By Crusoe Osagie
A study on the Training Needs Assessment of extension agents in Nigeria has revealed several gaps and constraints that have hitherto limited the effectiveness of extension service in the country.
Findings from the study, which was recently presented in a paper titled: ‘The Capacity of Extension Staff in Managing Weeds in Cassava Systems in Nigeria’ in Nanning, China, during the World Congress on Root and Tuber Crops’ revealed that unless extension workers have the capacity to transfer improved knowledge on weed control in cassava, farmers will not be able to maximise the benefits of improved weed management technologies.
A Communication and Knowledge Exchange expert at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan, Nigeria, Godwin Atser, who presented the paper, also noted that the current farmer-extension ratio of one extension worker to 3011 farm families was a major constraint limiting the effectiveness of extension system in Nigeria.
“The ratio of one extension worker to over 3,000 farmers drastically fell short of the target of the Nigerian government to have one agricultural extension worker attached to 800 farmers, posing a serious challenge to the agricultural transformation agenda of the government,” he explained.
Atser said that apart from the grossly inadequate number of extension workers, his study indicated that the existing workers were older, lacked capacity development as a result of underfunding and basic requirements, causing inefficiency.
The study, which was funded by the IITA Cassava Weed Management Project specifically, investigated the capabilities of extension staff of Agricultural Development Programmes (ADPs) in weed management in cassava systems in Nigeria.
“The findings of the study,” Atser said, “showed that more than 80 per cent of extension staff have not had training that specifically targets weed management in cassava.
“There is knowledge gap on weed identification, types of herbicides, cassava varietal identification, and computer skills among extension staff.
“Furthermore, the extension system in Nigeria is male dominated and majority are 50 years and above. Radio, telephone and group discussion were the most used communication channels for technology transfer to farmers by extension staff.”
He recommended training of extension staff on sustainable management of weeds in cassava systems with specific emphasis on weed identification, herbicides use and application, cassava varietal identification, gender and computer skills.
Atser concluded by calling for recruitment of young, educated and upwardly mobile agricultural extension workers in Nigeria, with intensive capacity development to meet up with the need for effective dissemination of information to farmers on new technologies, varieties and market opportunities.