Poverty is one of the fundamental challenges confronting Nigeria, especially in the rural areas. It is reported that more than 50 per cent of Nigerians earn less than two US dollar a day. The existence of wide spread poverty in the rural and urban areas, despite the high food production potentials, is inconsistent with the principle of sustainable development. In the 1960s and 70s, Nigeria was largely self-sufficient in food production in addition to exportation of agricultural commodities in large quantities to many countries. For instance, in 1960s, Nigeria dominated the rest of the world in Cocoa, Groundnut, Oil palm, Cassava and Cotton productions. Then, Nigeria accounted for 42 per cent of the world production of Groundnut, 27 per cent of Oil palm, 18 per cent of Cocoa, 38 per cent of Cassava and 1.4 per cent of Cotton, respectively. Today, the situation has changed and the food insecurity is looming in every cranny of Nigerian environment. In 2012, Federal Ministry Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), reported in its “The Green House Publication” that Nigeria spent averagely N635 billion importing wheat, N356 billion on rice, N217 billion on sugar and N97 billion on fish annually. The import of food items has grown to unsustainable rate of 11 per cent per annum. The situation is likely to deteriorate if urgent steps are not taken to put the country on the path of sustained agricultural growth.

Nigeria’s decline in agricultural production, according to indices, is attributed to various challenges ranging from very low usage rates of agricultural inputs to low mechanisation intensity. Experts from within and outside Nigeria’s shore, subjected these problems to deep analysis at different fora and the conclusion is that Nigerian farmers are inaccessible to effective agricultural extension advisory services. This has been responsible for low yield per unit farmland of many crops thus, making farming to be unprofitable and unattractive to generality of Nigerians. In recent years, agricultural extension and advisory services have been facing many challenges at different levels from local government authority to federal government level.
The major challenges of Nigeria’s agricultural extension and advisory services, have been identified by experts to include lack of coherent extension policy, compounded by policy inconsistencies in the agricultural sector; grossly inadequate and timely funding; poor leadership and coordination, low private sector participation and a very weak Research-Extension-Farmers-Inputs-Linkages (REFIL) system driven by ineffective top-down, supply-driven, extension approaches. These issues have to be addressed to build sustainable agricultural development that can ensure food security to the nation.
Over the years, Nigeria has tried several Agricultural Extension approaches in a deliberate effort to attain the goal of self-sufficiency in food and fibre production. Some of the approaches were highly appreciated and consistent with the diverse nature of Nigeria agricultural systems, policies and practices while others made little impact on the agricultural system. The most popular one is the Training and Visit (T and V) system that started in the 1970s and continued till date. T and V system was responsible for the creation of the Agricultural Development Programmes (ADPs) present in all the 36 states and FCT. The system considers extension as a professional work and seeks means to make it effective, efficient and attractive to the clienteles and practitioners.

T and V Extension System, is a simple agricultural extension approach but consists of a chain of events that must be followed to make it effective. However, the system requires having competent and well-informed (through continues training) personnel to operate it for good results. The essential activity of T and V is the regular visit of extension agent (EA) to farmers with relevant messages and bringing farmers’ problems to the research centres. The methodology for the T and V system, differ from place to place, depending on the agricultural situation, social and administrative conditions. Nevertheless, the essential feathers of the system are continuous training, visits, supervision, monitoring and evaluation of activities. Similarly, the key characteristics of the system are professionalism, single line of command, concentration of effort; time bound work, regular field and farmer orientation, continuous training and linkages with research centres.
Professionalism implies that extension staff must have the capacity to identify constraint, diagnose the real field problems and recommend means of solving such problems. This requires provision of necessary support (materials, skill development and logistics support) to the staff to provide this professional job. Single line of command entails that Professional Agricultural Extension Services must be on one line of technical command and administrative control (top-down approach), which some people fault as undemocratic and un-participatory. Another important feature of T and V system is linkages with Research Centres, extension depends on research for technical recommendations suitable for specific problems and local situation. Thus, Research Centres must support the condition necessary for T and V system to make visible impact on the farmers’ productivity. The centres have to coordinate with extension units to address farmers’ productions constraints. Therefore, operating T and V system, as an effective extension approach, requires taking appropriate decisions to set priorities, concentration of efforts in a few but identifiable goals at a time and showing/exhibiting commitment to professionalism. Playing down any of the essential features may make it the weakest link of the chain, thereby making the system ineffective.
T and V system, was effectively working under the ADP when it was under the World Bank funding and appreciable results were recorded. However, the system has ceased to be effective with the stoppage of World Bank funding since 1990s, despite the existence of ADP structures in all the states and FCT. Thus, Nigerian farmers have since forgotten about ADPs and the T and V system. This is why the new approach of introducing the concept of “Adopted Village” became a welcome development to many stakeholders.

Adopted Village concept was one of the innovations introduced into the Nigerian agricultural research by National Agricultural Research Project (NARP) in 1997. The concept originated from India for agricultural technology testing on the farmer’s field and eventual transfer to the teeming farmers of India. Scientists, under the farmers’ environmental conditions, initiated it to facilitate the trial of new research findings. Advantages of this concept are numerous; farmers’ involvement in the farm technology trials, either as observers, in the case of researcher managed, or executors in the case of farmer managed trials; farmers’ interaction with researchers and vice-versa, etc. It is assumed that farmers’ involvement can speed up the rate of adoption of agricultural technologies to other farmers since the trials also served as a demonstration plot. In the Adopted Village scheme, technologies generated in research institutes are introduced and disseminated to farm families in the adopted villages.

In 2009, the Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria (ARCN), Abuja, reinvented the Adopted Village Concept by directing all National Agricultural Research Institutes (NARIs) to establish adopted villages and schools within 20 km distance from their respective head offices. Such adopted villages and schools are to serve as laboratories for showcasing agricultural technologies developed by the research institutes. Thus, the offices of adopted villages serve as Agricultural Research Outreach Centres (AROCs) managed jointly by farmers and the NARIs. The adopted villages serve as field laboratories and another viable approach for agricultural extension delivery services. In addition, NARIs uses the adopted villages to make direct impact of their research activities on the host communities thereby creating cordial, mutual and beneficial relationship.
In addition, ARCN directed NARIs not to consider the villages as mere field laboratories but as impact villages because the gains from research are not self-evident, research may not receive appropriate levels of support or guidance unless promising results are discovered and disseminated. Thus, the adopted villages are expected to be showrooms for convincing government and donor agencies for more investment in research and extension as a worthwhile venture.
National Agricultural Research Institutes (NARIs) were able to establish 104 adopted villages and adopted schools nationwide within the first two years of re-introduction of adopted village concept in Nigeria. The results of using adopted villages were impressive and thus, the need for up scaling the concept became necessary. This became possible with the commencement of West Africa Agricultural Productivity Programme (WAAPP-Nigeria) in April 2013, a World Bank – ECOWAS funded agricultural project in West African region.

(To be continued)

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In the Adopted Village scheme, technologies generated in research institutes are introduced and disseminated to farm families in the adopted villages.