The effects of agricutural extension services on farmers' productivity: a study of the services in Nkuene Division of Meru Central District
Gitonga, Juster K
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A consensus exists that extension services, if functioning effectively, improve agricultural productivity through providing farmers with information that helps them to optimize their use of limited resources. However, flaws in the extension system have lead to the emergence of another form of extension provided by the private sector including NGOs, CBOs, and FBOs. These work together with the public sector and commodity based sectors to increase the provision of extension services particularly to the small scale and resource poor farmers. The broad objective of the study was thus to find out the effect these extension service providers have on farmer productivity and in particular to: (i) Find out the socio economic factors that influence farmer productivity; (ii) Find out the accessibility to extension services by the farmer and how it affects his farm productivity; and (iii) Establish effectiveness of the extension methods used in service delivery to the farmer. One hundred and twenty farmers were randomly sampled and interviewed in Mitunguu and Mikumbune Locations of Nkuene Division in Meru District. The farmers were visited and interviewed using a semi-structured schedule. Questions posed to the farmers covered the area of socioeconomic characteristics of the farmers, types of organization offering information and type of services offered, accessibility to these services, methods of service delivery used and farm productivity . Main results of the study were that use of agrochemicals, farm labour, and size of land positively affected farm productivity. Awareness of extension services was 95% with nearly half of the respondents admitting that extension services were very appropriate in their farming activities. The frequency of visits by the extension staff revealed that the system where provision of farming by a plurality of institutions was effectively operational with the majority of farmers (89.9%) having been visited at least once during the last year. Government institutions lMOA accounted for (65.8%) of the main source of information, group dissemination 41.2%, NGOs (8.35%) and FBOs (35.8%). This showed that the government continued to play an active role in the information dissemination process. Lack of finances for farm investment was one of the main constraint affecting 65.8% of the farmers and 18.3% of them felt that apart from increased contact and association with the service providers, the latter should give advice on markets accompanied by material support for effective implementation of better methods of farming.