Agriculture use effective extension strategies to improve

           Agriculture is regarded as thegrowth engine and women as the spinal cord of agricultural workforce. In fact,women are the most crucial actors in agricultural development as their participationin agriculture, animal husbandry and homes is immense. They perform the most arduousand back breaking tasks producing agricultural crops, tending to animals,processing and preparing food, working for wages in agricultural or other ruralenterprises, engaging in trade and marketing, tending to family needs andmaintaining homes(SOFA team and Cheryl doss, 2011).           Their roles vary considerablybetween and within regions and are changing very rapidly in many parts of theworld, where economic and social forces are transforming the agriculturalpanorama. Empirical data also depicts that against 63 percent of alleconomically active men involved in agriculture, there are 78 percent of women.Almost 50 percent of rural women workers are classified as agriculturallabourers and 37% as cultivators and about 70 percent of farm work is performedby women (Ahmed, 2013). So obviously, real agricultural development will eludeus without adequately investing in developing the capabilities and encouragingtheir empowerment. Farmers therefore, depend highly an effective extensionservices to provide them sound advice on commercial and technical aspects toimprove their livelihood.

Extension officers are stationed in each district toassist farmers, in increasing production by using improved extensionmethodology and technology. Competitiveness has gone up globally, forcingdeveloping countries to produce and market quality products at competitiveprices, even knowledge has become a highly priced commodity. With these changescutting into the economy of developing countries, there is a need to useeffective extension strategies to improve people’s capacities andcompetitiveness. Government must pay attention to develop peoples’ capacitiesthat may lead to quick results in improving agricultural economy and growth.              Studies also substantiate thatagricultural sector is under performing in many countries because it overlookedwomen’s role and ignored their training for capacity and competitivenessbuilding.

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According to 2010-11 FAO report “The State of Food and Agriculture”,women comprise on average, 43 percent of the agricultural labor force in developingcountries, ranging from 20 percent in Latin America to 50 percent in EasternAsia and Sub-Saharan Africa” (FAO, 2011). The report argues that reducinggender inequalities in access to productive resources and services couldproduce an increase in yields on agricultural farms of between 20 percent and30 percent, which could raise agricultural output in developing countries by2.5 percent to 4 percent (FAO, 2011).              It is therefore important to reachwomen in agriculture with designing, implementing, agricultural extension andadvisory services.

Extension services here imply the different types ofprogrammes/projects/recommendations which the extension services make availableto their clientele through the use of extension education process. The WorldDevelopment Report way back in 1982 also stated that “extension services areoften biased toward work with men and neglect the very important role of womenas farmers in most parts of the world” (1983: 73). On the basis of the limitednumber of empirical studies on women’s participation in agricultural extensionavailable at the time, (Berger et al. 1984) similarly concluded that existingagricultural extension services were not working well for small farmers ingeneral, much less women farmers”, and that some very fundamental changesneeded to take place, not only in the type of technology that was developed butin the structure of the service delivery system itself.           It is carried out anambitious review of findings to date on the array of constraints faced by womenin accessing agricultural extension services and how, once these constraintswere removed, such services could indeed prove beneficial for women as well asmen. Despite the greater attention to gender issues now being paid, many of theconstraints that impede women’s ability to access extension services remainedlargely overlooked. So, now is the time to translate their recognition moreequitably designed services and mechanisms for influencing extension policiesand practices (Jiggins et al. 1998).

Market linkages for women producers needto be strengthened to increase competitiveness. The need also remains for evenmore substantive inclusion of women in such efforts. An explicit genderdimension is needed to adequately remove inequalities that impede women frombecoming active agents in improving their livelihoods and those of theirhouseholds (World Bank, 2009). Men are often perceived as the “real” farmersand receive a greater proportion of technical assistance and extensionservices, even for tasks and crops that women manage. As a result, extensionservices do not flow to the appropriate individuals, thus reducing serviceproviders’ impact on the quality and quantity of goods produced and marketed.

Adopting  practices that reduce theseinefficiencies for example, by hiring women extension officers and by targetingboth men and women for technical assistance will increase the impact ofagricultural extension services. Extension servicesalso rely on a number of techniques and methods to deliver extension services/programmes which include individual or group visits, meetings, visit to modelfarmers, demonstration plots, information and communication technologies (ICTs)etc. which may not be relevant to women                         Recent figures onmen’s and women’s access to advisory services continue to show relatively lowlevels of contact between farmers and extension agents, with disproportionallylower levels of access for women. Therefore, extensionservices need to be carefully designed taking into account women’s lack of timeby identifying strategies for disseminating agricultural information at timesand in places convenient to women. Extension officers need to be conscious ofthe times when women are available for meetings and schedule training at thosetimes.

Training may need to be divided into short modules to accommodatewomen’s schedules and provide women with the ability to attend meetings andstill manage their day-to-day tasks. Working with women on their own plots oron plots close to their homes will reduce their timespent in traveling. They can also be provided transportation and daily stipendsto encourage them to participate in extension programs. On-site residential andchild care facilities for long-term trainings can also be useful in a countrylike India.


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