‘We must drive ex­ten­sion ser­vices as busi­ness’

Daily Trust - - GOLDEN HARVEST -

How im­por­tant ser­vices to agri­cul­ture?

If we are think­ing of di­ver­si­fy­ing the na­tion’s agri­cul­ture to a level we want it, then ex­ten­sion is the key. Ex­ten­sion is the key be­cause most of the peo­ple that par­tic­i­pate in the coun­try’s agri­cul­ture are small­holder farm­ers. These small­hold­ers’ farm­ers have a lot of con­straints around them - con­straint about adopt­ing best agri­cul­tural prac­tices, con­straint of un­der­stand­ing how to do agri­cul­ture as a busi­ness among oth­ers. So when you have a plat­form that ex­tends the knowl­edge of how to do these things in line with best prac­tices, that can drive busi­ness en­ter­prise, then the only struc­ture that can do it ef­fec­tively is agri­cul­tural ex­ten­sion.

How does agri­cul­tural ex­ten­sion do that?

Agri­cul­tural ex­ten­sion does it in three ba­sic meth­ods. One: There is the tech­nol­ogy trans­fer. Agri­cul­ture is a sci­ence and a sec­tor that is im­prov­ing over time based on the fact that there is in­crease in the hu­man pop­u­la­tion, and there’s the need for peo­ple to be fed along­side that. In­dus­tries are grow­ing and they need raw ma­te­ri­als. So there are con­stant tech­nol­ogy devel­op­ment ac­tiv­i­ties that are go­ing on in that sec­tor. If those tech­nol­ogy devel­op­ment ac­tiv­i­ties are achieved, the only way the small­holder farm­ers can have idea of what has hap­pened over time in the re­search in­sti­tutes is through tech­nol­ogy trans­fer. So ex­ten­sion de­liv­ers those tech­nol­ogy im­prove­ments to the farm­ers.

Two: The hu­man cap­i­tal devel­op­ment it­self; be­cause the small­holder farm­ers were mostly not ex­posed to the con­ven­tional schools that we have today, either be­cause they were not priv­i­leged or op­por­tune to do that. But the agri­cul­tural ex­ten­sion agent helps them de­velop the ca­pac­ity. So you’re look­ing at two fun­da­men­tal is­sues - trans­fer of tech­nol­ogy and hu­man devel­op­ment cap­i­tal. Ibrahim Suleiman is the Head of Agri­cul­tural Ser­vices, No­tore Chem­i­cals In­dus­tries Plc. The agron­o­mist, whose ca­reer path spans through agribusi­ness for over 16 years, tells in this in­ter­view that ex­ten­sion ser­vice is key in driv­ing green rev­o­lu­tion. Ex­cerpt:

Three: Through ex­ten­sion, fa­cil­i­ta­tion We can only achieve that if gov­ern­ment ac­tiv­i­ties can be driven on that plat­form. also drives ex­ten­sion as busi­ness. They What do I mean by that? Today, a farmer do it in so many coun­tries. The truth is look­ing for where to take his grains, if of the mat­ter is that re­sources will there are ac­tive ex­ten­sion ac­tiv­i­ties, that con­tin­u­ously be a con­straint in the struc­ture can fa­cil­i­tate for him to ac­cess present sit­u­a­tion that we are in today. that out­put mar­ket and also help him So if the gov­ern­ment is con­strained to in­crease eq­uity in his in­vest­ment, by with that, then, the other al­ter­na­tive sourc­ing for credit. If you have ac­tive that we have today is to drive ex­ten­sion ex­ten­sion ser­vices, it helps the farmer as a busi­ness. The most crit­i­cal thing to ac­cess the kind of eq­uity he needs. is that the right in­fra­struc­ture to drive So ex­ten­sion is very key in the life of a ex­ten­sion as a busi­ness must be put in farmer. So if we want to take agri­cul­ture place. to a level where we want it to be, then these key fun­da­men­tals are not some­thing we can over­look.

What are the chal­lenges of ef­fec­tive agri­cul­tural ex­ten­sion ser­vice de­liv­ery sys­tem in Nige­ria today?

One of the prob­lems is that the ex­ten­sion agent-farm­ers ra­tio is not there. Today we don’t have enough ex­ten­sion work­ers that can even reach the stan­dard ex­ten­sion de­liv­ery sys­tem. There is a stan­dard - in most cases, we say one ex­ten­sion worker to 250 farm­ers, but today that is not there. There are states today that do not have up to 17 ex­ten­sion work­ers and they have up to 700,000 to 800,000 farm­ers in their ju­ris­dic­tion, which is a big chal­lenge it­self.

So there is the need for us to in­crease on that ra­tio. Two, even if the ex­ten­sion work­ers are there today, they are poorly trained. They don’t get the train­ing they need to get. Like I said, if the ex­ten­sion work­ers have to play those el­e­ments we talked about ear­lier - tech­nol­ogy trans­fer, fa­cil­i­ta­tion and hu­man cap­i­tal devel­op­ment, they need to be trained. Today all that train­ing is not hap­pen­ing in the ru­ral ar­eas.

Thirdly, there is the is­sue of poor fund­ing. If you want an ex­ten­sion agent to move from one place to an­other, you have to pro­vide the struc­ture for him to be able to do that.

The worst of all is that re­search in­sti­tutes and ex­ten­sion agents are work­ing apart. The re­search in­sti­tute today will de­velop a tech­nol­ogy, and there is a link com­pletely miss­ing be­tween the re­search in­sti­tutes and ex­ten­sion work­ers. So who will trans­fer the tech­nol­ogy to the farm­ers - that is a huge prob­lem.

In view of lean re­sources at gov­ern­ment dis­posal today, how can the author­i­ties drive ex­ten­sion ac­tiv­i­ties?

I will al­ways say that agri­cul­ture should be a busi­ness. If gov­ern­ment is look­ing to drive that sec­tor as a busi­ness, then we should also by now be putting in­fra­struc­ture that will also drive all the pa­ram­e­ters of agri­cul­ture as a busi­ness.

What is No­tore do­ing in the area of ex­ten­sion ser­vices?

For No­tore, when we came on board, we no­ticed that ex­ten­sion struc­ture had com­pletely col­lapsed. You can­not drive the green rev­o­lu­tion which No­tore preaches today with­out ex­ten­sion ser­vices. So the only way for us to do it is through ex­ten­sion ser­vices. So what do we do in No­tore? We now de­cided to say that in most of the agri­cul­tural com­mu­ni­ties today, we have peo­ple that have some level of ed­u­ca­tion some have pri­mary school ed­u­ca­tion, some sec­ondary school and some even diploma in the ru­ral ar­eas.

We first of all iden­ti­fied op­por­tu­ni­ties where you can drive this kind of struc­ture. We now de­cided that if that is case, we will use the struc­ture and the op­por­tu­nity that is avail­able to drive a sus­tain­able ex­ten­sion struc­ture. So we iden­ti­fied, mo­bi­lized and trained the peo­ple that we think can play this part. And when we trained them, we called them vil­lage pro­mot­ers.

Ibrahim Suleiman

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