Improving farm extension
Tahir Ali Khan
August 1, 2011: A highly minute per cent of farmers in
Khyber Pukhtunkhwa use modern technology when it comes to
agriculture. - File photo
ONLY about 20 per cent of farmers in Khyber Pukhtunkhwa use
modern technology in agriculture. This is because either
most of them have no money, or if some of them have, they
are ignorant and not inclined to use it.
The agriculture extension services staff has not made
growers aware of the advantages of the modern farming
technology or motivated them to use it.
Agriculture worldwide has undergone tremendous developments
and various technologies are used for ploughing, sowing,
harvesting and packing crops. But most of our local farmers
are still stuck to traditional ways of agriculture,
resulting in low yields, wastage of assets like water and
30-40 per cent loss of farm-produce.
Farmers either reject or adopt innovations on the basis of
their awareness, interest, experience, product cost and
their financial position. They are usually too conservative,
ignorant and poor to adopt new technologies and strategies,
but once the utility of the system is established, they
quickly adopt it. But it requires expertise, profuse
contacts and sufficient strength of extension personnel,
which unfortunately are lacking.
Instead of following a proactive approach in its interaction
with growers, the agriculture extension officials primarily
wait for them to come to it with their problems to get them
solved. One wonders why this can’t be the other way round
i.e. the directorate staff reaches the farmers at their
doorsteps to do the required job.
“Agricultural extension department is mandated to provide
research technology to farmers, convey growers’ feedback to
agricultural researchers and keeps them abreast of the field
problems for further improvement in their research work. It
is supposed to contact and train farmers, check sale of fake
fertiliser and pesticides, collect data and prepare reports
on crops and extension materials for farmers, supporting
donors and dealers.
But the extension directorate has given up these functions.
Its officials now seldom visit fields and farmers. There is
no interaction and liaison with farmers to know their
problems and needs,” said Haji Niamat Shah, vice-president
of Anjuman-i- Kashtkaran, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
According to him, till the recent past, officers regularly
visited farmers and fields. There were daily farmer-specific
radio and TV programmes, agriculture extension shows and
melas and film shows at village levels, and spraying and
pruning of orchards by extension officials.
Fruit plants were also provided to farmers but there is
nothing of this sort these days,” he complains.
The extension service has suffered both from insufficient
capacity and commitment as well as paucity of staff. Out of
2,654 personnel of the department in 2004, there were only
38 technical officials while field staff numbered 2,129 who
had to cater to the agriculture needs of around 1.4mn farms
in the province.
When an official had to attend 527 farmers on an average,
how could extension duties like making frequent contacts
with farmers and checking of pesticides and fertiliser
dealers for quality be satisfactorily carried out?
Though there is no direct evaluation of the extension impact
– it is indirectly judged from crop yields and cash returns
to farmers etc.. There is no authentic data to show as to
whether high prices of farm produce have benefited growers
more or the middlemen and commission agents?
In 2007-08, model farm services centres were developed for
extension purposes but these bodies are now dormant in most
of the districts. There is no separate statutory law to
govern its functions under which they could be registered.
The department needs to invest on strengthening its
information technology section as its website is not updated
and still displays figures of 2006 on achievements of
agriculture extension services.
The lack of service structure and chances for promotion is
discouraging new talent to join the directorate and the
existing ones are also leaving their services.
There is a need to establish genuine farmers organisations
at village level as community participation is generally
better at micro level.
The government and private sector should establish
agricultural machinery pools and inputs centres at villages
where farmers could get these things and also guidance on
subsidised or deferred payment.
Courtesy: The DAWN