Re: World Food Day: Food Security, Innovations and Challenges in Nigeria II

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The Future role of agricultural extension as a tool to drive knowledge and innovation in the Nigeria agricultural value chain is dicey. This is because, over the years, the number and types of the “vehicle” have changed. Hitherto, the focus of extension has been at the production end and now the emphasis is being placed on the whole agricultural value chain, so the demand and type of extension interventions will have to change.
Should agricultural extension apply itself to the whole value chain or should it curve a niche and expect others to take responsibility for other areas? Take for instance the issue of food safety and hygiene, where does agricultural extension draw the line in the case of saying cowpea that was sprayed with pesticides, at the farm gate after harvest, at storage, at a market retail level or at the household when the beans are being cooked? Currently, agriculture seems to feel responsible right through.
Similarly, as agricultural mechanization and agro-processing grow the demand for services in that area is also growing. As agriculture becomes more industrial, extension services be become more specialized, more technical and more inter-related with other sectors.
Hence, there is a need for re-engineering of the extension system to respond to the emerging trend and needs. To re-engineer the extension system in Nigeria, the following factors are likely to influence the content, delivery and impact of extension as a driver for knowledge and technology.

The Shika Brown Layers

  1. Sources of Information

The largest and perhaps the unlimited source of information today is the Internet. The onus is on the extension agents to sift through the plethora of publications and determine the adaptable extendable materials.
The challenge here is that of quality assurance and control. While the extension agent has no control and influence on the material independently obtained through publications or from the Internet. Who should be held responsible when problem arises as a result of applying the outsourced information from the Internet?  
The positive side of the Internet in particular is that it is a tool available to all with minimum investment and has unlimited information globally. There is strong need in Nigeria today for the ADPs and NARIs to functional websites that are interlinked with each other.
The websites should answer at least of the FAQ (frequently asked questions) of the most common challenges of Agriculture in respective states. The future of extension delivery leaves us with no alternative than to invest in electronic sharing and dissemination of information.

  1. Packaging Information and Extension Messages

It is likely that in the very near future, extension publications will gradually give way to Android, Windows, BlackBerry, IOS Apps. Radio broadcast though still relevant and effective electronic tools, which will compete with Podcasts. YouTube will gradually take over a large portion of television programmes and documentaries, while Skype and WhatsApp will grow as interactive portals for person-to-person conversation and exchange of information.
Means of sharing the extension information therefore has to be modernized. This is where the need for functional websites by ADPs becomes very crucial. The youth are yahoo, Facebook, twitter, Gmail, WhatsApp, etc generation with some of them already in the “Cloud”. So extension will only effectively reach them through the Internet media. And, if local content can’t reach them, they’ll rely on whatever is available at the click of the mouse; relevant, useful or not.
It is therefore pertinent that since the extension agents cannot visit the farmers, ADPs should endeavour to modernize their extension information delivery through the Internet. Already the use of Barcode is common and popular especially in the advertising industry. Many educational institutions also use it to make information available on a wide scale.

These developments are however very positive as they open new opportunities suitable to the new generation target audience of extension. It is therefore pertinent for the extension practitioners in Nigeria to reflect on these dynamics and how to strategize in adopting them in agricultural extension delivery in this country for the future.
iii. The Target Audience
Over the last two decades there has been concern on “ageing farmers” and the need to engage youth in agriculture. The “how” has been a subject of meetings and conferences with some programmes initiated. To what extent has extension been fine-tuned and instrumental to woo the youth into agriculture?  
As mentioned earlier the horizon needing agricultural extension intervention has widened with the adoption on the value chain approach to agricultural development. Beyond the crops production, there is inadequate qualified human resources needed to cater for the extension needs of the other segments along the value chain vis, storage, processing, value addition, marketing etc.
It should therefore be appreciated that the extension target audience and clientele have moved from just farmers to include the others along the value chain. This is in addition to the generation change of the target audience to include youth and women as a special target group.

  1. The Commodities needing special attention

For a long time agricultural extension has focussed on the production end of the value chain concentrating mainly on the crops commodities at expense of livestock sub-sector.  The livestock’s precarious situation would have been averted if effective extension services were given to the sub-sector. May be more “Fulanis” would have settled in one form or another. Except for the veterinary services, the livestock production aspect was not getting adequate extension coverage.
In turn, extension experts and agents complained of in-adequate technologies to extend for livestock. Consequently, livestock extension continued to trail behind with the traditional transhumance system remaining unchanged without tangible improvement in productivity or increased production. Farmer-pastoralists clashes have now taken very dangerous dimensions with losses of lives and properties. Cattle rustling and “herdsmen” attacks have compounded the situation. Settlements in grazing reserves have not adequately solved the problems over the years.

Audu Ogbeh with the NABDA Team

Government is now pursuing a Ranching policy to enable the livestock owners settle and modernize their operations. For the policy to succeed, a lot of extension work needs to be done to:

  1. Educate the pastoralists on the advantage of ranching,
  2. Educate them of commercial herd management with productivity of animals being more important than number,
  3. Educate and develop their skills in pasture and livestock feeds production
  4. Educate and develop their skills in basic herd performance and financial management
  5. Educate and orient them in cooperatives formation to benefit from access to financial support and access to markets, amongst other areas.

Has enough preparation and sensitization been done for the extension requirements of the ranching policy? Are the ADPs and NAERLS ready and equipped for this paradigm shift?

  1. Building Partnership

Everybody makes the point that Agriculture is on the Concurrent list of the Nigeria Constitution connoting the responsibilities of the three tiers of government. But is extension restricted to the public sector and is it the sole responsibility of the ministries of agriculture at the federal, state and local government levels? As mentioned earlier, there is emergence of independent extension outfits under one guise, support, sponsorship or another.
To what extent have the ADPs accommodated or partnered with these? It has to be appreciated that the demand for extension is more than what the public sector is able to supply. Hence, there is need for building stronger partnership with stakeholders both in the public and private sector. Commodity associations and unions are very good candidates who can support and sponsor conduct of extension services targeted at their commodity. Wise engagement with bodies such as the Rice Growers’ Association and similar bodies can facilitate the re-engineering of extension in Nigeria.
Education, formal, non-formal or functional plays a great role in technology adoption and transfer. Many state governments are now making moves to re-vitalise their agencies for mass literacy. Since the activities of these agencies would be at the community grassroots level where agricultural extension is delivered.  Two birds can be struck with one stone if the ADPs develop functional partnerships with the agencies in their conduct of adult education classes.
This can be easily forged with the conduct of Farmer Field Schools the Training of Trainers (TOT), which was initiated and conducted by FAO to many ADPs’ staff.. Engagement of N-Power beneficiaries in extension is another opportunity the ADPs should exploit to re-build their human resource base and build partnership across MDAs hosting the N-Power youths.
No doubt, the import of agricultural extension as a viable solution to the development of agriculture in Nigeria was presented in this lecture. The means of achieving this solution was equally presented as a wake-up call to the stakeholders. While praying for the stakeholders to reflect and act appropriately on the issues raised in this lecture, a big thank to Dr. Rabe Mani for sharing his thoughts with us.
 

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