Agricultural extension services in rural areas will boost productivity

28Mar 2017
Editor
The Guardian
Agricultural extension services in rural areas will boost productivity

AGRICULTURAL production, productivity and profitability have not been improved significantly, as intended in the extension service to farmers in the rural areas.

Although there were well established guidelines and standards in place, the procedures to be used in providing agricultural extension services to farmers lacked.

The agricultural sector plays a predominant role in Tanzania's economic development. It provides employment and a reliable source of livelihood to about 80 per cent of its people and contributes to about 27 per cent of Gross Development Products (GDP).

Agricultural extension plays an important role in production, productivity and profitability since it helps famers to make sustainable use of agricultural and natural resources.

Therefore, growth of agricultural production depends on, among others, efficient provision of extension service to farmers.

However, the Controller and Auditor General states in his performance audit report on provision of extension services to farmers in Tanzania that extension services have not led to a significant increase in production and productivity by small scale farmers.

The possibilities to improve the well being of Tanzanians, whose principal occupation and way of life is based on agriculture, were unnecessarily limited. The CAG analyses several factors that have been contributing to slow improvement of agriculture production and productivity by farmers in Tanzania.
They include poor extension staff coverage and pitiable working facilities.

"The provision of agricultural extension services to farmers was not effectively managed, whereas the monitoring mechanism applied (by relevant authorities) were weak and did not assist in providing an assurance on the effectiveness of extension services provided to farmers."

According to the CAG, other factors include ignorance of agricultural extension staff and poor communication between extension officers and farmers as well as key government institutions.

Tanzania is highly committed to sustainably increasing agricultural production to meet the growing demand for food, industrial raw materials, and foreign currency earnings.

To make this happen, the prime tool in achieving agricultural development, poverty reduction, and food security is bringing agricultural extension services to the people in rural areas.

Apart from responding to the growing demand of farmers and semi-pastoralists, there is a need of dynamic and proactive extension system to elevate the level of the national economic growth.

Rigorous and vibrant extension system is also a fundamental policy instrument for necessary attitudinal changes and creating demands on national agricultural extension programmes.

Beyond changing the attitude of people, the agricultural extension can play a significant role in replacing traditional farming mechanisms by modern and advantageous systems to raise the volume of production and productivity of farmers.

Though development experts are crucial in achieving agricultural development, poverty reduction, and food security, Tanzania has made great efforts to transform the agricultural sector mainly through strengthening its extension services as part of the general agriculture policy reform.

If we look back on the status of the agriculture sector development in the past, considerable efforts were made to improve the extension system of the country, however the system was not bringing the desired results.

Thus, it has significant value to prepare an extension strategy for agricultural development and to scale up the future direction of the extension services.

Since research-based agricultural extension services were began to be provided to the surrounding farming communities by universities.

The country has implemented several agricultural extension systems at different times aimed at supporting rural communities. Under Tanzania's current agriculture development-led industrialization strategy, the extension system remains a critical tool.

The government firmly believes that an effective and efficient extension system plays an important role to transform smallholder subsistence agriculture to commercial agricultural production system.

This will be realized through facilitating the adoption and utilization of yield- and quality-increasing agricultural technologies.

In fact, the extension system in Tanzania has great potential to help farmers throughout the country.