An agricultural extension officer or worker is a person who is involved in the dissemination of new ideas and techniques from the research institutes to farmers. He acts as an intermediary between researchers and farmers.
Qualities of a Good Extension Worker
Originality: For an extension officer or worker to succeed as an agent of change, he must be original. He must have the native intelligence to be original in his thoughts, words and action.
Leadership: He must be a leader among leaders. He must be able to know the way i.e. his goal and lead the rural farmers to grasp and embrace that goal. He must be patient and able to inspire the rural farmers to achieve the goal.
Initiative: A good extension worker must have initiative to tackle problems himself before referring them to supervisors. He must be able to take steps without being directed.
Organisational Ability: The success of any extension activity will depend on how it is planned, organised and executed. He should be able to organise training of leaders.
Problem Solving Ability: A good extension worker must be able to recognise problems, define them in simple terms and solve them if they fall within his training and experience.
Clear Judgment: He must possess great foresight, and must be able to appreciate the problems of the farmers on the ground and know what to do to solve them.
Reliability/Honesty: An extension worker must be reliable, a man of his words. If the agency sends him down to the rural area, he should go down to deliver the piece of information and bring back feedback. If the rural farmers discover that he is reliable, they can then assimilate the new innovation and research findings.
Communication Skill: An excellent extension worker must possess good communication skills e.g. good command of local language, boldness and oratorical abilities.
Freedom from Local Politics: A good extension worker must not be involved in the local politics so as to win the confidence of all members of the target group.
Respect for Culture and Traditions: He must be a good mixer for him to succeed. He must be able to come down to their level. He should dress like them, eat whatever they present, possibly drink their water, while not losing his goal for doing all these. By these wise behaviour he will win the hearts of the rural farmers. He should not feel superior to the farmers so as to achieve his goal. He must be approachable.
Technical Knowledge: With sound training, an extension worker must be able to impact knowledge. He should be able to motivate these adult learners to acquire knowledge.
Punctuality and Availability: He should be able to attend all prearranged meetings, seminars, workshops, etc promptly and always make himself available.
Roles of an Extension Worker
He provides agricultural consultancy services: He consults and reflects on rural or agricultural development projects for farmers.
He plans and executes programmes: He plans and executes farming educational programmes.
He organises and supervises farmers’ groups: He organises and supervises farmers’ groups, i.e meetings, co-operatives and their workers’ meetings.
He conducts and organises training for farmers: He conducts and organises training for farmers.
He liaises with other agencies: He liaises with other agencies that may have influence on the rural environment and the farmers.
He assists in improving farmers’ outlook: He helps to improve the outlook of farmers towards their problems or difficulties.
He acts as intermediary between researchers and farmers: He acts as a connecting link (intermediary) between the researchers and the farming communities.
He teaches farming practices: He teaches improved farming practices to farmers.
He evaluates extension programmes: He evaluates agricultural extension programmes and projects.
He supervises agricultural loans usage: He supervises the utilization of agricultural loans.
He locates marketing channels: Extension agents do assist farmers to locate marketing channels for farm produce.
He sources for farm input Extension: Agents also assist farmers to source for farm input like fertilizers, seeds and chemicals.
He sources for farm loans Extension: Workers also assist the farmers to source for loans to enable them to buy various inputs and produce crops and livestock.
Problems Facing an Agricultural Extension Officer
Problems facing an agricultural extension worker or officer in the discharge of his duties include:
High level of farmers’ illiteracy: High level of illiteracy among farmers may affect the rate of adoption of new farming techniques.
Absence of credit facilities: Absence of credit facilities to farmers make them uninterested and prevent the implementation of accepted innovations.
Insufficient motivation of extension agent: Insufficient motivation of the extension workers by way of better remunerations for their effort tends to retard their performance.
Inadequate resources: Extension workers do not have adequate resources such as money to travel or enough materials to supply their target farmers.
Unfavourable attitudes of farmers: Unfavourable attitudes of rural farmers towards government programmes tends to make extension work a bit difficult.
Inadequately trained extension agents: Inadequacy of well trained extension staff makes the extension worker have a wider area and more farmers than he can cope with.
Uncoordinated efforts by government agencies: Uncoordinated efforts by government agencies may lead to confusion and rejection by farmers.
Poor transportation network: Poor transportation network by way of lack of vehicles and motorable roads militates against the extension worker.
Inadequate evaluation machinery: Inadequate evaluation machinery makes it difficult for the agent to assess their own achievement or success.
Non-involvement of farmers in planning programmes: Rural farmers, the ultimate consumers of extension programmes are not involved in planning programmes which results in non-commitment to such programmes when they are introduced.
Language barriers: Language barrier do lead to improper dissemination of new innovations by the extension worker.
Inadequate publicity: Inadequate publicity by way of mass media are not fully utilised in publicising extension programmes.
Qualities of a good agricultural extension agent
Originality in thought, word and action.
He must be a good listener.
Must be patient with people.
Must be honest and transparent.
Must be able to take steps without being directed.
Must be able to organize and implement programmes.
Must be able to offer clear judgement in all issues.
Must stay clear of local politics.
Must know and respect the culture of the people.
Must be able to mingle with other people.
Must have good knowledge of the subject matter.
Must be able to speak the language of the people.
Must be a good communicator.
He must be friendly.
Must be an exemplary leader.
Must be able to solve problems as they arise.