Suggesting a new paradigm for agricultural extension policy: the case of West African countries
As part of a larger study encompassing sub-Saharan Africa, this paper, the second in a sequence of papers, focuses on West Africa. National extension policies of the region – explicit or implied – were evaluated by means of a framework published by the FAO to guide extension policy formulation. Of its nine components three anchor the framework – mission and goals, approach and functions, and clienteles – and were used in this appraisal. Unexpectedly, the study found that only one country of the 17 nations constituting West Africa has a legislated (i.e. formally adopted) national extension policy. Implied policies were, therefore, garnered, where feasible, for the rest via government publications (e.g. agricultural project reports) and published researched studies from academic and recognised developmental institutions.
Broadly, the assessment observed that West African extension missions and goals focussed on improving profitability of agricultural business and increasing output volumes and market share and achieving objectives such as enhancing quality of life and agricultural development. In terms of approaches and functions, the study found that public sector extension in West Africa is undergoing transformation including decentralization and outsourcing extension services in the context of adopting a pluralistic system of extension delivery. While up to six models of extension are a commonly applied in the region, the dominant context is pluralism encompassing public, private and NGO-based services. The dominant clientele were stated to be women and small- and medium-scale farmers. However, entrenched barriers limiting women’s participation are still insufficiently addressed.
The study concludes that it is vital for West African governments, perhaps cooperatively, to develop and establish formal extension policies that will manifest their vision, mission, goals and methods to provide a stable framework within which targeted clientele and be purposively supported in the pursuit of sustainable agricultural development.
Keywords: Extension, extension policy, West Africa, mission and goals, approach and function, clienteles