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Investing in Extension Services to achieve the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) Goals in Ghana

PREFACE
History  of  economic  development  in  the  world  shows  few countries  achieving  sustained  economic  growth  without  first developing their agricultural sector. In Africa and for that matter  in Ghana, the activities of small scale farmers is most significant for  the  economy  as  they  constitute  about  80%  of  the  farming population and contribute significantly to domestic food supply, income, employment and foreign exchange. However, unlike the developed countries where agriculture propelled economy to growth, it is not the case in Ghana due to limited application of technology in farming.

This is partly due to inadequate extension agents to transfer new technology to farmers and partly due to perception of farmers about cost benefit of adopting new technology in farming.
When  farmers  become  aware  of  the  importance  of  improved technology in farming  and  have  access, they would adopt to it. This could not be achieved in the current extension farmer ratio in the country.
Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana and SEND Ghana believed this is possible and achievable provided government is open up for discussion with key stakeholders and willing to accept their recommendations. The policy brief provides recommendation to enrich the current extension policy by the Ministry of Food and Agriculture to improve extension service delivery in Ghana.

BACKGROUND
In  Ghana,  smallholder  farmers  dominate  the  agricultural  sector  and  they account for between  70 to 80 percent  of the total labour force  in  the sector. Suffice it to say that most smallholders are found in the food crop sector with women farmers constituting the chunk of the subsector.  Although their contributions to the national economy and specifically the food basket have received  widely acclaimed recognition, Ghanaian smallholder farmers are continually faced with a number of challenges for which reason their socio-economic status does not reflect the general progress the country has made on poverty reduction. The poverty situation of small holder farmers reflected in the current Ghana Living Standard Survey (GLSS) Six (6) which indicated that small holder farmers are majority of the population living below the poverty line.

The challenges with small holder farmers includes; fragmented landholdings; low input use; declining soil fertility; poor access to both financial services and inputs and output  markets.  In addition, macroeconomic instability and conditions such as market liberalisation, removal of agricultural input subsidies and high interest rates have combined to push smallholder farmer to eke out a living on the fringes of agricultural production across the country.
A fundamental challenge that has persisted to keep smallholder farmers on the periphery of agricultural production in the country is case of inadequate access to quality extension services.  The persistence of this problem has resulted in the inability of smallholder farmers to improve their productivity, thus the characteristic low income status associated with farmers.

KEY MESSAGE 1: STATE OF EXTENSION SERVICE DELIVERY TO SMALLHOLDER FARMERS
Available statistics show that the national farmer-extension ratio stands at 1 Agricultural Extension Agent (AEA) to 1,500 farmers.   In the Brong  Ahafo  and  the  Northern  regions,  some  districts  are recording instances where just one Extension Agent attending to about 5000 farmers. Across  the country,  the few Extension Agents do not have  the  right  combination  of  logistics  to  discharge  their  duties.
Besides,  they  are  ill-incentivised,  especially  those  working  in  very deprived  and  hard-to-reach  communities  resulting  in  demoralised, scarce and 'unproductive' extension service agents. 
The consequences of poor extension services delivery to smallholder farmers has brought in its trail characteristic poor agronomic practices; post-harvest management challenges; inefficient use of inputs; abuse of  pesticides;  low  adaptive  capacity  for  research  and  technology uptake;  and  inadequate access  to  auxiliary  information    that  could help increase agricultural productivity in Ghana.
Inadequate human resources and operational deficiencies in providing public extension services is a threat to the realisation of the strategic objectives of the Food and Agricultural Sector Development Programme (FASDEP). The interconnectedness between FASDEP and the Medium Term Agricultural Sector Investment Programme (METASIP) is further threatened as value for money is not guaranteed in an atmosphere of weak complementarity between extension services delivery and programme investment. 
So far, approaches aimed at solving the problems with extension service delivery have not been contextualised properly. At best, one can describe it as not being demand-driven.  For  instance,  though commendable,  government's  effort  aimed  at  accelerating  electronic extension  (e-extension )  to  modernize  agriculture  is  being implemented without due regards to  smallholder farmers' ability to adopt  and  adapt  to  e-extension.  Our research thus far shows that farmers prefer face-to-face contact with 'human agents' in the delivery of agricultural extension service.  Besides, majority of small scale farmers are not able to access e-extension since they either do not have the necessary apparatus or are unable to use them to access e-extension information.  The  need  for the  human extension officer is essentially informed  by  the  cultural  and  socio-economic  milieu  that  the smallholder farmer finds him or herself.   Addressing challenges in the socio-cultural context is important for tackling the issues that at prevent farmers' uptake of research and innovations in the sector.


KEY MESSAGE 2: WHAT THE POLICY DOES NOT SAY AND DO
The  Ministry  of  Food  and  Agriculture  (MoFA)  has  an agricultural extension policy that promotes active participation of  the  private  sector,  NGOs  and  Faith-based  organisations  in extension service delivery. These actors bring complementarity to bear on the delivery of extension services by augmenting the government of public delivery mechanisms, thus contributing to improvement in agricultural extension coverage in the country.
This  notwithstanding,  extension  service  does  not  reach  the segment of farmers who require attention most and the existing delivery  system  is  threatened  by  ageing  and  dwindling  staff numbers;  weak  linkage  between  the  National,  Regional,    and District  Agricultural  Development  Units;  and  poor  logistics support for both management and field level staff.
Having implemented  the  current  agricultural  extension  policy for some time now, a  number of issues have been identified  as restraints  to  the  realisation  of  the  strategic  objectives  of Extension Policy.


THE RESEARCH–EXTENSION-FARMER–LINKAGES-COMMITTEES (RELCS) IS NOT FUNCTIONING AS ENVISIONED

RELCs is a platform created to promote demand-driven research and extension services delivery.  However, the effective functioning of this platform has been hampered by poor coordination.  This is due to lack of clarity as to which of the two implementing institutions is responsible for providing leadership and harmonising the activities of the platform.
The implementation institutions are the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research of the  Ministry  of  Environment,  Science  and  Technology  and  the Directorate  of  Agricultural Extension  Services  of  the  Ministry of Food  and  Agriculture. Poor coordination of this platform is as a result of the fact that the two implementing agencies fall under two separate ministries. This administrative set up of these ministries is affecting how the agencies are coordinating and managing the RELCS. There is thus, no clear ownership of the RELC process.

This has affected planning; budgeting; implementation; and monitoring and evaluation of the programme. Lack of ownership of the platform has occasioned limited budgetary allocation for the implementation of the RELC process. Funding for RELC activities have been largely project-based and this has implications for sustainability and predictability.

Funds  released  through  the  Government  of  Ghana  funding mechanism  have  been  woefully inadequate, irregular and unpredictable. This situation distresses the implementation of RELC activities; thus affecting the efficient and effective dissemination of relevant technologies to farmers.

Malfunction Farmer-Based Organizations (FBOs); MoFA's strategic decision to rely on groups as an approach to delivering extension services is commendable.  The  policy  intent  is  to accelerate the dissemination of effective and efficient technology to  farmers;  and  to  address  challenges  associated  with  low Agricultural Extension Agent (AEA) farmer ratio. However, due to  insufficient  budgetary  allocation,  progress  towards  the formation,  nurturing  and  sustenance  of  formidable  grassroots farmer-based organizations has been slow. As a country we have not  succeeded  in  enhancing  the  voice  of  FBOs  to  demand improved  service  delivery  from  government.  Undue  political interferences  in  the  development  and  provision  of  support  to FBOs have impacted on the extent to which they can become self-reliant. 
Besides, the FBO's orientation on voluntarism has been weakened by the practices of offering them 'hand-outs' and this has implication for sustainability.

CLARITY ON STANDARDS FOR PRIVATE XTENSION SERVICE DELIVERY:
NGOs  and  private  sector's  participation  in  the  delivery  of extension  service  is  becoming  increasingly  relevant  in  the provision  of specialized  skills,  knowledge  and dissemination  of information on high value commodities. This is even more crucial in  the  face  of  dwindling  government  funding  for  extension services  provision  and  the  need  to  expand  the  geographical coverage  of  extension  services.  However,  coordination  and management  of  the  multiple  service  providers  is  proving  a daunting challenge. Moreover, the absence of clear standards and guidelines in the delivery of extension services makes it difficult for the alignment and harmonization of the activities of private extension service providers.


EXTENSION ACTIONS FOR GENDER EQUITY:
In  Ghana,  women  are  major  participants  in  agricultural production,  especially,  in  the  food  crop  sector.  Thus, the activities of women farmers and agricultural professionals such as extension agents have a major impact on Ghana's health and nutrition. Research has shown that there is a positive correlation between  the  provision  of  extension  services  by  women  for efficiency  and  sustainability  in  extension  service  delivery.
Although,  there  is  a  30  percent  allocation  of  vacancies  for women  in  agricultural  colleges,  women  have  not  found  it attractive  to take up profession in extension services  delivery.
This is largely because of the existence of discrepancies between government policies related to extension programs for women and actual extension programs. The effect has been that there is lower number of women in the extension service delivery profession.  The  concomitant  result  has  been  that  women smallholder  farmers  lack access  to  extension  services  and  are often  bypassed by extension, especially, in the case  of services delivered  by  men  extension  agents.  The  situation  has  not facilitated  an  atmosphere  conducive  to  address  challenges associated  with  the  dual  socioeconomic  systems  that  in  turn foster gender duality operating in the agricultural sector. There is  therefore  the  need  for  specific  strategies  for  extension profession  to  attract  more  women  so  that  services  will  be provided by women to reach more women smallholder farmers.


FUNDING FOR EXTENSION SERVICE
Adequate funding is critical for the delivery of an effective extension services.  At  the  moment  funding  for  the  implementation  of  the policy  is  woefully  inadequate  and  characterised  by  untimely releases. The implementation of planned  field  activities  including training  of  AEAs,  laying   of  demonstrations,  payment  of transportation  for  field  staff,  servicing  of  vehicles  among  other things, is badly affected. This situation continues to negatively affect the performance of extension advisory services thereby threatening the  realisation  of  the  strategic  objectives  of  the  Extension  Service Policy.

WEAK INSTITUTIONAL COORDINATION
Although MoFA and the DAES are performing satisfactorily well in the  face  of  resources  constraints,  uncoordinated  extension programming  and  limited  networking  has  resulted  in  the duplication  of  effort  and  wastages  in  the  delivery  of  extension services.  A lot more can be achieved should the challenges be resolved or removed.



POLICY RECOMMENDATION

1. CLARIT Y ON STANDARDS FOR PRIVATE EXTENSION SERVICE DELIVERY
There is need for MoFA to develop standards and guidelines for the implementation of extension services for all actors in the sector.  The  guidelines  for  extension  delivery  should focus  on  code  of  ethics  and  standards  for  extension providers;  and  establishment  of  regulatory  body  for registration  and  accreditation  of  extension  providers  and practitioners.
MoFA should also build the capacity of private sector to operate.

2.  MAL-FUNCTIONING FARMER-BASED ORGANIZATIONS (FBOS)
MoFA  should  collaborate  with  NGOs  to  reorient  existing FBOs  to  bring  back  the  spirit  of  voluntarism  in  grassroots advocacy movements.
Extension service agents should facilitate access to credit for small scale farmers, especially, those that belong to FBOs, to ensure  smallholder  farmers  take  advantage  of  existing  and new  technological  innovations.  Access to credit will also reduce reliance on hand-outs that interfere with the running of the FBOs.

3.  EXTENSION HUMAN RESOURCES MANAGEMENT

The welfare and motivation of extension staff are central to an effective national extension service. Extension  officers  need clear  roles  and  objectives  with  appropriate  career development  opportunities  to  do  their  job  effectively.
Adequate training and resources are vital. When officers are scattered  widely,  methods  must  be  found  to  provide interaction,  feedback  and  support,  for  example,  through mobile phone and internet technologies.
In the short term extension graduates should be treated the same way policy makes it possible for nurses and teachers to have guaranteed jobs by posting to new graduates to farming communities where they will be focusing on service delivery to smallholder farmers.
The intention to rely on E-Extension to reach farmers must be pursued cautiously. Ghana has not completely reached a point where E-Extension can be regarded as the solution to inadequate human resources for extension service delivery.
Mobile penetration continues to be a challenge due to rising cost of the  gadget;   poor  network  connectivity  in  the  rural communities,  multiplicity  of  languages, high illiteracy  rate that limit the extent to which mobile phone functions can be utilized  etc.
Besides, some issues bordering on human interaction cannot be replaced with gadgets.


4. GENDER AND EXTENSION SERVICES DELIVERY 
It  is  important  to  note  that  extension  service  delivery  in Ghana's agricultural sector will become effective, efficient, and sustainable if conscious and concerted effort is made to recruit and train women professionals; develop programs for women farmers,  specifically  target  women  to  provide  access  to extension  services;  establish  linkages  with  rural  women's groups;  and  encourage  women  farmers  to  participate  in extension's  program  activities.  MoFA should make the strategic decision to develop and implement gender-sensitive recruitment policy that goes beyond the 30 percent allocation of vacancies agricultural. Such a policy is crucial to address the social and cultural factors prevent women from taking up extension service delivery as a profession.

5. PROMOTING DEMAND-DRIVEN RESEARCH AND EXTENSION SERVICES

To  ensure consistency and coherence in  policy implementation MoFA should undertake  a  participative stakeholder audit every three years to see where government extension  services  are  most  needed,  and  to  identify opportunities for collaboration with NGOs and/or the private sector.

The  same  exercise  can  serve  dual  purpose  by  ensuring  that there is in a place, regular implementation of a monitoring and evaluation  framework  for  extension  services  delivery  to ensure that they are meeting the needs of smallholder farmers.


6. SUPPORTING AND RESOURCING THE POLICY FRAMEWORK/IMPLEMENTATION
There is the need for government to invest in the training of the private sector to build public and private partnerships in the delivery of extension services and the need to invest in new extension approaches such as the use of the mobile phone and other information and communication technologies to deliver extension messages to both male and female farmers to bridge the extension farmer ratio gap.

7.  WHERE TO FIND THE RESOURCES

The Ghana extension services policy can be funded in a variety of  ways:  as  part  of  the  government  budget  for  agricultural development;  through  industry  levies  (for  example,  where farmers or marketers pay a set fee to government each time they sell  their  produce);  or through  affordable 'user pay'  schemes (where farmers pay for specific services/products provided by extension  officers). This will require the intervention of the government to pass laws and exercise their oversight roles to ensure that the right strategic framework and laws, regulations and instruments are in place and functioning effectively. It is important to ensure that funding is aligned to the priorities for the extension service sector.

8.   A FUNCTIONING RESEARCH – EXTENSION - FARMER – LINKAGES - COMMITTEES
The  ministry  of  Food  and  Agriculture  should  be  given  the mandate  to  ensure effective  and efficient coordination of the RELC  process  and  as  well  as  all  activities  undertaken  by government, the private sector and NGOs in the sub sector.

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