Trained agricultural extension agent: A key player in changing the world with innovations in the global rice sector

Agriculture is a very significant sector of the economy of every nation in the world. Its impact on the sustenance of life and contribution to the national GDP (gross domestic product) cannot be overemphasized. However, there has been a challenge of food insecurity in many nations of the world, mainly due to poor development of the agricultural sector. The good news is that the threats posed by food insecurity can be adequately addressed if the numerous agricultural innovations that have been developed by researchers, scientists, or technologists can be revisited and properly disseminated to the ultimate users (that is, farmers or other actors on the various commodity value chains, who the innovations are appropriate for).

A number of the innovations are still unknown to the farmers and other potential end users because of the weak linkage of extension to research. Gratitude is due to the rice research institutes for the good work being done in ensuring that innovations in the rice sector are well disseminated and adopted. However, there is still a need to do more in order to achieve greater positive impacts in the world.

The role of agricultural extension agents is paramount in ensuring the proper adoption of any significant agricultural innovation (especially those in the global rice sector such as improved rice varieties, improved agronomic practices, among others). Extension agents serve as links between farmers and researchers. They are professionals who are knowledgeable about agricultural concepts and practices, as well as scientific methods. Therefore, it is easier for them to understand any information coming from researchers. In addition, they have been trained to understand the sociology of the rural areas and agricultural communities where the farmers, who constitute the majority of the ultimate end users of agricultural innovations, are located.

Thus, they put into consideration the demographic and socioeconomic characteristics of the farmers and then decide the best and most appropriate means of disseminating the innovations on time.

For innovations in the global rice sector to change the world again, there is a need for their proper and timely diffusion or dissemination. It is important to note that the main aim of dissemination is for the farmers to adopt the innovation and continue its use. Nevertheless, the rate at which farmers learn about innovations and adopt them differ from one place to another.

In order to foster the adoption of innovations in the global rice sector, characteristics of the innovations, such as compatibility, complexity, and cost, should be adequately addressed. The compatibility of the innovation with the lifestyle, values, belief system, and practices of the target audience (farmers) has to be ensured. In addition, the method of use and application of the innovations should be made as simple as possible to ensure that farmers continue using them after the first adoption. Furthermore, it is necessary to ensure that the cost and maintenance of the innovations are not beyond what the farmers can afford.

Having properly understood the characteristics of the target audience and having been ensured that the innovations suit them, the next line of action is to create awareness about the innovations using communication and extension methods that best fit the target audience. Examples of such extension methods are group meetings, radio forums, etc.

Thereafter, awareness about the innovations should be increased so as to arouse the interest in them of potential end users. This could be achieved through demonstrations and examples of success stories.

Moreover, the target audience should be well guided by the extension agent to ensure proper evaluation of the innovations. This could be achieved through result demonstration.

Also, proper guidance of the extension agent is required in trying out innovations for farmers and other potential end users. Successful trials will help in creating positive perceptions about the innovations and therefore aid in their full use.

The continuous use of the innovations by the farmers will thereby result in increased agricultural productivity and food security. In the long run, there will be a positive change in the world as the adoption of these innovations alleviates people from hunger and poverty.

In conclusion, for innovations in the global rice sector to change the world again, there is a need to strengthen the linkage between extension work and rice research institutes. Also, there is a need to ensure that agricultural extension agents are adequately empowered and equipped to effectively and efficiently carry out their professional functions.

Note: The views and opinions on this essay are those of the author's and do not reflect those of the institute and its partners.

Joseph AjirelojaJoseph Ajireloja

Joseph Ajireloja is an agricultural scientist with a specialization in agricultural extension and rural development. He is very passionate about contributing towards agricultural transformation and the improvement of the socio-economic status and the standard living of people in rural communities.