Contemporary Issues 3

Chief Barr Leonard Onwuzuruike

Chief (Barr) Leonard Onwuzuruike

Many of these problems derive from the farmer’s place in the social and political structure of the rural area.

Farmers and their families are involved in a complex web of relationships with other farmers in the area and these relationships often cause problems.

Dependence upon a money-lender, for example, is a problem facing many farmers in developing countries.

Farmers may also have little access to the resources necessary for development, and no way of getting such resources.

Finally, they may have had very little contact with rural development programmes or other government services, and may not know how to take advantage of such activities.

It should be emphasized that the problems of a farmer are complex and not all of them are physical or tangible. With this in mind, the kinds of strategies which rural development programmes can adopt can be considered.

The first point to make is that there is no one strategy which is relevant to the problems of all rural areas.

Different areas have different kinds of problems and the strategy must be adapted accordingly.

There are three broad rural development strategies to be considered.

Technological: Here, the emphasis is on technological transformation of different aspects of the rural society, for example, improved cropping practice or better water supply, by the provision of the inputs and skills required to bring about the transformation.

Reformist: In this strategy, importance is also attached to technological change, but with a corresponding effort to provide the means by which the farmer can play a bigger part in rural development, for example, through organizational development, or participation in rural development programmes.

Structural: This strategy seeks to transform the economic, social and political relationships which exist in rural areas in such a way that those who were previously disadvantaged by such relationships find their position improved. This strategy is often carried out by means of an agrarian reform programme.

The above strategies are not presented as concrete models to be followed without question. Nor is it suggested that rural development programmes must adopt any one strategy.

They are presented to show the range and mixture of strategies which a rural development programme can follow. A farmer’s problems will probably demand different action at different levels if they are to be tackled in a comprehensive manner.

PRINCIPLES OF RURAL DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMMES

Rural development strategies usually take the form of programmes which implement projects in a specific rural area.

Such programmes form the basis of most government and non-government efforts to assist rural areas, and they include agricultural and non-agricultural projects, for example, maternal and child health programmes.

Specialized staff supply the expertise required, and ministerial or other institutional budgets provide the necessary financial resources. External aid is also usually channelled into such programmes in rural areas.

While this lecture does not intend to examine the areas of programme planning or implementation, it does suggest a number of very broad principles which should be followed by rural development programmes.

The content of these programmes is a matter for specialists in a particular field: agriculture, health or water supply. It is important, however, for all such programmes to establish beforehand a set of principles to guide their activities.

The following principles are suggested to implement rural development programmes.

ACCESS: Try to ensure that the programme and its benefits reach those in need, and beware of the consequences if some farmers have access to the programme while others do not.

INDEPENDENCE: Devise a programme which helps and supports the farmer but does not make him or his livelihood dependent on the programme.

SUSTAINABILITY: Ensure that the programme’s plans and solutions are relevant to the local economic, social and administrative situation. Short­ term solutions may yield quick results, but long-term programmes that are suitable to the local environment have greater success.

GOING FORWARD: Technological aspects of rural development programmes should help the farmer take the next step in his development and not demand that he take a huge technological leap. It is better to secure a modest advance which can be sustained than to suggest a substantial advance which is beyond the ability of most.

PARTICIPATION: Always try to consult the local people, seek out their ideas and involve them as much as possible in the programme.

EFFECTIVENESS: A programme should be based on the effective use of local resources and not necessarily on their most efficient use. While efficiency is important, its requirements are often unrealistic. For example, the maximum use of fertilizer is beyond the means of most farmers. But effective use of resources, which is within the capabilities of most farmers, will have a better chance of a wider impact.

THE IMPORTANCE OF EXTENSION

Within the framework presented in this write up, the concept and practice of the central issue of this lecture must now be examined:

EXTENSION WORK IN RURAL COMMUNITIES: Extension is essentially the means by which new knowledge and ideas are introduced into rural areas in order to bring about change and improve the lives of farmers and their families.

Extension, therefore, is critically important. Without it, farmers would lack access to the support and services required to improve their agriculture and other productive activities.

The critical importance of extension can be understood better if its three main elements are considered.

KNOWLEDGE, COMMUNICATION AND FARM  FAMILY: Extension is not concerned directly with generating knowledge; that is done in specialized institutions such as agricultural research centres, agricultural colleges or engineering departments.

Extension takes this knowledge and makes it available to the farm family. Rural extension, therefore, is the process whereby knowledge is communicated, in a variety of ways, to the farm family.

This process is usually guided and supported by an extension agent who works at the programme and project level, and who is in direct contact with farmers and their families.

To do this extension work, agents have to be trained in the different aspects of the extension process.

One aspect of this training is giving the agent the technical or scientific knowledge required for the job. This is usually done during the agent’s professional training; however, it is only one element in the process.

The other two elements of the process are equally important. It is not enough for an extension agent to have technical knowledge; he must also know how to communicate this knowledge and how to use it to the benefit of the farm family.

Training in extension is an equally important aspect of the training of any agent who wishes to work with farmers.

CONCLUSION

In practical form, let us as a community articulate and package our human resources towards exploring our talent to develop our human potential because development is all about training our human resources and imbibing a culture of hard work in the lives of the youth of Abba Ama Ano.

Maybe, we should also plan a scholarship programme for those that have manifested or excelled in intellectual competence. Human development is the bedrock of all other developmental endeavours.

Thank you for giving me this wonderful opportunity to share my ideas with you this great day.

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