Analysis of Information Needs of Agricultural Extension Agents in
Paper Submitted to the GIMPA Journal of Leadership, Management,
(Lecturer, GIMPA Business School)
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.
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
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,
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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’
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
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
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
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
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;
Table 5. Information Needs of Household Heads in Northern Ghana (N=240)
Kind of Information
Information Need Score
New Mango variety propagation
Pest and Disease control of maize, rice
Pruning and Training of mango trees
Soil fertility conservation
Maintenance of mango nurseries
Post-harvest handling and packaging of
maize, rice and mango for agro markets
Wetland Farming of maize, rice and
Export specifications for mango and
marketing of maize and rice produce
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.
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
Pest and Disease control of maize, mango and cocoyam plants
Post-harvest handling and packaging of maize, rice and mango
Wetland farming of maize, rice and mango
Soil fertility conservation
Pruning and Training of mango trees
Maintenance of mango nurseries
Irrigation techniques maize, rice and mango
Export of mango and marketing of maize and cocoyam produce
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
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)
Cost of farm inputs for
and Micro credit
Fair trade and impact of
globalization on small-scale
Import duties on equipments
for cold-chain storage 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.
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
Public presentation and Use of Exhibits
Application of research findings in Community
Evaluation of extension programmes
Group formation dynamics
Gender planning and development in extension work
Topical concerns in extension practice
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
Public Land Use and acquisition Law
Agricultural Agencies Law
Legislation on Agricultural products
Conflict resolution and management
General laws governing citizens( farmers)
Source: Field survey, 2011
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
Information repackaging and handling
Proposal writing and impact statements for sponsorships
Supervision of farmer activities
Information on other disciplines such as home
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
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%).
Ranking of Information Needs by Extension Agents (N=30)
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
Table 5.6: Respondents’ Sources of information for Extension Work (N=130)
Print media :Books/Journals/Newsletters
Electronic media (Radio/ TV)
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
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
Electronic media(Radio /TV)
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
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
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.
Frequency of use N=130
Print media :Books/Journals/
Electronic media (Radio/TV)
Colleagues & farmers
Source of Information
Source, Field data, 2009
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.
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