production methodologies without the assistance of formally designated extension agents. Traditional farming practice was llargely through apprenticeship. Families have taught succeeding generation crop production, animal husbandry and soil management through observation and participation by learners. Neighbors and friends shared new knowledge of improved farm practices. 

During the colonial era by the British, some agricultural development initiatives were undertaken with the purpose of increasing production. The first step was to establish the Department of Botanical Research in 1893 with its headquarters at Olokomeji in the former western Nigeria (Williams, 1978). Its responsibilities included conducting research in both agriculture and forestry. 

In 1905, the British Cotton Growers Association acquired 10.35 square kilometers of land at the site now called Moor Plantation, Ibadan for growing cotton to feed the British textile mills. In 1910, Moor Plantation, Ibadan became the headquarters of the Department of Agriculture in Southern Nigeria, while the Department of Agriculture was established in the North in 1912. 

In 1921, a unified Department of Agriculture was formed in Nigeria, after the amalgamation of the North and the South. The major policy of the central Department of Agriculture was to increase production of export crops for the British market, which was ready to absorb it for its industrial growth. Extension activities were therefore directed towards increasing efficiency in crop production and marketing. Regulations were made to set and enforce standards in export crop production. 

The colonial government also established some agricultural development schemes to upgrade the skills of farmers and to produce agricultural commodities. The Kware irrigation scheme was established in 1926. It was situated 16miles or 25.74 kilometers north of Sokoto town. Its purposes were to increase rice yields and provide experimental data on production under severe drought during dry season and flooding during the rains. The scheme started with 1000 acres or 405 hectares involving 800 farmers with farms situated along the riverbanks. 

The irrigation scheme employed the shadoof, which is an ancient Egyptian technique, also used by the Sudanese. The colonial period also witnessed the establishment of the Niger Agricultural project in 1949 with the aims of producing groundnut as export and guinea-corn for local consumption. It was also to relieve world food shortage, demonstrate better farming techniques and increase productivity of Nigeria’s agriculture. The project was sited near Mokwa at an area, which is suitable for mechanized food crop production.

The post-colonial agricultural extension in Nigeria can be categorized into two groups: (1) government-organized agricultural programmes; and (2) extension programmes organized and sponsored by private agencies. The first group constitutes the more extensive of the two. Government organized agricultural extension include the National Accelerated Food Production Project (NAFPP) which was introduced in 1972, Agricultural Development Projects, ADP (alongside the ADPs, faculties of agriculture in some Nigerian universities as well as the three universities of agriculture also offer some extension services, especially to their immediate host communities) (1975), the Accelerated Development Area Project, ADAP (1982), and Multi-State Agricultural Development Projects, MSADP (1986). 

Other programmes were the Operation Feed the Nation Programme, OFN (1976), the River Basin Development Authority, RBDA (1973), the Green Revolution Programme, GRP (1980), the Directorate of Food, Roads and Rural Infrastructure, DFRRI (1986), the National Directorate of Employment, NDE (1986), the Nigeria Agricultural Insurance Scheme, NAIS (1987) and the National Fadama Development Project, NFDP (1992). 

In recent years, the Poverty Alleviation Programme, PAP (2000), and National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy, NEEDS (2004) were introduced. Specifically the National Special Programme for Food Security, NSPFS was launched in March 2003. Some private agencies have embarked on agricultural extension services largely towards a specific clientele system of their choice. Some of the agencies are; the Nigerian Tobacco Company (NTC) (now British American Tobacco Nigeria [BATN]), oil companies such as Shell Petroleum Development Company, and religious organizations such as the Catholic and the Anglican churches. Some Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) such as the Leventis Foundation also operate some extension services. 

Many international organisations have been involved in agricultural extension, agricultural and rural developments in Nigeria for decades. Notable among these are the World Bank, International Fund for Agricultural Development, IFAD, United States Agency for International Development, USAID, Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation ACPECCTA, and Food and Agriculture Organization, (FAO) of the United Nations. Some NGOs also provide extension services as part of their mandate. 

Most NGOs adopt precision targeting of the most vulnerable poor and have been active all over Nigeria (Ladele, Awolola and Ogunlade, 2002 and Adegbola and Bamishaiye 2013). Private processing and marketing companies are also a vital part of the extension matrix in Nigeria. In their heydays the Nigerian textile companies and the Nigerian Tobacco Company had very robust out-grower programmes that they supported farmers with credit, inputs, and advisory services (Alam et al., 2013).

Extension is an activity that facilitates the transmission of useful innovation to the end users. These innovations flow from the technology generating system traditionally represented by research institutes, universities, and other formal institutions doing research, but also recently including NGOs and indigenous technical knowledge of farmers (Asiabaka, 2007). 

The history of innovation generation in Nigeria parallels the developments in the management of extension. Early agricultural research in Nigeria was based on exportable crops. The first of such activities was the Cotton Research Institute established in 1905 in Ibadan, but later moved to Samaru, Zaria. In 1922 the Institute of Agricultural Research was established in Samaru. 

In 1939 an oil palm research station was established, and this later metamorphosed into the Nigerian Institute for Oil-Palm Research (NIFOR). The West African Institute for Oil-Palm Research replaced NIFOR in 1951. A second set of research institutes operating in Nigeria had the same objective of researching on export commodities, but their mandates covered the whole of Anglophone West Africa. They operated under the umbrella “West African Research Organizations.” 

In the euphoria of post-independence nationalism this body was dismantled to give way to several national research institutes (Anka, 2014). These included the Nigerian Institute for Trypanosomiasis Research, the Nigerian Stored Products Research Institute (NSPRI), the Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria, and of course the rebirth of NIFOR. 

In 1972, the National Science and Technology Development Agency was put in place by the military government to coordinate research in science and technology. Some key institutes under its ambit were the NSPRI and the Nigerian Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services (NAERLS). The ARCN Decree No. 44 set up the Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria (ARCN) in 1999, however, it was not until 2006 the council took off. It is mandated to coordinate and supervise agricultural research in Nigeria (ARCN, 2016). This body has been responsible for the coordination of agricultural research in Nigeria to date.

From colonial times up to the mid-1980s, the relationship between research, extension and the end-users of products of research was viewed as uni-linear. The formal public research sector was viewed as the generator of innovations. This was in line with the high visibility of government in the operation and funding of national extension systems otherwise known as National Agricultural Research Systems. This approach places much emphasis on the generation of technology from the formal research sector and its transmission through the extension system to the farmers in an almost patronizing fashion (Agwu, Dimelu and Madukwe, 2008). 

In line with shifting analytical emphasis, the Agricultural Knowledge and Information System (AKIS) emerged with a focus on linkages that exist between research, education and extension in generating and nurturing innovation. However as noted by Agwu et al. (2008), AKIS was limited in its analysis to the public agricultural research sector as at the heart of technological change. It represents progress from NARS in that it focuses not just on generation, but the diffusion of innovations within an agricultural system. 

The Agricultural Innovation System (AIS) analytical framework has gained acceptance lately. AIS have been described as “a set of agents that jointly and/or individually contribute to the development, diffusion and use of agriculture-related new technologies and that directly and/or indirectly influence the process of technological change in agriculture” (Agwuet al., 2008). 

The agents in reference include research institutes, training and education institutions, credit institutions, policy and regulatory bodies, private consultants/NGOs, farmers, farmers’ associations and public services delivery organizations. This approach conceptualizes the research-extension-farmer nexus as a complex system with all players as equal partners working through complex location specific linkages to generate, diffuse and use innovations (Asiabaka, 2007). 

It has been suggested that existing agricultural extension policy would need to give way to more flexible policy that would promote not only technical innovations but also institutional, organizational and managerial innovations (Agwuet al., 2008). These remain ideal that have to be made practical. Meanwhile, the major part of innovation diffusion is played by the public domain adopting the NARS orientation, represented by the ADP system although increasing partnership with NGOs seem to influence a gradual adoption of the AKIS and AIS outlook.

The Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA) was essentially a modernization programme. The major aim of the ATA was to transform agriculture in Nigeria from a mere traditional practice to a business enterprise. The value-chain approach adopted promises to lift agricultural activities beyond primary production to embrace significant investment in storage, processing, services and marketing (Akinwumi, 2012). Coming during a period of serious national economic stress, there was a shift of emphasis from public services to favor public-private partnership, and free-market operations. 

The policy claims to be sensitive to the needs of the most vulnerable farmers as structures are set in place for to capture their peculiar needs. For instance, the Growth Enhancement Support Scheme is designed to deliver subsidized farm inputs including fertilizers, seeds and other inputs the resource poor farmers. The strategy to achieve this was the e-wallet system. 

Another key component of ATA was the Nigeria Incentive-based Risk-sharing System for Agricultural Lending. This strategy was designed to make agricultural credit more accessible to all players in the agricultural value chain and attractive to the lenders by considerably reducing the risk associated with lending for agricultural production. 

The ATA was sustained and gave rise to the Agricultural Promotion Policy in 2016. Agricultural Promotion Policy of 2016 was produced based on the review of the Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA). The review noted that ATA did not sufficiently address the critical challenges of agricultural extension. APP identified the main challenge of extension as “the absence of coordination of extension activities at the federal level, since agricultural extension function has been vested in the states.”

Functions of agricultural extension can be provided in three major ways. The first is the public sector or supply-driven extension where the government takes full responsibility. Secondly is the NGO extension, which provides philanthropic outreach to a limited number of clientele by donor agencies and other private NGOs. The third extension approach is the private or demand-driven extension where manufacturers, marketing firms, and other commercial players provide extension functions. 

In many developing countries the private sector-led extension model (both nonprofit and for profit) is expanding because of shrinking government funding for extension. The consensus however is that the resource-poor farmers are too poor to participate in the private sector led extension and must be supported by public funding. 

The deficiency of Nigeria Government in the administration of agricultural extension was the factor responsible for her inability to cater for the development of agriculture and rural areas. Strengthening of national agricultural support system has been advocated as a strategy for increasing agricultural production in Sub-Saharan Africa by governments in the region and by international development agencies (Bindlish and Evenson, 1997). The T &V system (training and visit) system of agricultural extension has been central to this strategy. 

The World Bank supported agricultural extension programmes, based on the T & V system, which has been implemented in some Sub-Saharan countries or in about three-fifths of African countries. A substantial amount of resources has been committed to this system, both by national governments and international development agencies (Bindlish and Evenson, 1993). 

There is however an emerging controversy as to cost-effectiveness and productivity of a national system of agricultural extension, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa where governments’ ability to meet a large recurrent cost that the system entails is limited (Purcell and Anderson,1997; Gautam, 1998). The fact is well acknowledged in Nigeria government circles, academics and among the citizenry. It was this awareness that led to the involvement of some private individual and organizations in the provision of extension and rural development process. 

Government or public extension on one hand is described as the extension activities provided by government under the authority of Agricultural Development Programme (ADP) in all states of Nigeria to cater for the needs of farmers. Agricultural extension administration is expected to foster a sustainable and dynamic approach to agricultural development and which has remained of great concern to the government and priority for discourse in policy arena (Agwu et al., 2008). 

It is the realization of this fact that has made the successive Nigerian government to make effort towards raising the productivity level of rural people. The country has therefore, over the years, tried many agricultural extension systems, which include Agricultural Development Project (ADP). The ADPs across the country adopted the training and visit system (T & V) in order to boost production, solve the prevailing extension problem, foster self- reliance and sustain the problem, foster self-reliance and sustain the agricultural sector. 

Non-governmental organizations or private extension on the other hand are referred to as a wide range of organized people, groups, system or services that are not directly set up, funded, controlled and operated by government or any of its agencies (Adedoyin and Omolafe, 1995). It is further described as any national or international private non-profit making institutions with development objectives (Babington et al., 1993). In addition, Ladele (2019) explained private extension as the provision of extension services purely by individuals/ outfits with the exception of the NGOs and must not be understood as privatization of extension services. 

Some private agencies have embarked on agricultural extension services largely towards a specific clientele system of their choice. Some of the agencies are; the Nigerian Tobacco Company, oil companies such as Shell Petroleum Development Company, and religious organizations such as the Catholic and the Anglican churches. Some non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) such as the Leventis Foundation also operate some extension services.

Other private enterprises, agencies and Non-Governmental organizations (NGOs) playing supportive role in research and extension delivery in Nigeria include; Sassakawa Global 2000 and Women in Agriculture (WIA), Practicing Farmers Association of Nigeria (PFAN), Farmers Agricultural Development Union (FADU), Farmers Agricultural Supply Company (FASCOM) and Evangelical Church of West Africa (ECWA). 

The National Seed Service (NSS) is charged with the general supply of certified seeds to farmers but there are private seed companies that complement its role and take care of her shortcomings. Such companies include; Premier Seed Nigeria Limited, UAC Seed Company, Alheri Seed Limited, Pioneer Seed Company, Sun Seed Company and lots more. 

Many international organizations have also been involved in agricultural extension, agricultural and rural developments in Nigeria for decades. Notable among these are the World Bank, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation, and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (Salawuet al, 2008). Some international research centres and networks have made their presence known and supportive in Nigeria in the area of research and extension delivery. Some of them have established collaborative efforts with the NARIs and other relevant agencies. 

Some of the international research centres are; International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), International Fertilizer Development Centre (IFDC), International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), International Crops Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

A core benefit of private sector participation in agricultural extension and related matters of concern to agricultural systems is Information. This is often thought of as inherently a public good. It is both non-excludable (a person who acquires it cannot stop the people from using it) and non-sub tractable (or non-rival – one person’s use of it does not diminish the supply from others to use). 

A user will not be prepared to pay the full cost of acquiring something that others can access without paying. It will therefore be under-supplied by the private sector in a free market. Information and advice may also be ‘merit goods’, that is, farmers who will therefore purchase sub-optimal amounts may not recognize their full value.

Providing information and advice is an essential part of any package of measures to correct other forms of market failure, such as externalities, high transaction cost, moral hazards and asymmetric information. Transaction costs include those involved in accessing and evaluating information and advice from different sources, which may also lead to sub-optimal use by farmers (Kyddet al., 2000). 

Issues that are germane to private sector participation in agricultural extension service include the Confusion in multiplicity of service providers. It has been suggested that a pluralist array of private sector providers jeopardizes the synergy of a holistic, joined up knowledge and information system. Winter et al. (2000) suggests that fragmentation lead to confusion among farmers about where to go for information, duplication and wasteful competition among providers, and geographical imbalance in provision of services.

 Garforth et al. (2003) however found little evidence from cases from developed countries that this is specifically a problem of an extension system dominated by the private sector. Efforts by government and other actors to over manage the system are in any case likely to be counter-productive. The challenge is to ensure that (potential) extension clients can find their way around the array. Government can play a strategic role in identifying gaps in the provision of extension services and then seek to fill them through a brokerage role or by contracting service providers.

Another issue is credibility of information sources. Credibility comes through as an important consideration from the point of view of clients. The fact that extension services are provided by the private sector, even when government funds it, is a positive feature. This may be more related to clients’ everyday experience in other aspects of life. Commercial interests can also compromise credibility. But if farmers perceive a government policy which is against their interest, they are likely to be wary of government funded extension services and particularly those delivered by government agencies.

There is also the issue of conflict of interest. Where a service provider is delivering advice on a commercial or semi-commercial basis to client and at the same time fulfilling a public interest role, there is a potential conflict of interest. A decision that is in the best business interest of a farmer does not necessarily optimize social returns to the community as a whole. In the end, it is the farmer who trades one off against the other in the decision he makes within the prevailing regulatory parameters. 

The intensity of potential conflict varies with the institution arrangements. Where the client is receiving commercial and public interest advice from two or more different providers, there is no conflict. Where different sections or staff members of the same organization are offering the two types of advice, the conflict is minimized to the extent that clients recognize their different remits. At an organizational level, transparent recording of advisory inputs against specific contracts minimizes potential conflicts with individual clients and with government. 

It should be noted that certain principles are very important in the performance of private extension service providers especially in ensuring soil conservation and agricultural productivity. According to Ladele (2019), the principles include, among others, Profit making with fairness and competitiveness; Professionalism; Group dynamics; Partnership with public/private agencies including ADPs, AIDAs, NIRSAL, etc; Entrepreneurial skills; Appropriate selection of clientele; and Advocacy role. Others are Transparency and integrity; Sound communication skills; Round-out technical knowledge of commodity of interest & policies on agriculture; Sound team leadership spirit; Good negotiation skills; and Sensitivity to legal implications.

The drive towards agricultural prosperity in terms of employment opportunities, wealth creation, food security, industrial growth and robust foreign exchange earnings needs to be strengthened owing to the current realities. Basically, the achievement of the afore-mentioned are principally hinged on availability of the foremost factor of agricultural production and productively using the foremost factor for agricultural production and its produce and products. 

The foremost factor of agricultural production is land and most be protected for the good of all. Hence, holistic soil management culture is needed to avert imminent devastation soil destruction will cause the entire human race.

The importance of land availability and quality of the land in agricultural production cannot be over emphasized especially in the context of the level of the technological advancement in Africa and Nigeria in particular. Although, advancement in technology is quite revealing that there is possibility of growing crops without depending on the natural component on land. 

However, it is practically impossible in Nigeria to completely produce crops independent of land, this is based realities in the nation’s agricultural sector. Without any doubt, the progress made so far in terms of technological advancement in the nation’s agricultural sector will still substantially be dependent on land.

Furthermore, considering the level of small holding, low technical know-how, illiteracy and poverty ridding nature of most Nigerian farmers, there is no realistic alternative to the dependency on land for agricultural production in Nigeria. Fortunately, arable land resources in Nigeria indicates its potentials of the agricultural lands in the transformation of the country’s agricultural sector. 

Emphatically, there is no aspect of agriculture that doesn’t have indirect or direct relationship with land. For instance, the method and result demonstrations, which are part of the learning tools in agricultural extension, cannot be actualised in the absence of land. (To be continued).

Mohammed Kuta Yahaya is a Professor of development communication, department of agricultural extension and rural development, University of Ibadan

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