Akwa Ibom State Women Farmers Satisfaction with Agricultural Extension Services for Improved Cassava Production

Dr. (Mrs) Etop Nkereuwem Essien & Dr. D.P. Okon
Agricultural Education Unit
Department of Vocational Education
University of Uyo, Uyo.
Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria.
corresponding author: etopessien1999@yahoo.com

Abstract


The  paper  assessed  the  extension  service  delivery  to  women  farmers  engaged  in  cassava production in Akwa Ibom State. The population of the study consisted of the 625 registered women cassava farmers and the 76 agricultural extension agents in the state, totaling 701. Multistage sampling was used in the selection of 174 cassava farmers, while all the 76 agricultural extension agents were involved in the study. This gave a sample of 250 respondents. Data for the study were collected through the use of a structured questionnaire tagged “Agricultural Extension Services and Cassava Production Questionnaire (AESCPQ). The instrument was duly validated and tested for reliability using the Cronbach alpha formula. The reliability coefficient of .71 was obtained. T-test statistics was used to test hypothesis one at .05 level of significance while analysis of variance was used for hypothesis two. The result indicated the availability of agricultural extension services to the women farmers in the state. On the level of satisfaction with the agricultural extension services, the result indicated that the women farmers were relatively not satisfied with the extension services rendered by the agricultural extension agents. It was concluded that women farmers engaged in cassava production enjoy a measure of extension services in certain areas of cassava production, but were relatively not satisfied with the quality of extension services provided to them. On the basis of this, it is recommended among other things that extension services to cassava farmers should be provided in the areas of agrochemicals, herbicide application, pesticide application, tractor hiring services, credit facilities and social network by the extension agents; and that Women farmers should be more regularly exposed to workshops and seminars to upgrade their knowledge on new discoveries in cassava production.


Keywords:   Women   Farmers   Satisfaction,   Agricultural   Extension   Services,   Cassava Production

Introduction

Cassava is the most widely cultivated tuber crop in sub-Saharan Africa and the second most important staple food in terms of per capita food energy consumed (Odebode, 2008). Because of its tolerance to extreme ecological stress conditions and poor soils, cassava plays a major role in reducing food insecurity and rural poverty. Cassava production in the region has grown sharply over the last two decades. Between 1980 and 2001, total output rose from 48 to almost 94 million tonnes, while the area under cultivation rose from 7 to 10 million hectares. Today, sub-Saharan Africa accounts for more than half of global cassava production.

Although cassava is generally considered as a traditional subsistence crop, the recent introduction of new varieties (such as the TMS 4 (2), TMS 30572 varieties of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture) has transformed its status from that of a low-yielding famine reserve crop to a high-yielding cash crop. With the aid of mechanical graters to prepare garri (roasted granules, a value-added product), cassava is increasingly being produced and processed as a cash crop for urban consumption. This trend is partly attributable to the fact that cassava has multiple  uses.  As  a  food,  it  can  be  used  for  baking,  snacks,  soups,  beverage  emulsifiers, powdered nondairy creamers and confections. Cassava starch is also used in various industrial sectors, such as paper manufacturing, cosmetics and pharmaceutics.

Cassava as a “woman’s crop” is becoming more evident. Women undertake most processing activities, such as peeling, washing and transporting to grating and milling sites, where cassava meal and grated cassava are stacked in sacks and placed in traditional processors for the starch to drain off. Nowadays, it is mostly women and young girls who undertake the sieving and roasting of gari.

A recent study shows that women’s labour is becoming increasingly significant in cassava production also. Otim – Nape (2012) stated that men still play central roles in land preparation and ploughing but women provide the bulk of the labour for weeding, harvesting, transporting and processing. The later stages of transportation, processing and marketing are also handled mainly by women.  The recent rise in commercial cassava production will accord even greater importance to the role of women, as it is in the post-harvest activities that women’s labour predominates.

It is now widely demonstrated that rural women, throughout the world are engaged in a range of productive activities yet women’s substantial contribution continues to be systematically marginalized and undervalued in conventional agricultural and economic analyses and policies, while men’s contribution remains the central, often the sole, focus of attention. Women are typically, and wrongly, still characterized as “economically inactive” in statistical surveys of agriculture (Janelid, 2005). Agricultural extension services still do not attach much importance to reaching women farmers or women on the farm. Policy makers and administrators typically still assume that men are the farmers and women play only a “supportive role” as farmers’ wives (Samanta, 2009).

The recognition of the dominant role of Nigerian Women in agricultural production and the need to modify extension systems to address the issue was brought effectively to the attention of Nigerian’s agricultural authorities after a series of World Bank study mission to a number of Agricultural Development Programme (ADP) in the country. The studies confirmed that women are indeed responsible for as high as 70 percent of actual farm work and constitute up to 60 percent of the farming work in some areas. In spite of these, women received little or no information from extension agents. This led to the National council on agriculture directive in 1989 to set up Women in Agriculture (WIA) programme in the Agricultural Development Programme (ADP) which would ensure extension service supports to women farmers (Agu, 2001).

The Women in Agriculture (WIA) programme was therefore established in response to the needs of women farmers which were not being met by regular extension service. World Bank (2003) explained that Women in Agriculture (WIA) is a programme introduced with a focus. The focus  brings  into  limelight  the  important  role  played  by  women  farmers  in  agricultural production and so causes a considerable slight from much attention on home related activities to agricultural production and post-harvest technologies.

The overall objective of the WIA is to ensure full participation of women in agriculture with the aim of increasing productivity and income. The specific objectives are to:

i. Identify the key production constraints and provide solutions towards increasing women farmers’ agricultural productivity;

ii. Source and develop in collaboration with research institutions, suitable recommendations for activities solely or predominantly performed by women;

iii. Train and encourage women to adopt improved and appropriate technologies and;

iv. Collaborate, with other national and international agencies that have programmes for women.

Agricultural  extension  literally  means  the  transfer  of  some  Agricultural  related knowledge from one point (the Source) to  the other (receiver) with  the aim  of increasing agricultural productivity and income. Essien (2016) stated that agricultural extension service is an educational process that aimed at communication of useful information to farmer and helping them  to  learn  how  to  use  the  resources  within  their  reach  to  solve  their  own  problem. Agricultural extension has three main facets: (i) As a discipline it deals with the behaviour of people: It is educational in content and purposive in approach. Whether the content consists of agriculture, medicine, education, engineering etc,  extension is  always  dependent on  a  firm knowledge  and  expertise;  (ii)  As  a  process,  agricultural  extension  seeks  to  influence  the behaviour of rural farmers through education and information exchange; (iii) As a service, agricultural extension makes the government ministry, the university or voluntary agency as useful as possible to the people who support it through taxes and donations.

Agricultural extension agents discharge their responsibility by using various strategies to encourage farmers to adopt agricultural innovations. These strategies include establishment of farm institutes, extension work station, experimental farms, visits to farms and various types of farm settlement schemes. Access to adequate information is very essential to increased agricultural productivity.

The role of agricultural extension is very crucial in improving agricultural development in Nigeria. It does this by facilitating the education of farmers to improve their skills, knowledge and attitude as related to agricultural development. It takes the problem of farmers to research institutions for solution. It utilizes demonstration farms, farm visits, audio visuals and other methods in teaching farmers (Jibowo, 2000). The extension agents also have their problems and challenges. They are still few in number with low extension agents to farmers’ ratio. While FAO recommends one extension agent to 800 farmers, the ratio in Nigeria ranges from 1:500 in Niger State to 1:5800 in Lagos State with national average of 1:1986 (Ihimodu, 2002). They are also poorly motivated in terms of remuneration and provision of transport facilities to visit the farmers. Many of the extension agents live far away from the farmers thereby minimizing interaction between them and the farmers. Jibowo (2000) had earlier asserted that if these and similar problems were solved, extension could become an instrument for effective agricultural development.

Odebode (2008) confirmed that there are enough packages on the technological shelves and that the missing link is an effective agricultural system to disseminate available technologies. The constraints affecting rural women’s ability to improve yield, profit, and efficiency in agriculture include among others the way that agricultural services are staffed, managed, and designed (Ekong, 2007).

Williams (2008) assert that education is one of the variables for achieving economic growth, and extension education is concerned with the educational task of disseminating useful and modern agricultural information to farmers. Women farmers, like their male counterparts, need training in technical knowledge if their productivity is to be enhanced.

This study therefore aims at assessing the impact of Agricultural extension services on cassava production by women farmers in Akwa Ibom State.

Purpose of the Study

The study was carried out to assess the extension service delivery to women farmers on improved cassava production in Akwa Ibom State. Specifically, the study sought to:

  1. Investigate the agricultural extension services available to women farmers engaged in cassava production in Akwa Ibom State.
  2. Determine the farmers’ level of satisfaction with the extension services.

 

Research Questions

The following research questions were formulated to guide the study.

  1. 1. What agricultural extension services are available to women farmers engaged in cassava production in Akwa Ibom State?
  2. 2. What is the level of satisfaction of the farmers regarding the extension services rendered to them?

 

Null Hypotheses

The following null hypotheses were formulated and tested at .05 level of significance.

  1. 1. There is no significant difference in the mean responses of women farmers engaged in cassava production and extension agents on the availability of agricultural extension services for their use.
    1. 2. There is no significant difference in the mean responses of women farmers engaged in cassava production on their level of satisfaction with the agricultural extension services available to them.

     

    Methodology

    The ex- post facto research design was adopted for the study as the variables under study were already on ground and could not be manipulated. The study area was Akwa Ibom State. The population of the study stood at 625 registered cassava women farmers in the three zones (Uyo zone 241 women cassava farmers; Ikot Ekpene zone 196; and Eket zone 188); and the 76 agricultural extension agents in the state. Multistage sampling procedure was employed in the selection of cassava farmers for the study. The first stage involved a random selection of 3 Local Government Areas (LGAs) from each of the 3 Agricultural Development Programme (ADP) zones in the State, making a total of 9 LGAs. At the second stage, two communities were purposively selected from each of the LGAs, giving a total of 18 communities. The third stage involved the proportionate sampling of 28 percent of the population of registered ADP women cassava farmers in each of the selected communities. This gave a sample of 174 women farmers, while the 76 extension agents were involved, making a total sample of 250 respondents.

    Data for the study were collected through the use of a structured questionnaire tagged “Agricultural Extension Services and Cassava Production Questionnaire (AESCPQ). T-test statistics was used to test hypothesis one at .05 level of significance while mean and standard deviation was used for hypothesis two.

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