Ethiopia is among the nations around the globe with serious challenges of agricultural
development and food security (Spielman et al., 2010).
The country is predominantly agrarian and agriculture plays an important role
in the national economy accounting about 45% of the total GDP, employing and
supporting about 84 percent of the total population and accounting about 90%
of the exports, but its productivity is very low (Nigussie
and Alemayehu, 2013). Despite the sector significance in its economy, the
country has been food self-insufficient since the last four decades. As a response
to this gap the government had initiated and implemented different agricultural
projects and extension approaches (Belay and Abebaw, 2004).
Agricultural extension and advisory services play an imperative role in agricultural
development and can contribute to improving the livelihood of farmers and other
residents in rural areas (Umeta et al., 2011).
Cognizant of this fact, agricultural extension services were first introduced
in 1953 by the Alemaya University (recently renamed as Haramaya University).
Extension services were later provided to a larger number of farmers in the
1960s under the Comprehensive Integrated Package Projects (Chilalo Agricultural
Development Unit, Wolaita Agricultural Unit and Ada District Development Project).
In the 1980s, the extension system changed into a Training and Visit (T and
V) style system that was favored by the international donor community at the
time. The Participatory Demonstration and Training Extension System (PADETES)
worked with this T and V approach to specifically promote improved seed and
chemical fertilizer succeeded in convincing the government to expand its coverage
under the National Agricultural Extension Intervention Program (NAEIP) in 1995.
These extension programs (PADETES/NAEIP) had been sought to reach to some 9
million small-scale farmers by 2007/08 (Belay, 2002;
Spielman et al., 2010).
In addition, the government of Ethiopia has developed the Plan for Accelerated
and Sustainable Development to End Poverty (PASDEP) in 2005/2006 to accelerate
the transformation of agriculture from subsistence to a more market-oriented
sector. In this plan, the government emphasized the vital role of development
agents during the implementation period. The new five-year plan, the Growth
and Transformation Plan (GTP), which was launched in 2010 did also emphasize
that agriculture will continue to lead the countrys economy in the coming
five years. The plan also predicts that this sector will have a share of about
35% on the GDP of the country in 2015 (Haile and Abebaw,
As part of its commitment to improve the agricultural extension system over
the past six years, the number of development agents increased by about four-fold,
from approximately 15,000 development agents during the PADETES/NAEIP period
to over 60,000 now-a-days. This rapid expansion has been followed by the construction
of farmer training centers in each kebele to offer demand-responsive extension
and short-term training services. Each farmer training center is meant to be
staffed with three extension personnel with a range of technical skills (animal
science, plant science, natural resource management) (Davis
et al., 2010; Haile and Abebaw, 2012).
Even though the government has the aspiration of improving the extension system,
it has faced various problems including: lack of seed financing and operating
funds, no budget for communication, poor technical and business skills and low
linkage among stakeholders (Davis et al., 2010).
Therefore, this study is conducted with the attempt to analyze the main constraints
faced by development agents in Amhara region, Ethiopia.
MATERIALS AND METHODS
The analysis of this study is based on the survey made in the north-western
Ethiopia between January and February 2013. The survey used descriptive survey
design and it employed a questionnaire with close-ended and open-ended type
of questions. The data were collected from 250 sample development agents (165
male and 85 female) who are serving in ten zones of the Amhara region. Systematic
random sampling technique was used to select the respondents. Table
1 provides the regional distribution and the sample. Data were entered and
analyzed using SPSS v. 17.
Measurement: Four focus groups were used to identify the constraints
faced by the development agents in their extension work. In this discussion
it was attempted to incorporate development agents with different professional
backgrounds (plant science, animal science, natural resource management and
rural development); and they were encouraged to list down the constraints. These
identified constraints were included in the final data collection. Considering
their responses, eighteen constraints were selected and they were asked to indicate
the extent of their agreement to each constraint using a Likert-type five points
continuum as strongly agree, agree, neutral,
disagree and strongly disagree; and weights assigned
for these responses were 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1, respectively.
||Sampling distribution of sample respondents by zone
Thus, scores of the respondents for eighteen items could range from 1 to 90.
The reliability of this section was estimated by calculating Cronbachs
alpha coefficient which was 0.798. Constraint Index (CI) was developed to arrange
the items in rank order by using the following formula:
Constraint Index (CI) = (PRSA*5)+(PRA*4)+(PRN*3)+(PRDA*2)+(PRSDA*1)
||Percentage of respondents who strongly agree
||Percentage of respondents who agree
||Percentage of respondents who are neutral
||Percentage of respondents who disagree
||Percentage of respondents who strongly disagree
Constraint Index (CI) in respect of any item could range from 100 to 500; 100
indicating strong disagreement while 500 indicating strong agreement.
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
Profile of development agents: The survey covered both male and female
respondents composing 66 and 34 percent of the sample, respectively as presented
in Table 2. This simple percentage could imply one important
point that the participation of women in extension work showed some improvement
from the past, but still remaining with a lot to narrow the gap.
Table 2 further shows the distribution of the respondents
educational background in that, 58.4 % of the respondents had diploma from agricultural
colleges, whereas the rest of them have received bachelor degree from agricultural
colleges and universities indifferent disciplines in agriculture. From this
it could be witnessed the government commitment in upgrading the development
agents educational status. Among the development agents interviewed, the
highest percentage (31.6%) had been trained in plant science, 30.4% in animal
science, 22.8% in natural resource management and 15.2% in rural development.
One important factor in extension work is the agents background in farming.
In this connection, 72.4% of the respondents had rural background as indicated
in Table 2.
||Demographic characteristics of the sampled development agents
||Age, income and services provided by the development agents
|* Ethiopian Birr
As the majority of the respondents have a rural background, Table
2: Demographic characteristics of the sampled development agents it is believed
that they have first-hand experience and understanding of farmers problems
and management constraints as compared to their contrary.
Table 3 shows the age, income and services provided by the
development agents. The mean age of the development agents is 29.98 years with
the minimum and maximum age of 23 and 50, respectively. On average, the respondents
had served for 7.42 years as development agents with the shortest being two
years and the longest 25 years. But around 70% of the respondents served for
less than 9 years. Given the length of time the development agents served it
is reasonable to assume that they could provide informed judgment on the constraints
faced in their field work.
On the other hand, the average monthly salary of the respondents is Birr 1,737.78
ranging between a minimum and maximum value of 1,114 and 3,776, respectively.
With this income they are expected to support on average 2.81 household members
or individuals. In each kebele there are around 2.71 development agents who
are expected to serve averagely about 968 households who reside in around 9
villages. These numbers although crude are indicative of the challenge development
agents face in providing extension services to the farming households.
Furthermore, the assignment of development agents in each kebele also didnt
consider the number of households, wideness and terrain difficulty of the kebeles.
Development agents agricultural extension information source: Development
agents seek information with regard to their extension activities on a regular
basis. This information is not only required for their knowledge, but also to
satisfy the expectation of their clienteles (Farooq
et al., 2010). As demonstrated in Table 4, the majority
(about 77.2%) of the respondents used the trainings given by the woreda agriculture
office to educate themselves and as source of information on new agricultural
technologies/practices; while about 12 percent of the respondents use
extension manuals and trainings given by the woreda agriculture office as an
important information sources.
||Distribution of sampled development agents by extension information
source, by zone
||Distribution of sampled development agents by their farmer
visit frequency, by zone
On the contrary, the most important source of agricultural extension information,
that is, extension manuals has been mentioned by only 5% of respondents. From
this it can be inferred that the agricultural extension service given by development
agents to the smallholder farmers in the Amhara region mostly relies on information
obtained from the training provided by the woreda agricultural offices. Therefore,
the regional agricultural bureau has to give special emphasis on the quality
of the training provided to the development agents as it is serving as the most
important source of extension information for development agents.
Development agents visit frequency: Respondents were asked about the
frequency of their visit to give agricultural technical advisor services to
their clients. The result provided in Table 5 shows that the
majority of the respondents (around 49%) indicated that they visited the farmers
on weekly basis followed by visit once in two weeks (16.4%) period; and when
time is comfortable is mentioned by 16% of the respondents.
Development agents contact with farmers: The development agents are
expected to provide extension service for all types of farmers in their assignment
areas. But the study result in Table 6 indicates that the
development agents tend to work more closely with middle income farmers in all
zones of the region, with the exception coming from South Wollo, Wag Hemira
and North Gonder.
||Distribution of sampled development agents by their view on
which type of farmers are they mostly in contact, by zone
In these three zones about 63, 71 and 46%, respectively, of respondents reported
that they give more emphasis in their agricultural extension works to poor farmers.
This could imply that the rich farmers did not get enough attention from development
agents or did not look for service. In relation to this one respondent reflected
during the focus group discussion that:
||The rich farmers seem that they do not want our agricultural
extension service in that when we extend our service to them they are mostly
reluctant or not as such responsive. This, I think, is due to the fact that
they didnt witness any development agent that brings significant change
on farmers livelihood
Selection of farmers to participate in agricultural extension packages:
The respondents were asked to point out how the farmers who participated
in different agricultural extension packages were selected in their respective
kebeles and their responses are set out in Table 7. More than
half of the respondents (53.2%) reported that they themselves have selected
the farmers to participate in the different agricultural extension packages.
This suggests that development agents are the crucial actors in identifying
agricultural extension clients and supplying technical inputs to them. The other
important stakeholder in selecting farmers that could participate in agricultural
extension packages was the development group (organizational arrangement consisting
of 20 to 30 households and it started after the initiation of natural resource
management works through public mobilization). In addition, farmers own
initiative to participate was also found to be important. The role played by
kebele chairpersons in selecting farmers to participate in agricultural extension
packages was third to be mentioned. Therefore, from this it could be implied
that there is an improvement in participating the intended users of the services
in extension planning which in past times was very minimal or no inputs at all.
Constraints faced by development agents: Agricultural extension activities
in Ethiopia are operating under many constraints and complex problems to meet
the demands of farmers (Alemayehu, 2009). The summarized
data in Table 8 shows that the development agents included
in the survey face different kinds of constraints in providing their agricultural
extension services. The Constraint Index (CI) constructed showed that among
the top six constraints identified lack of training on entrepreneurship,
market research, credit use and its procedures (CI = 432.4) was the important.
This could be due to the fact that the respondents didnt get these skills
during their stay in higher education.
||Distribution of sampled development agents by their view on
who selects farmers to participate in extension packages
||Perceived constraints to effective extension and advisory
|*SD: Standard Deviation, RO: Rank Order, CI: Constrain
This could in turn be because the curriculums of agricultural colleges and
universities gave less focus to such matters and also the trainings given by
the agricultural office mostly focuses on the technology only. This justification
is further reinforced by Davis et al. (2010)
in that the current curricula in Ethiopia focus more on technical skills but
it should be supplemented with business, management and analytical skills so
that the extension clienteles will get the required comprehensive service.
The second constraint cited was lack of finance and other inputs to make
farmer training centers income source and demonstration sites (CI=423.6).
The farmer training centers were constructed as demonstration and training farms
for new technologies, farming systems, crops, livestock, or other enterprises;
and generate income to sustain themselves in the long run. But as indicated
by the respondents this view has got serious constraints in the available infrastructure
and operating finance. Similar finding has been documented by Davis
et al. (2010) in that the lack of adequate operating funds for farmer
training centers is a major and continuing constraint that substantially reduces
the extension and training programs in Ethiopia.
Currently, the government of Ethiopia is in need of general agriculture experts,
because majority of the farmers in the country are living with limited resources
and interested in carrying out holistic and integrated agricultural activities,
which may not require an input from specialist experts (Alemayehu,
2009). However, agricultural colleges and universities are organized in
strict disciplinary lines (Davis et al., 2007).
In contrast to this view, development agents included in this survey listed
enforcement of the agriculture office to serve as a general practitioner
as natural resource management, plant science and animal science expert
(CI=416) as the third constraint. Although the development agents were not trained
as a generalist, the agricultural office expected them to serve as general practitioner
in their mandate area. This creates inefficiency on the part of their services
provision, according to respondents.
Lack of means and budget for communication (CI = 414) and lack
of transport, stationery and office equipments (CI = 409.6) were cited
as important constraints. Almost all of the kebeles have very small or no budget
and tools for communication, transport, stationery and office equipments; and
these force the development agents to use their own mobile, stationery and other
materials for the extension work. In connection with this one development agent
said during the focus group discussion that:
||I thought sometimes as I am expected to finance the
government work from my own pocket because I, almost all the time, use my
personal mobile phone, transport and stationery pocket budget to facilitate
As reported by the respondents these issues created pressure on their livelihood
and limit their ability to access market information and get help on technical
matters from woreda experts. In addition to this large number of respondents
noted that shortage or complete lack of transportation facilities limits the
capacity of development agents to travel to the different villages of the kebele.
This finding is in agreement with the work of Gebremedhin
et al. (2006).
One of the factors that negatively affected the success of agricultural extension
activity in Ethiopia was that the development agents were usually expected to
be involved in various non-extension activities (Belay and
Abebaw, 2004), including credit distribution and collection of repayments,
forecasting of input demands and delivery and kebele administration and adjudication.
In this respect the burden of administrative and other works outside the
extension service (CI=405.2) was the sixth to be listed as an important
constraint in this survey. From this it can be easily stipulated that the development
agents do not have complete freedom to support service seeking smallholder farmers
as they wish because of the non-extension overloads. The remaining 12 items
of constraints had the Constraint Index (CI) above 300.
CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Development agents are critical actors in the agricultural sector of Ethiopia
through the provision of extension advisory service. This study examined the
different constraints faced by development agents in Amhara region.
The study revealed that the development agent is expected to serve on average
about 968 farm households which is really high number to cover as frequently
as possible. So that the respondents reported that they visit their clienteles
mostly on a weekly basis. For the provision of their service they used the training
given by the woreda agricultural office as a source of information and the selection
of participant farmers in agricultural extension packages mostly is done by
the development agents.
The study further indicated that lack of training on entrepreneurship, market
research, credit use and its procedures; lack of finance and other inputs to
make farmer training centers income source and demonstration sites; enforcement
of the agriculture office to serve as a general practitioner as natural resource
management, plant science and animal science expert; lack of transport, stationery
and office equipments; and burden of administrative and other non-extension
works were the most important constraints facing development agents extension
advisory career. Based on the findings of the study it is imperative to come
up with the following recommendations:
||Tailor made soft skill developing trainings on entrepreneurship,
market research, credit use and its procedures should be provided
||The government should avail start-up funding at farmer training center
level to realize demonstration farms
||Increase the number of development agents per kebele based on the number
of farming households to be served and difficulty of terrain
||Revise the curriculum of the agricultural colleges and universities in
a way they produce general practitioners
||Availing means of transport (example, motorbike), communication, stationery
and office equipments at the farmer training center level
||Development agents should be relieved from administrative and non-extension
works so that they will focus on their extension advisory services