ASSESSMENT OF AGRICULTURAL EXTENSION SERVICE DELIVERY
The overall purpose of the study was to determine the assessment of agricultural extension service delivery in Benue State Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (BNARDA). The study was guided by three research purposes, namely: to describe the respondents‟ socio-economic characteristics; to determine the perception of the extension staff on the number of extension staff as a manpower constrain; and to examine the extension staff perception of agricultural extension policies as institutional constraint. The study was carried out in Benue State, one of the North-central states in Nigeria. The population of the study comprised the BNARDA extension staff at the head quarters, the zonal managers of agricultural zones in the state, and the BNARDA field extension staff assigned to extension services in the state. The multi-stage sampling technique was used to select 2 state headquarters, 2 zones, 18 workers from the 2 zones, 36 blocks and 72 village extension agents. This resulted to the total of 117 respondents at different levels in BNARDA extension service as the sample for the study. A set of structured questionnaire was used to elicit information from the respondents. Percentage, mean and standard deviation statistics were used to analyse the data collected. The results of the study showed that majority of the BNARDA extension agents are male (64.2%) as against the 36.8% who are women; majority of BNARDA extension agents are in their middle age with an average mean of
43.5 years; majority of the BNARDA extension agents (58.1%) possess university degree and/or Higher Diploma (B.Sc/B.Ed/HND); as much as 42.7% of the BNRADA staff have been into extension service for 21 years and above, with the mean of 20.5 years indicating that BNARDA staff are well experienced (in terms of the number of years in service) in their duty; and as much as 40.2% of the respondents have worked as BNARDA extension workers for 21 years and above. The mean number of years as BNARDA extension staff by the respondents is 19.5 years. This means that the BNARDA staff are well informed about the activities of BNARDA over many years and are therefore in good positions to provide the relevant information for any improvement of BNARDA. The findings from the study also revealed that BNARDA has been unable to deliver some aspects of its extension service objectives because it is lacking the necessary number of extension workers (manpower) to carry out these services. In spite of this, the study revealed also that technical knowledge, skills and experiences of recruited extension staff do not constitute constraints to BNARDA‟s service delivery. With regard to the influence of structures and implementation of agricultural extension policies as institutional factors that can influence extension service delivery, the findings of the study showed that they constitute part of the institutional constraints that negatively influence the extension service delivery offered by BNARDA staff. The findings also revealed that there has been consistent lack of remuneration and incentives for BNARDA staff and that this has negatively influenced the extension service delivery offered by the BNARDA staff and indeed the purpose for the establishment of BNARDA as an agricultural project aimed at improving the conditions of the people in Benue State. Based on the major findings of this study, it was recommended among other things, that as long as the objectives of agricultural programmes are still considered to be of some importance, the number of BNARDA extension workers helping in the realization of the objectives of agricultural projects need to be increased.
- Background of the Study
Public agricultural extension organizations in most countries have the task of providing a two way flow of improved technology and information between research and users, primarily farmers. They operate in an institutional environment that includes other public and private organizations active in agriculture (Peterson, 1998).
In Nigeria, as elsewhere, the ministry based extension service was found to be unable to effectively address agricultural and rural development problems (Ladele, 2008). This led to the establishment of Agricultural Development Projects (ADP) which marked the departure of the Nigerian extension system from ministry based extension to project-based extension system. The ADP was sponsored by the World Bank in collaboration with the states and federal governments.
Almost all the states in the country actively implemented statewide ADPs until World Bank finally withdrew funding at the expiry of the project. Development activities of ADPs declined considerably, though at varying degrees across the states, as government could not meet the financial demand of these projects . The earlier experience in the ADPs operation was highly promising that it was thought that most of the traditional problems would have been alleviated. However, the spirit of the early ADP era was not sustained, coupled with the fact that the Training and Visit extension approach had its associated problems. This implied that there are yet a myriad of problems of agricultural extension begging for appropriation attention (Ladele, 2008).
Since its inception in 1986, BNARDA has formed and registered two hundred and fifteen (215) farmers‟ co-operative groups (BNARDA, 1996). The success or failure of organizing and giving attention to such number of farmers requires the availability of a good number of agricultural extension workers working for BNARDA. This has a lot to do with the idea of an institution‟s manpower capability. For this reason, it is important to ask
„what is manpower?‟
The concept of manpower could be defined as “the existence of unskilled and/or skilled humans that need training or re-training to perform specific task in society” (Ekpo 1989 in Omodia, 2009). Skills, and the human beings who have them, can be developed to improve the available manpower of the society. Thus, manpower development could be viewed as one that focuses on turning out human resources that are needed for the development of the State (Omodia, 2009).
Understanding the state as an institution with several aspects/structures, the concept of institution is used in this study to mean the rules and regulations, enforcement mechanisms, organizations and behaviours (including policies guiding agricultural extension service delivery; the relationship between agricultural institutions like universities and other research agencies; and so on). Hence, Hornby (2007) defines institution as a custom or system that has existed for a particular time among a particular group of people. Such a system – with its rules and regulations, its mechanism of achieving its goals, and so on – determines, to a large extent, the behaviours and output, of the members of the group or society. If institutions determine, they can also constrain, that is, they can constitute constraints to the activities of the human persons in the society.
By constraints we mean anything that prevents a system from achieving more of its goal (Hornby, 2007; Wikipedia, 2009). Constraints can be internal or external to a system.
It is internal when the demands are more than the resources and structures of the system can deliver. An external constraint on the other hand exists when the influences exerted on the system are outside the system. Some of the internal constraints are: (i) Equipment: this involves the way equipment are currently being used and whether or not such limits the ability of the system to produce more salable goods/services; (ii) People: the lack of skilled people poses limits the system; (iii) Policy: a written or unwritten policy prevents the system from making more progress (Wikipedia, 2009).
Based on the above definitions, one understands that the number of trained human resources (manpower) available for the realization of a project, and the institutions within which a project or an organization exists, have some influences on the results of the project. It is necessary then to understand the perception of staff on manpower and institution as constraints to present-day extension service delivery by BNARDA. Are there in any way constraints to the realisation of the objectives for which the project was established?
Statement of the Problem
Agricultural extension organizations are growing and changing, and have invariably become more bureaucratic with distinct hierarchical structures. The work of dispersed extension workers has to be administered and controlled so that one or more levels of intermediary structure come to play between the field level agents and their headquarters (Jones and Garforth 1998). Thus the management of extension activities has become a major preoccupation, and many organizations have been open to the criticism of being top- heavy and top-down in their approach.
Agricultural extension, whether public or private, operates in a context or an environment that influences the organization, form, and content of transfer activities (Moris, 1991 in Warren 1998). The dominant characteristic of that context is changing.
Because these changes affect all aspects of extension, the perception of this context by extension staff is very critical in the performance of their functions. For this reason, the context should be examined and understood so that extension can be better managed.
The specific context that is of interest to this study is the Benue State Agricultural and Rural Development Agency (BNARDA). It is the performance of the extension agents in this context that this study is especially interested in. There are indications that there has been continuous reduction in the number of BNARDA extension agents, and consequently, the number of BNARDA extension farm visits.
Table 2: Showing the number of BNARDA village extension agents
|Number of village extension agents||510||250||248||211||208||208||156|
[Adapted from PME-BNARDA (1996; 2002; 2003; 2004; 2006; 2007; & 2008)]
Based on the consistently reducing figures in the table above, the questions that arise are: How do extension agents perceive the existing manpower and institutional conditions as contraints to agricultureal extension delivery in Benue State? Specifically, do BNARDA extension workers perceive the existing number of extension staff, and the processes of formulation and implementation of agricultural policies, as constraints to extension delivery in the state?
Purpose of the Study
The overall purpose of the study was to examine extension staff perception of manpower and institutional factors as constraints to agricultural extension services in Benue State Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (BNARDA). Specifically, this study was designed to:
- describe the respondents‟ socio-economic characteristics;
- determine extension staff perception of the existing number of extension staff as a manpower constrain; and
- examine extension staff perception of existing agricultural extension policies as institutional
Significance of the Study
The results of this study will help the stakeholders involved in agricultural development programmes and the agricultural extension services - the federal, state, and local governments, ministry of Agriculture, and so on - know some of the factors that constrain the achievement of the objectives of these programmes. More specifically, the findings of the study will enable agricultural administrators of agricultural extension delivery sectors to be aware of some of the factors affecting manpower in agricultural extension service delivery, especially with regard to the issues of manpower strength (adequacy or inadequacy of the number) of extension workers involved in the realization of the objectives of ADPs like BNARDA. The findings will also expose these stakeholders to the knowledge of the influence of remunerations and incentives in the sustenance and improvement of the manpower needed for the realization of agricultural projects.
The findings of this study will reveal if agricultural policies, as a form of institution, are made with due consideration of what is on ground with regard to the real experiences of farmers and extension workers. It will also be known from the findings of this study how BNARDA staff perceive the implementation, consistency and stability of agricultural policies. This revelation will be helpful to agricultural policy makers and implementers at the federal, state, and local government levels to know how better to make agricultural policies and what improvements can be done with regard to their implementation.
The study will also reveal the extent to which technical knowledge and experience serve as manpower constraints to the realization of the goals of BNARDA extension service delivery. This will enable the stakeholders (federal, state, and local Governments, funding agencies, and so on) to organise on-the-job training for officers of BNARDA. It will also bring to their awareness the need to make sure that qualified people are employed for the job of extension service delivery.