Analysis of Determinants of Effectiveness of Extension Agents in the Ebonyi State Agricultural Extension Service
The Objectives of the Study
The overall objective of this study was to analyse the determinants of effectiveness of extension agents in the Ebonyi State Extension Service.
The specific objectives were :
- Examine the socio-economic characteristics of the extension agents in Ebonyi State Extension Service;
- Determine the levels of performance of their normative extension duties,
- Examine and establish socio economic/personal factors that determine the effectiveness of extension agents in Ebonyi State.
- Examine and establish agency-related factors that determine the effectiveness of extension agents in Ebonyi State.
Historical Background of the Nigerian Agricultural Extension Service
Ndangara (2005) stated that the process of rural development is synonymous with agricultural development. This is largely true because we have already seen that farming is the main source of livelihood for a greater population of Nigerians in the rural communities. Laah,et al(2013) further proves this as they stated that about 70% of the rural inhabitants engage in agriculture and 30% on other related activities such as animal husbandry, fishing,etc. It is the realization of this importance of agriculture and rural development that has made successive Nigerian governments to make efforts towards raising the productivity of rural people.
Agricultural development in Nigeria depends on the effective organisation and administration of agricultural institutions and agencies. Agricultural Extension Service happens to be one of the agencies that foster agricultural development in Nigeria. The purpose, according to Ayoola(2001), were to provide extension services, technical input support and rural infrastructure to the farmers/rural dwellers. It also involved promoting the modernization of largely primitive agriculture, and to enable its transition from subsistence to commercial agriculture through educational procedures which help the transfer of improved practices from research to the farmers (Onu 2007).
The accomplishment of Extension objective is only possible within the framework of an organisation administered by competent and efficient officers. An organisation can be defined as the arrangement of persons, materials and ideas necessary for the performance of functions. It involves people and things used to achieve the goals and objectives of the organisation (Obibuaku, 1986). The Extension Service organisations in Nigeria, are means of getting work done or of achieving set objectives of the Ministries of Agriculture and Natural Resources. It is an integral part of the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources and in most states, Ebonyi State inclusive, a component of the Agriculture Division of this Ministry.
The study was carried out in Ebonyi State of Nigeria. Ebonyi State lies approximately 60 15’N and 80 05’E with a land mass of approximately 6,421.2 square kilometres and a population of 2,176,947 persons(NPC,2006). The state is made up of 13 local government areas which are divided into 3 agricultural zones of Ebonyi North, Ebonyi Central and Ebonyi South. The major crops grown in the state are rice, yam, cassava, vegetables while fishing activities are predominant in the south agricultural zone of the state.
Socio-economic characteristics of Extension Agents in Ebonyi State Extension Service
The socio-economic characteristics of extension agents studied include age, marital status, sex, formal educational attainment, family size, annual income, years of experience in Extension service, in-service trainings received by extension agents, number of contact farmers under extension Agents circle/SPAT, and rank in office. The results are presented in Table 1 below.
Table 1: Distribution of Socioeconomic characteristics of Extension Agents in Ebonyi State Extension Service
Socio-economic Characteristics of Respondents
In this study, age of extension workers was assumed to be an important factor in determining the effectiveness of extension field staff as revealed by ealier studies(Idrisa and Ogunbameru, 2012). This study revealed in Chapter 4 that the Ebonyi State Extension Service is dominated by the middle-aged extension staff (31-40 years of age); which constituted about 53.3% of the sampled population. About 18.7% of the respondents were between 21-30 years of age; 16% of the respondents were between 41-50 years of age, while 9% were above 51 years. The mean age of the respondents was 37.6 years. This implies that the Extension staff of the Ebonyi State Extension Service were mostly of the middle-aged group and corroborates the findings of Ukeju (2011) and Unamma(2004) that the youths and middle aged personnel dominate extension work in Nigeria; and this age bracket represents the most active, virile and productive work force in any bureaucratized organisation and agency like the Ebonyi State Extension Service.
This study reveals a dominance of the male over female in the Ebonyi State Extension Service as 72% of the Extension Agents were male while 28% were female(Table 1). The findings from this study corroborates the finidings from earlier studies that extension agents are dominated by the male folk (Unamma, 2001).
The study also reveals that about 53.33% of the respondents were married while 46.67% were single. This implies that they were emotionally stable to concentrate on their work and agrees with a study carried out by Ajani and Onwubuya (2013) which stated that most of the extension agents in Anambra State were married.
SUMMARY, CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Agricultural Extension Service has been identified as one of the agencies that can introduce changes in agricultural development in Nigeria by speeding up the adoption rates among the rural farmers. The demands of agricultural development have necessitated the development of Extension Services into complex bureaucracies which, in turn, necessitate effective administration and coordination for the achievement of its objectives. The accomplishment of Extension Service goals depends primarily upon the effectiveness of its farmer-facing Extension Agents in achieving their programme objectives.
The overall objective of this study was to analyse the determinants of effectiveness of extension agents in the Ebonyi State Extension Service. The study specifically determined the functional effectiveness of extension agents and established factors that influenced effective performance of the field extension functions.
The findings of this study showed that about 53.3% of the respondents were in the economically active age group of 31-40 years while the mean age was 37.6 years. The Ebonyi State Extension Service was dominated by the male extension agents(72%). About 53.33%. Staff of the Ebonyi State Extension Service had high levels of formal educations as about 80% of the extension agents were holders of Bachelors Degree/Higher National Diploma. The average family size was 4 persons. The mean annual income was N275,800. The average years of experience in field extension work was 14.17. The average number of inservice trainings received by the staff of the Ebonyi State Extension Service was 7.1. The average extension agent farmer ratio in Ebonyi State was 1: 657. Majority(86%) of the extension agents in the Ebonyi State Extension Service were of the rank of Agric Superintendents, while 14 percent were Agric Officers
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