The adopted village concept involves the process of technology transfer and adoption of the improved packages released by the National Agricultural Research Institutes (NARIs) to the farming communities around the NARIs. The approach brings together the researchers and extension agents working on the farmers’ field to provide solution to the identified field problems. This approach is beneficial to the farmers because they are involved in the planning, development and demonstration of the new technology, which ensures the adoption of the technology. The approach also demonstrates the impact of group activities on productivity and income of the farming community as a whole.
In 2009, the Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria (ARCN), Abuja, reinvented the Adopted Village/School Concept by directing all the 15 National Agricultural Research Institutes (NARIs) and 11 Federal Colleges of Agriculture (FCAs) to establish adopted villages and schools within 20 km radius 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/FCAs. The adopted villages serve as field laboratories and another viable approach for agricultural extension delivery services. In addition, NARIs and FCAs use the adopted villages to make direct impact of their research activities on their hosting communities thereby creating cordial and mutually beneficial relationships.
Basically, the objectives of the adopted schools are to: raise interest among the secondary school students in agriculture and home economics; increase number of students taking agricultural science and home economics in the West Africa Examination Council (WAEC) and the National Examinations Council (NECO) examinations; increase percentage of students to obtain credit in Agriculture and related subjects in WAEC and NECO examinations; increase percentage of the school graduates who read agriculture in tertiary institutions; increase percentage of the school graduates who go into agriculture as a business; increase adoption of improved technologies in school farms; and increase adoption of improved technologies in family farms of the students.
Thus, 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. Therefore, the adopted villages became showrooms for convincing government and donor agencies that investment in research and extension is a worthwhile venture. The NARIs and FCAs were directed to ensure that technologies to be promoted in the farming community of the adopted villages should be economically viable, technologically simple with cultural compatibility of the farming system in the communities. This was done to ensure successful adoption.
The performance evaluation of the adopted villages and schools, was conducted two years after introduction of the concept. The result of evaluation was highly 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.
WAAPP – Nigeria, financially supported, coordinated and monitored the dissemination of technologies by NARIs through the adopted villages when the project was still operating partial implementation. The number of adopted villages then was 52; as at June 2015, the number of adopted villages had increased from 52 to 296, an increase of 469 per cent. Likewise, the number of adopted schools had also increased from 52 to 182, an increase of 250 per cent. The number of beneficiaries of the improved agricultural technologies from the NARIs, also increased tremendously from 17, 789 beneficiaries in 2012 to 575,785 in June 2015. These figures of beneficiaries included the number of farm families.
The increase in the number of adopted villages, adopted schools and number of beneficiaries, could be attributed to the progressive steps taken by WAAPP Nigeria to meet its overall target of 1.5 million beneficiaries at the end of the project period. Firstly, the distance between a research institute and an adopted village, was increased from 20 km radius to 50 km radius and the number of villages was also increased from at least two to at least five. This had made the NARIs to increase the number of adopted villages under their purview, with some having more than 20 adopted communities. Secondly, WAAPP increased the number of partners in the NARIs from 26 in 2012 to 41 as at June 2015 (58 per cent increase). Thirdly, adequate monitoring and supervision of adopted village activities were giving top priority. Thus, an M&E support team was constituted for each NARI by the project to assist in the monitoring of activities in the communities and give suggestion for quick intervention. As at the end of 2016 when first phase of WAAPP-Nigeria projected ended, National Agricultural Research System and 14 Universities were able to establish 334 adopted villages with about 800,000 farm family beneficiaries and 191 adopted schools with about 75,000 students nationwide. The effort met a hiccup as the facilitation support for the project was stopped, which made many adopted villages suffer a setback.
Fortunately, National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services (NAERLS) was one the 15 NARIs, which partnered with WAAPP – Nigeria to use adopted villages’ concept for extension services. NAERLS picked up the gauntlet and advanced the use of adopted village concept to transfer improved agricultural technologies and innovations to rural areas nationwide. NAERLS is a famous vanguard in agricultural extension research and capacity development. NAERLS started with the establishment of seven adopted villages and seven schools across the nation in 2009. Today, NAERLS has close to 200 adopted villages and 150 schools in 33 local governments areas with direct involvement of about 30,000 farmers across the 10 states in the six geo-political zones of Nigeria. NAERLS facilitated farmers to acquire knowledge and skills for enhancing their capacity to increase agricultural productivity and incomes. Thus, farmers were supported to create institutions, which enabled them to effectively organise, formulate and prioritise their needs for appropriate agricultural advisory services. Facilitation activities’ centre on input support, advocacy visits and farmer groups’ educational trips to research institutes or other farmers’ group projects for acquiring new knowledge and exposure. Specifically, the groups were organised and linked to credible sources of inputs. Similarly, NAERLS made provision of credit facilities to the groups for the purchase of improved farm inputs and services aimed at enhancing the groups’ productivity. In April, 2013 wet season, NAERLS made N7 million, an interest – free loan available to 10 of the groups and by January, 2014, the loan was 100 per cent recovered. During the 2014 wet season, as more groups came on board beyond the financial ability of NAERLS to provide soft loan, the groups were linked with ABU Microfinance Bank for credit facilities. Accordingly, 23 farmer groups applied and obtained loan from the Bank worth 21,350,000.00 Naira to purchase fertilizer. In subsequent years, 2015, 2016 and 2017, loans of N45 million, N78 million and N120 million were granted to the farmers of NAERLS’ adopted villages that benefitted tens of thousands of small-scale farmers across the country. Interestingly, the loan was 100 per cent recovered using adopted village concept. The NAERLS adopted village credit facilities – model became a shining example to the agricultural creditors in Nigeria. In this way, farmers access fund for the purchase of the needed farm inputs without any financial support from NAERLS or government. The success of the loan recovery in the last six years was as a result of capacity building and guidance on how to use credit facilities to increase productivity instead of becoming a burden. Many technologies and good practices were transferred to farmers through practical teaching and establishment of demonstration plots with the full participation of farmers groups.
In conclusion, the use of adopted village concept is proved to be an effective way of teaching farmers how to adopt new technologies and innovations that can revolutionalise Nigerian agriculture to attain a high level of food security within the shortest possible time. The concept promotes cost sharing between farmers, government and other relevant stakeholders to enhance agricultural productivity and reduce poverty. This is a pathway to reduce unemployment, poverty and increase sustainable agricultural productivity in Nigeria.
The adopted villages became showrooms for convincing government and donor agencies that investment in research and extension is a worthwhile venture.