Future Extension Approaches and Strategies in Bangladesh
The extension service in Bangladesh has a vital role for the development or agriculture. But the past evidence has shown that the benefits received by the farmers’, especially the small and marginal farmers, are not satisfactory. Extension workers have concentrated their entire efforts on the progressive farmers and, under the T & V (training and Visit) system on the contact farmers (who in most cases are large farmers), whereby they contribute to the widening the gap between these farmers and the majority of the less advantaged farmers – the small farmer and landless sharecroppers. However, technologies are usually introduced from the top without giving due consideration to (i) the poor farmers socio-economic conditions, (ii) the availability of necessary inputs, and (iii) the farm and environmental situations. Considering the changing needs of the farmers the future extension service in Bangladesh may have to be organized as follows:
1. Extension Approach
Under the NAEP the DAE has now mandate to utilize and work with the NGO groups. However, where there is no viable groups, the DAE can initiate to form dynamic, active and productive groups. The group should represent all categories of farmer in the community. Considering the present socio-economic conditions of the farmers in Bangladesh farmers groups may be formed based on the following categories:
i. Landless farmers/ sharecroppers (< 0.2 ha of land)
ii. Marginal farmers (0.2 to 0.6 ha of land)
iii. Small farmers (0.61 to 1.00 ha of land)
iv. Medium farmers (1.1 to 2.5 ha of land)
v. Large farmers (> 2.5 ha bf land)
vi. Women farmers (irrespective of any land holding)
After carefully forming homogenous groups, there should be closed and intensive supervision to improve the efficiency, groups’ solidarity and groups’ productivity. In addition, technologies should be generated at the Applied Research Institutes in a way that these can easily be adopted by the vast majority of the small and marginal farmers in the community.
2. Channeling the Extension Activities to Farmers’ Groups by One Common Extension Agent
At present different organizations such as the DAE, DLS and DoF, and in some cases BSFIC, WDB and COB as well as NGOs have their extension agents up to the village levels. To some extent this leads to duplication and misuse of public money. Instead of different extension agents one common generalist extension agent should communicate with the farmers’ groups, stay and work with the group, identify the group needs and problems and finally help to solve, the problems with the help of concerned technical expert on the subject. There are many ways now to identify and understand farmers’ problems, such as FINA (Farmers’ Information Need assessment), PRA (Participatory Rural Appraisal), RRA (Rapid Rural Appraisal), and PLA (Participatory Learning and Action). These techniques can be followed in order to get maximum benefit. The present BSs of the DAE may act as the “Common Generalist Extension Agent’ and they should be trained on all aspects of agriculture and other related aspects of improving the quality of rural fife.
3. Recognition and Incentives to Local Extension Agent
In the present management of the DAE or any other extension related organization there is Inadequate provision for recognizing and giving minimum incentives to the successful, devoted and committed extension workers. Recognition and incentives need not involve so much funds and it can be implemented and executed from the normal budget and contingency funds. Recognition and incentives make a worker more proficient and skillful in doing his job. Hence, provisions should be made by the concerned authorities to give proper recognition and incentives to the local extension agents.
4. Conducting On-farm Research through Farmers’ Groups
Traditionally and commonly, on-farm research is conducted in the fields of progressive, large and contact farmers. But now time has come to conduct on-farm research to determine target oriented category-wise needs and demands of the farmers. Farmers may need to be considered as the scientists` professional colleagues; they might have some Ideas, which the researchers do not have. Especially there are many indigenous technologies, which might be modified, amended or refined at the research institutes for sustainable agricultural development. This would greatly help to escape from high input agriculture at the one -one hand and make the technologies environmentally friendly. These can be done through PRA/ RRA/ PLA methods.
5. Establishing Farmers’ Service Centres (FSCs)
In order to help farmers in adopting the potential technologies there must have an arrangement so that they can get the complimentary inputs at their doorsteps. Also the arrangement for marketing of produces, especially the cash crops like mango, jackfruit, pineapples jute, cotton, tobacco, sugarcane, maize, brinjal etc. may help in using the modem technologies in these crops by its producers. Farmers’ Service Centres (FSCs) should be established at the Union/ Block level with the following facilities:
1) Supply of all necessary agricultural inputs such as fertilizers, pesticides, weedicides, HYV/ hybrid seeds, and agricultural implements.
2) Workshop for repairing the agricultural machinery and equipments with minimum charges and fees.
3) Buying of cash crops and seasonal crops from the farmers at prefixed government prices.
4) A branch of the BKB (Bangladesh Krishi Bank) or a newly created bank for providing agricultural credit to the farmers in easy terms and conditions, if necessary, without any collateral.
5) An artificial insemination breeding centre for improving the cattle and other animal and birds.
6) A veterinary clinic for the treatment of animals’ aria birds.
7) A fish hatchery pond to supply fingerlings to the pond owners.
The suggestions and recommendations as mentioned above may be difficult to implement but it is not impossible. It mainly depends on the commitment, sincerity and honesty of the politicians, government officials, concerned administrators and policymakers, and public awareness at large. Bangladesh often have to face many natural calamities, such as floods, cyclones, droughts and tornadoes. This does in no way mean that this is a hopeless county and there is no scope for its overall development.
There are endless resources in Bangladesh. It has got highly fertile lands, where people can grow crops throughout the year. Bangladesh have adequate trained manpower almost in all disciplines of socio-economic development. If with so many barriers and problems Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Malaysia can develop rapidly, then why Bangladesh would be lagging behind with so many opportunities for development. The conscious citizens, educationists, researchers, extension planners and managers, politicians may need to find out the answer. Can the common people of Bangladesh expect from the administrators, politicians a better planning of programmes in all aspects of agriculture and home life and its effective implementation for socio-economic development of the country like other rapidly progressing Asian countries? The answer should certainly be “YES”.