A Professor of Agricultural Extension and Rural Development, College of Agricultural Management and Rural Development (COLAMRUD), Professor Olusegun Apantaku has called on his fellow researchers to embark on truly participatory research and extension services, so that their research findings and recommendations would be acceptable to farmers and other stakeholders. The University Don stated this while disclosing his research findings on farmers’ participatory research and extension services, which have spanned a period of over 20 years.
According to him, researches in Nigeria and Africa in general have not been tailored towards the real needs of the farmers. Rather, the researchers are involved in “Top Down Approach” research, noting that there are many excellent researchers in FUNAAB and in Nigeria but the problem is that many usually come up with research ideas from their tables and they work on them and expect the farmers to adopt their research results. Professor Apantaku described farmers’ participatory research and extension services as the research that actively involves the farmers, right from the conception of ideas to the extension of the outcome, adding that sometimes, the researchers had to stay and live with the farmers for better interaction and understanding of their problems, so as to solve the problems. He likened farmers’ participatory research to American doctor-patient relationship, whereby the doctor would ‘clerk’ and ask the patient questions, and the patient gives a history of his/her health and together, agree the best course of action. They also agree to run some tests in order to have a clearer picture of what is wrong with the patient and then know what medication to administer, instead of making prescription without the patient’s active input and understanding of the situation.
According to the former Dean of COLAMRUD, a researcher may have a good variety of crops that will have a very good yield, yet the farmer may not like it, since the problem may be in the taste or ease of processing. He noted that some yam hybrids may yield so much, but may not be good for pounding. He further disclosed that an inaugural lecturer disclosed his team once had a very wonderful research result, which was even published in international journals, but when it was disseminated to the farmers, they rejected it. The researchers then came to realise that there were some issues that were not considered, because they did not involve and collaborate with the farmers right from the beginning, as a result of which, the researchers had to step the results down to the level and needs of the farmers.
The University Don further added that there were four key levels of participation by farmers. These are: contract participation, whereby the farmers were asked to produce some inputs, services or may be, provide lands, farmers role here is passive; consultative participation, where the researcher consults with the farmers to find out the problems that they are facing, a doctor-patient relationship; Collaborative participation is where the researcher collaborates with the farmers as equal partners, they go to the field together, plant together, apply fertilizer together and they study what is going on and monitor the research together; he added that the highest form of Participation is the Collegiate participation, where the researcher has developed and strengthened the farmers’ informal research capacity to some level that the farmer can do some little research on his own, but when they encounter difficulties, they call on the researcher for assistance. He added that this participatory type is found in the United States of America and in some commercial farms in Africa.
Speaking on participatory extension, Professor Apantaku said that after a research breakthrough, the extension worker will want to disseminate the information and technology to farmers. He noted that it is better that the farmers are allowed to own or actively participate in the extension services, while the researcher or the extension worker stayed in the background, adding that even radio and TV broadcasts should be done by the trained farmers for better result and adoption. He noted that if other farmers hear their fellow farmers talking on radio or watch them on TV, they will believe easily and adopt the result. Speaking further, he said that, the aim of every research is for the outcome of his research to be adopted.
Professor Apantaku lamented that the research grants, which researchers receive from foreign countries and donors do not allow them to conduct researches that are relevant to our farmers’ needs, instead, most of researches were based on the dictates and needs of their sponsors, which make their results unacceptable, the international relevance and quality notwithstanding. The Professor of Agricultural Extension and Rural Development, made a clarion call to the government to increase funding of research in the country so that researchers would not be begging international donors for sponsorship, because such researches would have been influenced and tailored to what the sponsors want.
However, he is of the opinion that the victory of the new American President-elect, Donald Trump, was a blessing in disguise, stating that would he block or reduce the level of development funds being pumped into the country in the form of grant. This, he noted had enriched many researchers while their research results remain irrelevant to local needs. The University Don commended FUNAAB research and development programmes, noting that many had been participatory; particularly, the Cassava: Adding Value for Africa (C:AVA), the organic agriculture, indigenous chicken research, landfill and environmental sanitation, and many others, adding that we can do more in FUNAAB by making all our researches truly participatory.
While expressing his view on extension services, Professor Apantaku suggested that it would be better if the nation develops its own full- blown extension approach, instead of using borrowed models like T&V system (though discarded), which was prescribed by the World Bank, which gave the funds and dictated how the country should practice its extension services. He recommended that states and or the country should develop their unique extension approach, such as a mix of approaches/elements like Farmers Field School and Farmer Promoter Approach. He noted that in the Farmers Field School, the research would be conducted by the farmers after the subject-matter specialist would have trained the farmers on some different trials, different plots for trials. For instance, if they want to show that X fertilizer is better than Y or Z fertilizer, the farmers will have various plots for the three trials, so that other farmers will come and learn and see for themselves that the research is being conducted by their fellow farmers, after which they will adopt the result or recommendation easily.
He also described the other approach, Farmer Promoter Approach as where the some select farmer, implement, promote and showcase the best recommendation from FFS. For instance if the Nitrogen Phosphorus Potassium (NPK) is found to be better than Super Sulphate fertilizer, the Farmer Promoter Approach will promote it and other farmers will come and see the results on the FP’s farm for themselves. He noted that a combination of these two approaches of extension was adopted in Rwanda, where it is called Twigire Muhinzi (meaning our own has worked for us) in their local dialect. This has led to an increase of about 40 percent in food production in Rwanda, saying Nigeria should develop its own approach too.
Prof. Apantaku also observed that the present government had been preaching on going back to agriculture, noting that agricultural productivity cannot increase, since it is basically carried out in the neglected underdeveloped rural areas. He added that without developing the rural areas, by providing the basic infrastructures like electricity, good road network, good water and communication, young people would not leave the urban areas to live in rural areas where they can practice agriculture. According to him, if these infrastructural facilities were put in place with small loans from the government, the young ones would want to stay in the rural areas and practice agriculture. He recalled that during the time of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, agriculture was the country’s main-stay because the road networks and rural infrastructures were in place.
Professor Apantaku, who is currently the National Public Relations Officer of the Nigerian Forum for Agricultural Advisory Services (NIFAAS), recommended that for improved agriculture and food security, rural areas must be well developed with necessary infrastructure in place, and provided with the enabling environment. For better practice of participatory research and extension, researchers and extension workers should be well trained, there should be research leave for University researchers for about 52 days, while more researchers should be sponsored to attend workshops and conferences, so that they can learn more from other people, adding that an academic is a scholar and must continue to learn. According to him, rural extension workers and researchers should be provided with rugged vehicles to be able to operate and move effectively and unhindered.
Professor Apantaku also disclosed that apart from agricultural extension and rural development, he is interested in urban agriculture and animal nutrition; as he was also collaborating with some researchers from other departments to develop cheaper feeds made partly, from cassava leaf, to be used for poultry production. The University Don is also interested in snail rearing and backyard farming. He further called on young researchers, to make themselves available for mentorship by older Professors, adding that researchers should not hesitate to spend their money to train and develop themselves, instead of waiting until when the government would sponsor them. He noted that some lecturers create a wide gap between them and their students as a result of which the students are afraid of them, while pleading that they needed to change their attitude towards their students and make themselves approachable, in order for the students to enjoy a smooth learning relationship.