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Problems experienced with Small Farmer Groups extension in Nigeria

Last modified April 10, 2007 15:34

Below are conclusions drawn from recent papers by Yusuf Abdullahi et al. of the National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services (NAERLS) at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Nigeria, where Kees Stigter was a visiting professor at the Department of Geography from 1991 – 1999 and Yusuf Abdullahi was at that time one of his supportive M.Sc.-students.

By YUSUF ABDULLAHI AND KEES STIGTER

 

Below are conclusions drawn from recent papers by Yusuf Abdullahi et al. of the National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services (NAERLS) at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Nigeria, where Kees Stigter was a visiting professor at the Department of Geography from 1991 – 1999 and Yusuf Abdullahi was at that time one of his supportive M.Sc.-students.


These experiences and conclusions are of importance for the training of (agrometeorological) extension intermediaries (second category, members of staff of extension organizations) that will have to work with such groups of farmers.


What follows from Yusuf Abdullahi’s papers that is of importance to the role of extension intermediaries (second category):


- Small Farmer Groups (SFGs) may suffer from illiteracy, poor leadership, poor managerial skills, weak financial base and poor access to resources and services.


- Extension workers nowadays hardly train new farmer groups on group dynamics and management. This is partly because they themselves were not properly trained in the theories and principles of group formation, community organization and pluralistic (participatory) extension; and partly also due to the general downward trend in quality of agricultural extension services delivery, which is one direct consequence of the government’s decreasing level of investment in agricultural research and extension.


- To develop extension agents capacity to implement participatory extension, they must be reoriented from the “technology transfer” mind setting to that of “facilitation and farmer participation” as well their role as “problem solvers”; that of farmers as “beneficiaries” to enable them become “partners in rural development”.


- Empowering of SFGs is reached by helping and enabling them to analyse their own situation, identify and prioritize the problems (needs assessments!!) and to seek the right solutions by combining their indigenous knowledge with improved knowledge and by using their resources properly (for which the right policy environment is needed!!).


- SFGs could these days best initially be set up as informal “self help groups” and can be assisted to develop into mature formal groups over time.


- Formation and strengthening of SFGs is a tough and challenging activity. Key challenges include those of acquiring and personalising facilitation skills, sustaining facilitation, motivating extension staff, building genuine relationships (rapport) with and understanding by farmers and steady funding.


- The following steps are distinguished in one cycle of community-based participatory extension intervention: (i) entry into community; (ii) consultation & social mobilization; (iii) situation analysis and needs prioritization (iv) action plan preparation; (v) action plan implementation (development of solutions); (vi) monitoring and supervision; and (vii) evaluation.


- The following difficulties were experienced in the SFGs concerned:


* Group members’ slow response to the process was probably due to two things:

• Group formation was not tied to specific self help need, to other problem solution related activities or to a project; instead the sole intention was to organize farmers for effective participation in extension service delivery.

• The old perception of group formation by outside development workers still lingers on. In the past, villagers anticipated access to government services when told to organise into groups, services like inputs subsidy, government development grant, etc.


* Group Facilitators and members often waited for NAERLS facilitators to be present before they acted. As a result NAERLS (the key institution behind the intervention) bore most of the costs, contrary to the anticipated fair sharing of costs and responsibilities.


* Low mutual trust among members of new SFGs and poor leadership may lead to break up of the group soon after it is formed.


* In the study area, malfunctioning of the mobile telephone network hindered its effective use in facilitating communication between the stakeholders.


* No immediate practical use of the knowledge, skills and experience gained by the groups. Perhaps the facilitators’ expectations were too high or probably the time frame was too short. It could also mean that the group needed to acquire more governance and farm management skills.

 

- In spite of huge contributions to on-farm and off-farm activities, women’s access to extension and other basic agricultural services is being impeded by socio-economic and cultural barriers.


- Women are handicapped in sourcing information, microfinance, training, inputs and other needed resources and services. In the State researched, only 10% of women had access to Extension Workers, and more than 90% had only a little or no say in important family farming decisions such as land clearing, land preparation, planting and marketing.


- Male and female farmers’ children of age 15-35 years, or simply “rural youths”, play a dynamic role in safeguarding the food security and socio-economic well being of farm families.


- About 60% of these youths were literate and 80% had access to Extension Workers. Based on analysis of these attributes and gender roles in farm and off-farm responsibilities, it may be concluded that the youths are a potential entry point in reaching and meeting the extension needs of women.


- These potentials of the rural youths could be harnessed through organization, training, active involvement in research and extension, and utilization as intermediaries in reaching and meeting the extension needs of farm women in the State concerned.


By Yusuf Abdullahi (ymabdullahi@yahoo.com) and Kees Stigter

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