Analysis of extension agents in ghana
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Analysis of extension agents in ghana Document Transcript

  • 1. Analysis of Information Needs of Agricultural Extension Agents in Rural Ghana Paper Submitted to the GIMPA Journal of Leadership, Management, and Administration By Abdul-Nasser Salifu (Lecturer, GIMPA Business School) March, 2012 1
  • 2. Abstract There has been a persistent problem of meeting the local information needs of farmers in Northern Ghana. Farmers require crucial information on time to increase agricultural production and help reduce endemic poverty in rural Ghana. Agricultural extension is at the heart of the realization of these objectives. Agricultural extension agents are charged with the responsibility of helping farmers increase food production through the disemmination of proven agricultural information to small scale farmers. Their role becomes even more crucial in the sense that farmers in Ghana are largely illiterate who cannot use the print word as a vehicle for disseminating information rather information dissemination is mainly by personal contact of the extension agent.They can not be said to be effective in their work if they are found to be deficient in information dissemination resulting mainly from their inability to distil relevant information onto farmers or not being adequately informed on the subject matter relevant to the farmer.The flow of information in an extension organisation is more important than in other organisations that are not responsible for providing clients with relevant information for production. It was on the basis of this assumption that the study was conducted. The study was carried out in eight selected dictricts of Northern Ghana. Over a period of 10 months, two hundred and forty (240) household heads with over 30 years of farming experience in maize and rice production were purposively sampled to ascertain the main problems limiting the attainment of National food production targets. Based on their responses one hundred and thirty extension agents (130) were assessed on these needs. Data was collected using a pre-tested structured questionnaire. The information needs of the Extension Agents were classified into technical, commercial, social, legal, and general information. It was found that major gaps which existed in disseminating proven technical and legal information for quantum leap in production are at the roots of low productivity in this region. Empirical evidence of this study showed that though local information needs of farmers have changed towards the technical and legal information, extension agents’ knowledge in these areas have remained scant hence failing to meet the expressed inforamation needs of small scale farmers. Further findings also indicated that Extension agents’ perceived some information sources namely, supervisor, training, research institutions, to be very effective, whiles others namely, print and electronic media (TV and radio) and colleagues were perceived not to be effective in extension service delivery in Ghana. The study therefore recommends that in-service training of extension agents should include computer literacy to enable then have access to internet and other information resources. 2
  • 3. 1.0 Introduction Agriculture is vital to the overall economic growth and development of Ghana. The agricultural sector has always been the main driver of growth of the Ghanaian economy (ISSER, 2004). Khor (2006) reports that about; 40% of the GDP is accounted for by agriculture and livestock, forestry, and fishing; 70% of the employment is dependent on agriculture; the majority of the people engaged in agricultural production are small-scale farmers involved in subsistence agriculture. However, yields and agricultural growth and productivity have remained low and poor thus adversely limiting the population’s potential income and food security needs (Osei et al., 2007). The need for rapid improvement in the strategies for food production in Northern Ghana to systematically address food insecurity is urgent. Rural development statistics show that more than 800 million households in developing countries were said to be food insecure at the beginning of the 1990s, while food supply in Africa was 2300 calories as against 3500 in Western Europe and America (FAO, 2011). Food security index in the developing world, shows that population growth does not match food production. Since 1980, the population of African countries has risen by 53 percent but food production has only risen by 45 percent (Alfred and Odefadehan, 2007). In Ghana, while population rises annually by 2.2 percent, food production has decreased by 1.4 percent since 1992 (FAO, 2006). It is feared that if this trend continues for a long time majority of the population will increasingly remain impoverished in the coming decades. This situation, Aina (2006) decries, is due to inadequate supply of information to farmers. Other factors which have been stated by Benin et al (2008) include limited public spending on agricultural research, agricultural extension and training, poor marketing of agricultural produce, lack of subsidies on agricultural inputs (e.g. seeds, fertilizers, chemicals, etc.), poor irrigation, poor rural agricultural infrastructure (feeder roads, marketing information system, post-harvest handling, etc.), low food security index, large quantity of food imports, as well as inadequate expenditures in various other sectors (e.g. spending on transport, power, education, and health). According to Kwarteng et al (2002), achieving food security for all in Ghana, means agricultural information must be made available to rural farmers. With limited access to relevant agricultural information, farmers are unable to improve their work, increase their incomes and enhance their living standards. In view of these poor living standards, various efforts have been articulated by government to raise agriculture from the subsistence level to an improved sustainable level in the near future. As a Medium Term Agricultural Development Plan (MTADP) which guided agricultural sector’s development from 1991 to 1995, government had established the National Agricultural Research Project (NARP) and National Agricultural Extension Project (NAEP) to generate and transfer appropriate technology to farmers in order to increase food production (Hanson, 1996, MOFA, November, 2005). It is expected that technology generated from research through extension will increase crop yields; accrue more income to farmers and increase tax revenue for the government, through exchange of scientific information between small-holder farmers. As Buford (1990) noted, 3
  • 4. agricultural extension depends to a large extent on information exchange between and among farmers on the one hand, and a broad range of other actors on the other hand. Agricultural Extension Organisations such as Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) working through Agricultural Extension Agents (AEAS) and other stakeholders must therefore ensure that information reaches farmers to meet their changing needs. Annor-Frempong et al. (2006) have demonstrated that communication in agricultural and rural development thrives on access and flow of information among Extension Agents and the society at large in Ghana. Their finding supports the view of Bedi (1999) who earlier indicated that the main constraint to agricultural and rural development today are gaps in access to information by Extension Agents and farmers. If small-scale farmers in Ghana for example, have access to relevant and timely agricultural information, within the appropriate policy framework and infrastructure, food shortages can be eradicated, and the incidence food insecurity drastically reduced to the barest minimum. Adhikarya (1989) earlier reported that almost 40% of extension personnel worldwide have secondary level educational qualifications, with another 33% at the intermediate level. This is in sharp contrast to the situasion in Ghana where majority of extension personnel have basic level educational qualifications. Chizari et al, (1998) observed that given this low educational qualifications of AEAs in relation to the assignments and responsibilities they are expected to accomplish, informing them becomes very crucial since focusing more attention on their information needs is as important as obstacles hampering their educational related duties such as teaching and advisory work. In that wise, an AEA wishing to give sound advice to farmers must understand not only the extension process but also must be adequately informed on the technical aspects of the subject matter in which he gives advice (Van den Ban and Hawkins ,1988). Considering this situasion, extension agents in Ghana have no choice but to become information oriented. Theorectical Framework Rethinking the information needs of Agricultural extension agents in a rapidly changing information landscape is crucial to the achievement of key agricultural and rural development goals such as ensuring high food security and improved access to social infrastructure. Enumerating the influence of information on the morale and effectiveness of AEAs as key implementors of agricultural development initiatives, Munya et al (2002) reported that constant access to current agricultural knowledge and information is a motivating factor towards professionalism among AEAs when dealing with agricultural production issues encountered by small scale farmers and rural households. In a rapidly changing global world where information has become a factor for agricultural production, Mudukuti and Miller (2002), declared that information application in the process of agricultural production, will play a significant role in developing farm families. Expressing a similar opinion earlier, Alemna (1995) indicated that agricultural development, like every other development activity is hinged on information. He concluded that, information is one of the most appropriate tools, which can be relied upon as a resource to increase food production. In fact, meeting the information needs of farmers and AEAs, holds the key to a quantum leap in the agricultural production process and extension delivery in Ghana. However, information in itself is not a resource. Its resourcefulness lies in its application to increase food production, improve 4
  • 5. processing and marketing of agricultural produce. Before this can happen, three conditions are necessary. The information must first exist in a suitable form, AEAs and farmers must know about the existence of that information and where to find it (Hanson, 1996). Aside of these conditions, there are other factors which tend to constrain the acquisition and access to timely information for increased food production. Osei and Clement (2006) underscored the weak linkage existing between the information generators (Researchers) on one hand and information disseminators (AEAs) and information users (Farmers) on the other hand as a fundamental problem hindering rapid exchange and flow of relevant information to farmers. Furthermore, because communicating information and knowledge from information generators to farmers is an integral part of the extension process (Blackburn & Flaherty 1994), the flow of information in extension organizations is of more importance than in organizations that are not responsible for providing their clients with relevant information for production (Pezeshki-Rad & Zamani, 2005),. Considering this situation, the AEA has but little choice than to become information-oriented. AEAs and farmers are regarded as the weakest link in the agricultural production chain even though they should be the pivotal point to the success of any agricultural programme. Apart from the low extension to farmer ratio, Yakubu (1990) observed that AEAs lack the requisite knowhow to make any meaningful impact, noting that in areas where technical skills are necessary; their duty becomes even more challenging. Even though development communication scholars have blamed the old-paradigm of vertical top-down communication for this situation, it is still important to note that improving the linkages and supplying the relevant information will not necessarily lead to increased production unless an effective communication system such as participatory approaches are put in place to address the felt needs of extension agents as facilitators of social change (Hagmann, et. al, 2000; Hanson, 1996). One key component of fulfilling this social change is to ensure uninterrupted supply of relevant information to AEAs (Bruening et. al, 2002). Leeuwis (2004) notes that in rare cases where there is timely flow of information into the extension organization, such information cannot be accessed because it is usually not well ordered and grouped together in a way that AEAs can easily locate. He argues that the information usually reflects the logic of the researcher rather than the AEA and farmer. What is more, information provided in the form of books, technical bulletins or research reports on agriculture are not presented or packaged in the form that AEAs can comprehend. Leeuwis (2004) concludes that the printed media are structured along the lines of specialized academic disciplines and not according to the problems AEAs experience on the field. Although, AEAs and farmers could obtain information from alternative sources such as trainings, workshops, and electronic media, Alfred and Odefadehan (2007) stress that AEAs and farmers may not be able to say specifically what information they need. In their view, information need involves a cognitive process, which may operate on different levels of consciousness and hence may not be clear even to the inquirer himself. Expressing a similar opinion earlier, Cooper (1996), found that information need is a psychological state and not a visible object or complex of symbols. This means that information need is something not directly observable but has a definite existence in the mind of the AEA and farmer. 5
  • 6. Other challenging influences on managing information for extension services and production, according to Trevor Bently as cited in Fawcett (1999) are the laws governing information use and its application. These are the law of praxis, law of escalating demand, and the law of necessity. On the law of praxis, there are two noticeable effects. Firstly, we specify our information needs in terms of the way we do things and not what is needed to solve problems. Secondly once information has been requested it continuous to be produced even if praxis has changed and it is no longer needed. This causes information overload and engenders a state of paralysis and distress for AEA s as they constantly get the feeling of ‘Where do I start from’ in their day to day bid to operationalise the objectives of their organisations. Roland and Bee (1993) agree with the relevance of the view even today where extension organizations are becoming increasingly more varied in their activities in response to new demands of a rapidly changing environment. In the view of Roland and Bee (1993), AEAs are more likely to suffer from too much irrelevant information rather than from too little relevant information. On the law of escalating demand and how it influences the farmers’ effective utilization of the information for increased production, Fawcett (1999) stated that as information users obtain more information they require more information. This means that information will always be requested as long as the information provided is a better basis for decisions on good farm management practices with warnings on for example preventive measures for control and spread of pests and diseases. As for the law of necessity which we experience in our everyday life, it affirms that once farmers hear about a new technological innovation they expect information on its use and applicability to be made available to them by AEAs. Another vital attribute about information use in agriculture which Leeuwis (2004) laments is that information is constantly ‘moving target’ in extension work which is difficult and complex relation to cater to. This is because as AEAs continuously learn, and solve problems, new ones are identified in an ever changing environment. It is under these circumstances that AEAs perform their functions in the agricultural production chain. Describing the functions of AEAs, Aina (2006) stated that their major function is to disseminate appropriate information to farmers. According to him, their role becomes even more crucial in the sense that farmers in Africa (and for that matter Ghana) are largely illiterate who cannot use the print word as a vehicle for disseminating information; rather, information dissemination is mainly by personal contact. It is this necessity for personal contact that makes the AEA an invaluable asset to the extension work in Ghana. For the AEAs to be effective in the art of disseminating information technologies to farmers, however, their information needs must be adequately met (Alfred & Odefadehan, 2007). From the foregoing discussions, a new definition that emerges for information is that , it is a combination of all knowledge, attitude and skills with the praxis for increased food production, higher incomes for agricultural enterprises at any particular given time or area. As for information need of an agriculturalist it is a product of the extent of availability of Knowledge and Skills that the information user can draw on in reducing his uncertainty on any need related to agriculture. There are several classifications of information needs in Agriculture. But, for the purpose of this study, the classification by Aina (1990) is adopted in this instance. According to Aina (1990), information required for agricultural development is classified as technical or scientific information, social information, commercial information and legal information. 6
  • 7. In Ghana, the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) has a retinue of AEAs who need a lot of information required mainly for gaining background information for agricultural enterprises. They also need the information to assist them in teaching, training and visits. Information is also needed in communicating research findings to the small-scale farmer who needs information to intensify their cultivation as land size diminishes.Keeping all this in mind, there is a need for educating and training AEAs regarding necessary technologies, so that they can deliver extension services in a more competent manner. Meanwhile, a pre-requisite for reaching this, is to review their information needs. 2.6 Status of Agricultural Extension Delivery in Ghana Agricultural Extension services involve several different activities such as problem identification, information provision, field demonstration, teaching of skills and advice giving (Ackah-Nyamike, 2003).Agricultural Extension services in Ghana are carried out by the MOFA. Agricultural extension activities were initiated in Ghana in the nineteenth century and have evolved through various stages in the art of extension delivery. In 1997, MOFA decentralized its activities resulting in structural changes in the management of agricultural extension delivery service in Ghana. Today, under the current Food and Agricultural Sector Development Policy (FASDEP) limited access to technology appropriate to all levels of agricultural production has been recognized as one major obstacle to agricultural development (MOFA, November, 2005).The policy also recognizes a need to respond with the speed of light to challenges faced by farmers by providing uniform services as well as facilitating the effectiveness of the extension delivery mechanism throughout the country. The services of agricultural extension play a significant role in disseminating information, as they bridge the gap between available agricultural technology and local farmers’ practices. For agricultural development, farmers should receive these services in order to adopt new technologies and plant varieties to improve their production and also benefit economically. 2.7 Task / Role of Extension Agents. There are several tasks performed by Extension Agents in extension service delivery. These comprise teaching of skills, disseminating proven agricultural information, negotiating in conflict situations between farmers, and giving advice to farmers on all aspects of agricultural production, processing and marketing. According to Ackah-Nyamike Jnr (2007) Extension Agents in performing their tasks, play various roles such as teacher, organiser, friend, planner, administrator, motivator, and intermediary. Having identified the tasks, it is significant to ascertain what type of information is required in order to execute the above-mentioned tasks.According to Kargbo (1997) there are two types of information needed in extension delivery; namely, current awareness on the technical aspects extension work and everyday information. Operational tasks are performed by virtually all Extension Agents at all levels of the agricultural extension work. The nature of the operational tasks depends on a number of factors including seniority and the sector of the extension practice. Be it livestock extension, agro forestry extension or fisheries extension operational tasks are performed in one way or another. 7
  • 8. 2.8 Agricultural Information Dissemination by Extension Agents in Northern Ghana. The Ghana government has instituted a variety of services to facilitate agricultural information dissemination to farmers. In 1991, the Research Extension Linkage Committees (RELCS) were formed in five ecological zones of Ghana to forge a close working relationship between research, extension and farmers (MOFA, November 2005).Today one of the cardinal responsibilities of agricultural extension is the dissemination of timely agricultural information on technological innovations suited to the local farmers needs. According to Ozowa (1995), research has established that agricultural innovations are capable of changing agricultural production and building economies of many developing countries and this could be possible if the innovations reach the farmers. Unfortunately, information dissemination and technology diffusion have not been very successful in most African countries. In Ghana, Extension Agents are employed to disseminate agricultural information and innovations. This they undertake by means of channels such as print & electronic media, extension services demonstrations and educational tours among others. These channels have their strengths, but are not without weaknesses and these are discussed below. 2.9 Extension Agents’ Guides to Technical /Scientific information in Northern Ghana The agricultural research conducted in Ghana is carried out under the supervision of Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), which is under the Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology (MEST). Research in agriculture is an ongoing exercise as it requires periodic updates as a means of making agriculture as productive as possible. The need for continuing research is brought about by the changing climatic conditions, new technology, new innovations in improved seeds, new methods of combating pests and diseases, and the management and marketing strategies used in agriculture. Researchers are usually interested in investigating new trends and building on existing ones, which means that repetitions and duplication are not desirable. Therefore, guides to sources of scientific information are useful in allowing Extension Agents to know what is already available, and what additions or improvements are required. However, information on local needs of farmers in the form of published directories are usually not available to the Extension agents. In Ghana, several directories and guides exist to provide up-todate information on business and other sectors of the economy. There are virtually no such directories and guides for Extension Agents even though agriculture continues to be the king pin of the Ghanaian economy. Some directories available in Ghana only list agricultural organizations and lack appropriate agricultural information that Extension Agents can use (Codlin, 1997 and Craig, 1979) laments that out of the 110 directories covering all subject areas in the United Kingdom, only three directories include selected sources of scientific agricultural information .This shows just how little agriculture is regarded. The following represents sources of information at the disposal of Extension Agents in Ghana. 8
  • 9. 2.91 Agricultural Information Research in Northern Ghana In Ghana, Agricultural information is distinguished from information for Agriculture by research relevant to the socio-eceonomic development of the country. According to Philip et al (1989), the developed countries have recognized the contribution of agriculture to their countries’ economy. In other words, agricultural research projects which can examine the provision of agricultural information for Extension Agents and farmers and how they use it have been adequately funded. Agricultural research is important because it outlines what is taking place presently in Agriculture, so that Extension Agents can be informed of the new developments in agricultural production and processing techniques. However, not every agricultural research is important to all farmers; it is only those which address the farmers’ needs that are considered. Agricultural research interests in Ghana show that researchers are out of touch with farmers’ problems. It is useful to remember that, the point of research is to solve these problems, improve and/or examine new ways of doing things, which is why it is important for Extension Agents and farmers to access it. Therefore, it is necessary that ongoing or completed research should reach farmers it is intended for. In Ghana, there is a problem of many research findings ending up on the shelves and not disseminated to farmers. If the results are not disseminated to farmers, then the whole exercise becomes futile. Many studies have indicated that the source of idea for agricultural research is neither the Extension Agent nor the farmer. Sabarathnam (1987) reported that majority of researchers’ ideas for agricultural researchare not informed by the local needs of farmers. 9
  • 10. 4.0 Research Methodology The methodology adopted for this study utilized the intergrated approach to analysis of information. PRA (Participatory Rural Appraisal) tools in sampling techiques of quantitative and qualitative methodology was employed for this survey. The sampling techniques in extension work may be categorised into two major types; the probability sampling technique and the nonprobability sampling technique (Ngorwu, 1991). Based on the objectives of the study, purposive sampling was used to collect primary data on respondents. A multiple-stage procedure for assessing the information needs of farmers and Extension agents in Northern Ghana was main survey method used: Stage one; A situational analysis was carried out in the study area to establish at first hand the nature of the problems that farmers faced and therefore needed immediate attention. Through this baseline survey, it became abundantly clear that farmers needed information on modern production and processing techniques for increased yields in the cultivation of maize, rice, and mango in Northern Ghana. Stage two: To ensure maximum accuracy, three standard questionnaires each on the production and processing techniques of the three main crops, Maize, Rice and Mango were developed to determine specific aspects of the cultivation process that farmers, encountered technical challenges and as such needed information from Extension Agents to address. A total of two hundred and forty (240) household heads in eight selected farming communities in Northern Ghana were drawn for this study. It targeted for data collection, household heads having a minimum number of five farmers under their training and with over thirty years of farming experience in the cultivation of the above mentioned crops. Stage three; Based on the analysed results of the preceding stage, another standard questionnaire was developed, this time for the Extension agents themselves who serve as farmers’ main contact to dependable technical information. This sought to examine Extension agents’ extent of knowledge on those aspects of the production process that, the farmers themselves, clearly indicated were their major technical challenges in farming. In addition, aspects pertaining to quality extension delivery were also assessed to identify the areas where Extension agents lacked competencies and may have informed and contributed to the nature of technical problems and challenges the farmers faced. 4.1 Measurement of Variables 4.1.1 Dependent Variable The dependent variable is defined by Sarantakos (1993) as the variable that is explained or affected by another variable, called the independent variable. The dependent variable for this study was information. This was operationalized as need for information as realized by Extension agents in delivering quality extension services to farmers. The degree of respondents‘ information need was measured with the help of information need index developed by Borich (1980). For the Extension Agents, questions were asked on the following aspects Technical information needs Commercial information needs 10
  • 11. Social information needs Legal information needs General information needs As for the farmers, questions related to only their technical information needs were solicited. This was because commercial, social, legal and general information needs, within the limits of this study, were more related to extension work than crop production and processing. Respondents indicated their responses on a five-point continuum like Very high, High, Moderate, Little and Very little and with assigned scores of 5,4,3,2 and 1, respectively. The following formula was used to calculate the score of information need in each item obtained by each respondent. According to Borich (1980), information needs assessment Extension Agents can be analysed using the model given below: IN= (EN – EK) × MN Where: IN = Information need in each item obtained by each respondent EN= Extent of Need in each item EK= Extent of Knowledge in each item MN=Mean Score of need of all respondents in each item. 4.1.2 The Independent Variables The independent variable is defined by Sarantakos (1993) as the variable that does not need to be explained or affected by another variable. The independent variables for this study is the Extension Agent who has socio-economic characteristics including the gender, age, marital status, household size, working experience and educational status. 5. 0 Results and Discussion of Major Findings The identified information needs of household heads for which A.EAS in Northern Ghana were sampled for study is presented below; 11
  • 12. Table 5. Information Needs of Household Heads in Northern Ghana (N=240) Kind of Information Information Need Score Climate variability 4.9 New Mango variety propagation 4.5 Pest and Disease control of maize, rice and mango 4.7 Pruning and Training of mango trees 3.5 Mango harvesting 2.8 Irrigation techniques 3.9 Soil fertility conservation 3.6 Mechanised Farming 3.6 Maintenance of mango nurseries 3.8 Post-harvest handling and packaging of maize, rice and mango for agro markets 4.8 Wetland Farming of maize, rice and mango 3.7 Export specifications for mango and marketing of maize and rice produce 3.9 Source; (Field Survey, 2011) As shown in Table 5.1 farmers wanted to know more about climatic variability (4.9), postharvest handling of staple crops (4.8) and pest and disease control (4.7). This was followed by need for information on mango propagation, irrigation techniques and maintenance of mango seedlings. Farmers comparatively expressed less interest in information on pruning and training of mango trees and harvesting. The highly expressed need for information on climatic variability may be due to the frequent and cumulative effect of devastations of farmlands by floods in Northern Ghana. This finding support the introduction of climate smart agricultural production techniques in Ghana. It was also found that the problem with pest and disease control had to do with several factors including the proliferation of inferior chemical brands on the agromarkets.These products tend to discourage farmers from buying agro-products for spraying mango plantations. This has gone on for sometime now in Northern Ghana and though farmers are losing direct yields to pests and diseases this anomaly has not yet been explicitly addressed by government implementing agencies due to lack of applicable scientific information. 12
  • 13. 5.2 Information Needs of Agricultural extension Agents in Northern Ghana. The study found that the Extension agents in Northern Ghana require relevant technical, commercial, social, legal, and general information to make farming a very provifable venture for rural poor. The tables below provide a basic description of the specific kinds of information required by extension agents for maximum professional output. 5.2.1 Technical Information Needs Table 5.2.1: Technical Information Needs of Extension Agents in Northern Ghana (N=130) Kind of Technical Information Score Pest and Disease control of maize, mango and cocoyam plants 3.50 Post-harvest handling and packaging of maize, rice and mango 3.30 Wetland farming of maize, rice and mango 3.20 Climatic variability 3.17 Soil fertility conservation 3.10 Mechanized Farming 3.07 Pruning and Training of mango trees 3.05 Maintenance of mango nurseries 3.00 Mango harvesting 2.93 Mango propagation 2.83 Irrigation techniques maize, rice and mango 2.81 Export of mango and marketing of maize and cocoyam produce 2.60 Source: Field Data, 2011 Table 5.2.1 illustrates Extension Agents expressed need for training on pests and disease control techniques for maize, rice and mango (3.50), post-harvest management (3.30), and wetland farming (3.20). There was however a relatively small need for information on climate variability (3.17), soil fertility conservation (3.10), and mechanized farming (3.07).The popularity in demand for pest and disease control techniques by Extension Agents rather than climatic variability as expressed by the farmers could be attributed to the fortnightly training (FNT) attended by the extension agents under Ghana’s T& V extension system approach. Under this system, Extension staff spend a substantial amount of time on FNT meetings, usually devoted to teaching of technical subjects related that prioritise pest and disease control for increased staple food production. Moreover, the trainings organized and delivered by Subject Matter Specialist (SMS) could psychologically have been influenced Extension agents to suppose that pest and disease control was the information they truly required for optimum delivery of extension 13
  • 14. services. This finding supports Bruening et al (2002) hypothesis that more than 70% of Extension agents need technical agricultural information to enable them adequately deliver extension services to small scale farmers in South Africa. 5.2.2 Commercial Information Needs of Extension Agents in Northern Ghana Table 5.2.2 Commercial Information Needs of Extension Agents (N=130) Kind of Information Commercial Score Rank Cost of farm inputs for mango cultivation 2.93 1 Marketing produce agricultural 2.90 2 Agricultural co-operatives and Micro credit 2.87 3 Fair trade and impact of globalization on small-scale farmers 2.85 4 Export prices certification standards and 2.83 5 Import duties on equipments for cold-chain storage of mango 2.43 6 of Source: Field survey, 2011 Extension agents also expressed a need to be informed on commercial aspects of agricultural production. As data in Table 5.2.2 shows, information on cost of farm inputs, marketing of agricultural produce and agricultural co-operatives and microcredit were placed at first, second and third positions respectively. The next three items on which Extension agents wanted information were fair trade and impact of globalization on small scale farmers, export prices and certification standards, as well as import duties on storage facilities. Comparing the scores for technical information and commercial information, it is interesting that Extension agents indicated a lower need for commercial information. This finding supports, Alfred and Odefadehan (2007) earlier assertion that most peasant farmers in Northern Ghana rarely asked questions from the extension workers about the macro-economic aspects of their production compared to their southern counterparts. As the study showed, majority of farmers in Northern Ghana hold the perception that, as proceeds from sale of farm produce would not be shared with Extension agents, it was not Extension agents’ responsibility to market their produce. However, farmers in Northern Ghana somehow actually need to be informed on a regular basis, on how, when and where to take their produce to realise higher margins of profit. 14
  • 15. 5.2.3 Social Information Needs of Extension Agents in Northern Ghana Table 5.2.3 Social Information Needs of Extension Agents (N=130) Kind of Social Information Score Rank Public presentation and Use of Exhibits 3.27 1 Application of research findings in Community Development 3.17 2 Evaluation of extension programmes 3.13 3 Group formation dynamics 3.12 4 Farmer motivation 3.07 5 Gender planning and development in extension work 3.03 6 Topical concerns in extension practice 2.68 9 Rural entrepreneurship 2.45 10 Source: Field survey, 2011 Extension agents needed information on public presentations & use of demonstration exhibits, application of research findings to farm community development, and evaluation of extension programmes as seen in Table 4.2.3. Extension agents also ranked information on group formation, farmer motivation and gender planning & development in extension work as the fourth, fifth and sixth respectively. This may be explained by the fact that as educators and facilitators of social change in farm communities, social information in this regard is essential to society at large. 5.2.4 Legal Information Needs of Extension Agents in Northern Ghana Table 5.2.4 Legal Information Needs of Extension Agents (N=130) Kind of Legal Information Score Rank Public Land Use and acquisition Law 3.37 1 Agricultural Agencies Law 3.00 2 Legislation on Agricultural products 2.10 3 Conflict resolution and management 2.07 4 General laws governing citizens( farmers) 2.05 5 Source: Field survey, 2011 15
  • 16. The legal information needs of Extension agents is represented in Table 5.2.4.Extension agents expressed a need for legal information with regard to Public land use & acquisition for agricultural activities (3.37), Agricultural Agencies Law (3.00) and legislation on agricultural products (2.10). Extension agents however, have slight need for information on conflict resolution and management (2.07) and general laws governing citizens (2.05). On the surface, primary responsibility of Extension agents does not require knowledge of legal issues but when viewed in the light of influence of land ownership on farming and huge financial investments and agreements that go into mechanized farming, legal information becomes a substantive factor to consider in commercial farming activity. The highly awakened need for information on public land use and acquisition as found by the study, originates from the growing tensions between estate developers and commercial farmers under shrinking land mass and rather cumbersome land tenure system administration in Northern Ghana. This may have contributed to the markedly increased desire for legal information in times where legal tussels and litigations over land are commonplace. Nevertheless, land litigation is a daunting problem for commercial farming opporturnities in Ghana. 5.2.4 General Information Needs of Extension Agents in Northern Ghana Table 5.2.5 General Information Needs of Extension Agents (N=130) Kind of General Information Score Rank Information repackaging and handling 3.17 1 Proposal writing and impact statements for sponsorships 3.15 2 Ecotourism 3.12 3 Supervision of farmer activities 3.11 4 Information on other disciplines such as home management 3.00 5 Source: Field survey, 2009 General information for the purpose of this study refers to all miscellaneous information outside the typical classifications of technical, commercial, social and legal information. General information which is considered as management information is nevertheless crucial to improved performance and delivery of services to farmers. As shown in Table 5.2.4, Extension agents expressed a high need for knowledge on repackaging and handling of technical information (3.17), writing of proposals & impact statements for sponsorship (3.15) and ecotourism (3.12). This very interesting finding is a clear indication that Extension agents are less satisfied with the form in which scientific information is presented during trainings and hence require more competence in the art of information repackaging for increased performance on the field. However, there was little need for information on supervision and organisation of farmers (3.0). This finding supports the researchers’ assertion that though extension agents are typical 16
  • 17. managers in a broader sense, Ghana’s extension system fails to prioritise management of human capital as a cardinal framework for attainment of food security and rural development goals. 5.5 Prioritization of Information Needs by Extension Agents It is clear from the results in Table 5.5.1 that although Extension Agents indicated needs for commercial information, social information, legal information and general information, in order of perceived degree of importance with regard to extension delivery, they prioritise technical information (67.2%) and legal information (62.9 %) over social information (59.3%), general information (43.7 %) and commercial information (35.6%). Table 5.5.1 Ranking of Information Needs by Extension Agents (N=30) Information Needs High 35.6 64.4 High 59.3 40.7 High 62.9 37.1 High 43.7 Low General information 32.8 Low Legal information 67.2 Low Social information High Low Commercial information Percentages Low Technical Information Ranking 56.3 Source: Field survey, 2011 A very interesting finding however is that (62.9%) of extension agents ranked legal information higher than social information and commercial information needs (59.3%) which is directly linked to the extension value chain. This means that public land use and acquisition, agricultural agencies laws, legislation on agricultural products and conflict resolutions & management are topical issues in agriculture which must be given a closer look. Extension agents may tend to need legal information than social and commercial information because traditional extension sources of information have failed to address current emerging issue tied to food insecurity and poor rural development. 5.6 Sources of Information Magnire (1994) found that sources of information for extension service delivery may be personal or impersonal, public or private, and passive or interactive. However this finding does not specify or mention personal or impersonal sources. This study seeks to remedy this deficiency by catergoring sources as shown in Table 5.6 17
  • 18. Table 5.6: Respondents’ Sources of information for Extension Work (N=130) Source Percentages (%) Boss/Supervisor 73.3 Training 60.0 Research Stations 40.0 Seminars/ workshops 53.0 Print media :Books/Journals/Newsletters 46.7 Electronic media (Radio/ TV) 40.2 CD-ROMS 21.3 Internet 20.0 Colleagues 73.2 Farmers 56.7 Source, Field Survey, 2011 The sources of information that Extension agents’ in Northern Ghana were inclined towards Boss/Supervisor (73.3%), Colleagues (73.2%), training (60.0%), print media (56.7%) and seminars/workshops (53.0 %).This is an indication that Extension agents preferred the above mentioned sources of information than the other sources of information since more than 50 percent of the Extension Agents in the study area endorsed them as useful in extension delivery. While the other sources of information which extension agents were less inclined towards included internet (20.0%) and CD-ROMS (21.3%) electronic media (TV/Radio) (40.2%). On the basis of these findings, the Boss/ supervisor has been revealed as the Extension agents’ most preferred source of information in undertaking their professional duties as an overwhelming 74 percent of them affirmed it. This preference could be attributed to the ease with which Extension agents can directly receive information from Boss/ supervisor without having to expend plenty time searching for that information. For issues that are not understood by Extension Agents additional clarification can easily be sought from the Boss/ supervisor before going to the field. Other reasons for this may be due to the fact that Extension Agents are answerable to Boss/ supervisors and are seen to be the best and most dependable sources of information for fast delivery of extension services. Furthermore, Extension agents, as it’s the case of all junior staff members in Ghanaian public institutions, tending to look for a back up for many lapses on their part, may want someone to blame in the untimely event of disaster especially were technical expertise is required, will undoubtedly prefer the Boss/supervisor. Apart from the Boss/ supervisor being the most readily available information source with the technical acumen to assist Extension agents on any problems they encounter, they are also more experienced in the extension work since most of the Boss/Supervisors were former Extension agents.Again, this 18
  • 19. contradicts findings of Alfred and Odefadehan (2007) who reported that training rather the Boss/supervisor was the main source of information that extension agents were more disposed to in carrying out extension activities. 5.6 Ranking of Information Sources by Effectiveness in Extension Service Work Table 5.6 highlights the most useful information sources with regard to extension service delivery. These information sources were ranked on basis of their effectiveness as perceived by the Extensions Agents to the delivery of extension services in the study area. In order of effectiveness in this regard, Research stations (89.3 %), trainings (86.7%) and Boss/Supervisor (80.1 %) were rated first, second, and third respectively. While in order of ineffectiveness for the extension work, CD-ROMS (87.7%), internet (81.1 %) and electronic media (71.3 %) were rated first, second, and third respectively. Table 5.5: Ranking of Effectiveness of Information Sources by Extension Agents (N=130) Information Needs Boss/supervisor Training Research stations Seminars/workshops Print media Electronic media(Radio /TV) Internet Colleagues Farmers CD-ROM Ranking Percentages (%) Effective Ineffective Effective Ineffective Effective Ineffective Effective Ineffective Effective Ineffective Effective Ineffective Effective Ineffective Effective Ineffective Effective Ineffective Effective Ineffective 80.1 19.9 86.7 13.3 89.3 10.7 83.3 16.7 47.5 52.5 28.7 71.3 18.9 81.1 60.7 39.3 55.8 44.2 12.3 87.7 Source: Field survey, 2011 Based on these perceptions, it was found that, Boss/ supervisor, Research stations training, seminars/workshops, farmers and colleagues were seen to be more useful and practical aids in extension delivery than the internet, CD-ROMS and the electronic media. Several reasons could be cited for this poor rating of the internet and electronic media (TV/Radio) as effective information sources in extension work. In the first place, a large percentage of the Extension 19
  • 20. Agents residing in villages may lack the knowledge and skills to access the internet even though it has been worldly acclaimed in this digital age, as the leading source of information for extension service delivery. Secondly, access and use of CD-ROMS may not be encouraged because of the relatively high cost associated with their production and maintenance.An interesting revelation however, is the fact that (72%) of the Extension agents do not perceive radio as an effective source of information for extension work in Ghana. Radio is an effective source of follow-up information for iimproving adoption of new innovations rather than as primary sources of technical information for field/results demonstrations in farmer field schools (FFS). 5.7 Extension Agents’ Frequency of Use of Information Sources A scale of 1 (once a year use), 2 (use twice a year), 3 (use approximately once every 3 or 4 months), 4 (use approximately once a month) and 5,(use approximately once a week) was designed to determine the degree of use of these information sources by Extension agents. Accordingly, Table 5.7 presents data on the frequency of utilization of these information sources for extension delivery. Of the 130 Extension agents who participated in this study, 62.6 % reported having consulted the Boss/supervisor once every month, for technical information to undertake some extension activity. No Extension agent (0%) however claimed never to have consulted the Boss/ supervisor for information. This makes the Boss/ supervisor the most accessed information source, followed by seminars/workshops, training, and electronic media which are 3.3% , 4.0%, and 4.3% respectively. By this table, 56.7 % and 33.3 % of Extension agents claimed never to use the print media and research stations respectively, for purposes of obtaining information to undertake extension work. The reasons for this low patronage could be attributed to the high levels of bureaucracy associated with obtaining information from research stations as well as the uninteractive nature of most print media and its inability to identify and solve the local problems of farmers specific to each district in Ghana. Table 5.7 Frequency of use N=130 1 2 3 4 5 Total % % % % % % 0 26.7 6.7 4.0 62.6 100 Training 4.0 42.7 20.0 23.3 10.0 100 Research Stations 33.3 40.0 13.3 7.4 3.3 100 Seminars/workshops 3.3 46.7 29.3 13.3 7.4 100 Print media :Books/Journals/ Newsletters etc 56.7 13.3 10.7 12.6 6.7 100 Electronic media (Radio/TV) 4.3 6.7 9.0 10.0 70.0 100 Colleagues & farmers 3.3 3.3 10.0 16.7 66.7 100 Source of Information Boss/Supervisor Source, Field data, 2009 20
  • 21. Note: 1= once a year, 2=Twice a year, 3=Once in 3months, 4=Once a month, 5=Once a week. Concusions & Recommendations Removing institutional barriers to practicable information that can be effectively applied to increase food security and reduce poverty among rural poor is very significant in meeting national and household production targets. Governments, para-statal institutions like MOFA and MESS, NGO’s and independent organizations need to collaborate to promote information generation, acquisition and dissemination to farmers. Organizations responsible for generation of agricultural information creation, like research institutes, need to be equipped with necessary tools and human resources to undertake research that meet the local needs of the small-scale farmer. Acquisition and access to agricultural information and information for Agriculture should not only be gathered, but organized and made available to Extension Agents in various formats suitable for use. Dissemination of information through extension services should be established to incorporate all stakeholders, including potential ones as the market expands. Positive rewards should be encouraged as a way of attracting more researchers in agricultural extension as a profession. Organizations involved in agricultural information should participate actively in identifying research topics aimed at advancing agriculture. Also planning, monitoring and evaluation of research projects be done periodically to establish smooth progression in agricultural practice. Training of Extension Agents in agricultural information management and skills must be emphasized as these are significant in advancing agriculture in Ghana. Particularly when the respondents indicated their interest in attending regular workshops and seminars in order to acquire new information and ideas on agriculture. It is observed that these gatherings could enable farmers and agriculturists to share knowledge and experiences. Training should focus on promoting primary production of agricultural produce, producing a catalogue of research findings which will facilitate the exchange of validated results between organizations, communities and FBOs. Based upon the findings of the study, it is recommended that, in addition to the training received by the Extension Agents, efforts should be made to sensitize them towards the use of electronic technology to obtain up-to-date global information relevant to extension delivery. In addition the content of the training should include the basics of computer literacy to enable the Extension Agents to be able to access internet and similar information technologies for improved extension delivery. 21
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