Identification Of Constraints And Effective Educational Strategies Influencing The Professional Competencies Of Agricultural Extension Officers

Project and Seminar Material for Agricultural Engineering AE

Identification Of Constraints And Effective Educational Strategies Influencing The Professional Competencies Of Agricultural Extension Officers


Abstract


Agricultural extension contributes to improving the welfare of farmers and other stakeholders by providing access to knowledge and information. This has led to increasing emphasis on effective training strategies to develop extension staff competencies. The study therefore focused on identification of constraints and effective educational strategies influencing the professional competencies of extension officers in Oyo and Ogun states Nigeria. Simple random sampling technique was used in selecting 84 extension officers from 4 agricultural zones in the study areas of which 80 of them completed and returned their questionnaires for analysis. Data were analysed using descriptive (frequency, percentage, mean) and inferential (chi-square, PPMC t-test) statistics. The mean age of respondents was 46 years, majority were males (65.0%), married (95.0%), had household size of 5-6 persons (53.75%), had 9-16 years of job experience (40%) and all had attained tertiary education with 47.5% of them at HND level. FNT/MTRM (=1.91) was considered the most effective education strategy while job shadowing (=0.73) was rated the least effective.

During in-service training (45.7%) was the most preferred period to acquire extension competencies. Organisational management (=19.7)) was the most possessed competency and on the overall, 51.2% of respondents possessed high level of competency. The most severe constraint to acquiring competency was lack of funds (=1.77). There was a significant relationship between age (r=0.244, p<0.05), years of work experience (r=0.224, p<0.05), education delivery strategies (r=0.435, p<0.05) and level of competency. Also there was a significant negative relationship between the constraints to acquiring competencies and competency level of extension officers (r=-0.292, p<0.05). It was recommended that the ADPs should improve on the methodology used during FNT/MTRM by diversifying on teaching methods and involving highly experienced instructors. Also, they should offer incentives and rewards to motivate employees that are vigorously involved in professional development.


Chapter One


Introduction

1.1 Background of the Study

The Agricultural Development Programmes (ADPs) are currently responsible for carrying out the bulk of agricultural extension activities in the states of Nigeria as well as in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. The main aim of the ADPs is to improve the agricultural productivity, income, and general well-being of small scale farmers who are the main focus of all agricultural development projects in Nigeria. Agricultural extension can be broadly defined as all systems that facilitate access of farmers and other clientele to knowledge, information and technologies; facilitate their interaction with partners in research, education, agri-business, other relevant institutions and value-chain actors and assist them to develop their own technical, organisational and management skills and practices (Christoplos 2010) [1] . It is evident from the above definition that agricultural extension contributes to improving the welfare of farmers and other stakeholders and also strengthens the farmer’s capacity to innovate by providing access to knowledge and information (Suvedi and Ghimire 2015) [13]. On the other hand, agricultural extension officers are personnel who are responsible for meeting the goals of extension services under the ADPs. It is important to note that extension service is not just about men from public/private sector agricultural agencies riding around on motorcycles talking to farmers as generally premised, though this stereotype assertion still describes a significant proportion of extension agent’s role. According to Suvedi and Ghimire (2015) [13], the role of extension today goes beyond technology transfer to facilitation; beyond training to learning and includes assisting farmers to form groups, dealing with marketing issues, addressing public interest issues in rural areas such as resource conservation, health, monitoring of food security and agricultural production, food safety, nutrition, family education, youth development and partnering with a broad range of service providers and other agencies in rural development. These roles have led to increasing emphasis on the development of core competencies which are necessary for the extension personnel to perform at maximum and produce expected results. Nwaogu and Akinbile (2018) [9] described competency as an individual’s knowledge, skill, abilities and behaviour which are necessary to effectively perform a specific task and achieve desirable results. It is a combination of skills, job attitude, motives, knowledge, trait and values which are reflected in job behaviour that can be observed, measured and evaluated. In the context of agricultural extension work, competencies refer to extension workers’ skills and knowledge (e.g. human development, leadership development, communication and program development skills), which are necessary to successfully perform extension tasks. Professional competencies are essential to perform jobs well, and most organisations expect their employees to use certain professional tools to help their clients and achieve excellent results. Competencies of extension officers lead to effectiveness in extension organisation which is a product the organisation’s ability to attain and efficiently use existing resources to achieve its goals. For extension officers to function effectively in the present world of increasing globalisation and modernisation, they need to master changing technologies and make use of large volume of available information. In line with this context, the competencies that agricultural extension officers need to meet their goals have become more complex, requiring more than the mastery of certain narrowly defined skills. As such, there is also a need to identify and adopt appropriate and effective training methods as well as devising means to reduce constraints in order to enhance the competency level of extension officers. The discussion on educational strategies to enhance competency acquisition and constraints that limits competency improvement will contribute to the understanding of how the different concepts of training methods may create or not a conducive environment for competency improvement. Learning outcomes are essentially evidence of having acquired competencies. They attest to the effectiveness of an education strategy in delivering quality training and effective learning. The success of extension workers depend on the type and intensity of various education methods and techniques used during their training sessions; how they in turn educate farmers in order to persuade them to adopt new technologies and their ability to apply extension philosophy and principles effectively. Inadequate knowledge of subject matter usually makes the agricultural extension workers to lose confidence when facing farmers. Therefore, to be effective, such staff must have practical knowledge and training in all aspects of agriculture as well as in marketing, psychology, rural sociology and human relation in order to influence rural farm families. All these are essential tools that would enable them to work successfully with the farmers and rural households and cooperate harmoniously with representative of other agencies as well as playing a leading role in identifying and implementing rural development programmes. To achieve these, periodic in-service training as well as attendant to conferences, workshops and seminars will play a vital role in bridging the gap between the expected and actual levels of competencies. There are sporadic studies on criticism that extension was not being able to perform the necessary changes in the rural communities (Sallam and Akram, 2005) [10]. However, only little empirical literature exists on effective education strategies and constraints that influence extension officers’ competencies in the study area. This has made it necessary to access the level of competencies of extension workers and how some educational strategies and constraints influence these competencies. In a study by Lakai, Jayaratne, Moore, and Kistler (2012) [6], they found that extension agents perceived in-service training as the best opportunity to develop their core competencies while Solomon (2010) [12] discovered that FNT and MTRM were the predominant education methods at the ADPs for training the extension officers in Kogi state Nigeria. However, little is known about the effect of different training methods on competency levels. Understanding the best period to acquire competency and adopting an effective education strategy is necessary for effective learning and competency improvement. The need for continuous training of extension officers cannot be overemphasized. Wallace and Howell (2000) [14] pointed out that the training given to extension officers is usually inadequate and therefore should be a continuous process. They stressed that most training efforts are concentrated on the pre-service training, which is often too theoretical and provides little opportunity to practice what has been learned in real situation. Therefore, if little attention is given to continuous in-service training, the extension officers will be outdated and may not be competent enough to face the present day challenges on their job.


1.2 Statement of the Problem

For extension officers to function effectively in the present world of increasing globalisation and modernisation, they need to master changing technologies and make use of large volume of available information. In line with this context, the competencies that agricultural extension officers need to meet their goals have become more complex, requiring more than the mastery of certain narrowly defined skills. As such, there is also a need to identify and adopt appropriate and effective training methods as well as devising means to reduce constraints in order to enhance the competency level of extension officers. The discussion on educational strategies to enhance competency acquisition and constraints that limits competency improvement will contribute to the understanding of how the different concepts of training methods may create or not a conducive environment for competency improvement. Learning outcomes are essentially evidence of having acquired competencies. They attest to the effectiveness of an education strategy in delivering quality training and effective learning.

The success of extension workers depend on the type and intensity of various education methods and techniques used during their training sessions; how they in turn educate farmers in order to persuade them to adopt new technologies and their ability to apply extension philosophy and principles effectively. Inadequate knowledge of subject matter usually makes the agricultural extension workers to lose confidence when facing farmers. Therefore, to be effective, such staff must have practical knowledge and training in all aspects of agriculture as well as in marketing, psychology, rural sociology and human relation in order to influence rural farm families. All these are essential tools that would enable them to work successfully with the farmers and rural households and cooperate harmoniously with representative of other agencies as well as playing a leading role in identifying and implementing rural development programmes. To achieve these, periodic in-service training as well as attendant to conferences, workshops and seminars will play a vital role in bridging the gap between the expected and actual levels of competencies.

In a study by Lakai, Jayaratne, Moore, and Kistler (2012) [6], they found that extension agents perceived in-service training as the best opportunity to develop their core competencies while Solomon (2010) [12] discovered that FNT and MTRM were the predominant education methods at the ADPs for training the extension officers in Kogi state Nigeria. However, little is known about the effect of different training methods on competency levels.

Understanding the best period to acquire competency and adopting an effective education strategy is necessary for effective learning and competency improvement. The need for continuous training of extension officers cannot be overemphasized. Wallace and Howell (2000) [14] pointed out that the training given to extension officers is usually inadequate and therefore should be a continuous process. They stressed that most training efforts are concentrated on the pre-service training, which is often too theoretical and provides little opportunity to practice what has been learned in real situation. Therefore, if little attention is given to continuous in-service training, the extension officers will be outdated and may not be competent enough to face the present day challenges on their job. These competencies can be acquired in various ways including formal and informal education, induction courses, in-service training, refresher courses, seminars, workshops and conferences. As a result of the Unified Agricultural Extension System (UAES), the extension officers in in the study area have a lot of responsibilities in attending to the needs of their numerous clienteles in various remote communities and as such needs to constantly update their skills through effective training. It is against this backdrop that the study was carried out to identify the education strategies and constraints that influence the acquisition of competencies by extension officers so that appropriate recommendations can be made to enable ADPs plan effectively.


1.3 Objectives of the Study

The main objective of this study is to identify the constraints and effective educational strategies influencing the professional competencies of agricultural extension officers.

Other specific objectives of the study are:

  1. To identify effective education strategy for developing competencies of agricultural extension officers.
  2. To identify the most preferred period to acquire competencies in extension service.
  3. To determine the level of competency possessed by respondents.
  4. To identify the constraints that limit the acquisition needed competencies.

1.4 Research Questions

The specific objectives of the study were to;

  1. What are the effective education strategy for developing competencies of agricultural extension officers?
  2. What is the most preferred period to acquire competencies in extension service?
  3. What is the level of competency possessed by agricultural extension officers in Oyo and Ogun State?
  4. What are the constraints that limit the acquisition needed competencies?

1.5 Research Hypotheses

The following null hypotheses were formulated to be tested in this study:

  • H01: There is no significant contribution of the education delivery methods to the competency level of extension agents.
  • H02: There is no significant relationship between the perceived constraints and competency level of extension agents.

1.6 Significance of the Study

This study seeks to outline professional competencies relevant to the need of agricultural extension officers in carrying out their assigned duties. This will aid them strive to acquire such competencies. It will also guide extension managers and trainers in their effort to facilitate and direct extension officer’s knowledge acquisition effort.

This study will further serve as a knowledge guide to the public target and as a reference material to students and researchers who might carry out further study on this topic or related domain.


1.7 Scope / Limitations of the Study

The main scope of this study is to identify effective education strategy for developing competencies of agricultural extension officers, identify the most preferred period to acquire competencies in extension service, determine the level of competency possessed by respondents, and identify the constraints that limit the acquisition needed competencies. This study is limited to only Oyo and Ogun state.

Fund, time and availability of materials were the major constraints the researcher encountered while carrying out this study.


1.8 Definition of Terms

Competencies:

Is a skill, a personal characteristic or a motive demonstrated by various behaviors which contribute to outstanding performance in a job.

Agricultural Extension:

Is a professional communication intervention deployed by organisations to disseminate agriculture knowledge and technologies to rural communities.


Chapter Five


Conclusion and Recommendation

5.1 Conclusion

In this study, our focus was In this study, our focus was on the identification of constraints and effective educational strategies influencing the professional competencies of agricultural extension officers in Oyo and Ogun states. The study specifically was aimed at ascertaining the effective education strategy for developing competencies of agricultural extension officers, their most preferred period to acquire competencies in extension service, the level of competency possessed by agricultural extension officers in Oyo and Ogun state and the constraints that limit the acquisition needed competencies.

The study adopted the survey research design and randomly enrolled participants in the study. A total of 84 responses were validated from the enrolled participants where all respondent are active workers extension officers in the study areas.

The findings revealed that The mean age of respondents was 46 years, majority were males (65.0%), married (95.0%), had household size of 5-6 persons (53.75%), had 9-16 years of job experience (40%) and all had attained tertiary education with 47.5% of them at HND level. FNT/MTRM (=1.91) was considered the most effective education strategy while job shadowing (=0.73) was rated the least effective. During in-service training (45.7%) was the most preferred period to acquire extension competencies. Organisational management (=19.7)) was the most possessed competency and on the overall, 51.2% of respondents possessed high level of competency. The most severe constraint to acquiring competency was lack of funds (=1.77). There was a significant relationship between age (r=0.244, p<0.05), years of work experience (r=0.224, p<0.05), education delivery strategies (r=0.435, p<0.05) and level of competency. Also there was a significant negative relationship between the constraints to acquiring competencies and competency level of extension officers (r=-0.292, p<0.05).


5.2 Recommendation

The overall level of competence of extension officers in the study area is moderately high. Also, there is a gap between the level of importance of competencies and the level of possession of competencies and as such, there is need for training the extension officers in Oyo and Ogun state ADPs to enable them improve on their current level of competencies for effective and efficient service delivery. Hence; the ADPs in the study area should organise annual in-service training programmes for extension officers to help them improve on their current level of competencies in all the listed areas. In a situation where the government is unable to sponsor such programmes, private donor agencies should be approached for sponsorship.

When in-service training opportunities are provided, it is important to give priority to those competencies with higher percentage of positive discrepancy values like programme planning, programme evaluation and research and communication skill; to improve the performance of extension agents in those competency areas. Also preference should be given to younger and less experienced extension officers when selecting staff that will participate in such training since they have more years to contribute to the success of the organization.

The ADPs should adopt short-term courses/workshop held at zonal level as a major training method; they should also improve on the methodology used during FNT/MTRM by diversifying on teaching methods, involving highly qualified and experienced instructors and combining two or more effective education strategies to complement each other.


Identification Of Constraints And Effective Educational Strategies Influencing The Professional Competencies Of Agricultural Extension Officers


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