Problems of Extension Work in Bangladesh
There are many problems of Extension Work in Bangladesh which are describe as follows-
1. Lack of definite criteria for group formation of farmers
After the introduction of NAEP it is now mandatory to work with farmers groups for conducting extension activities. But unfortunately there is no clear-cut definition of and boundary of this group. However, there is mandate for using the existing groups such as BRDB cooperatives, NGO groups of all kinds, and seasonal groups (farmers who attend the single extension activity) although it is not clear how these groups would work effectively. Past evaluations reveal that most BRDB cooperatives are now at a stage of non-functioning, and those which seem to be alive are full of corruption in the groups under the NGOs workers. Likewise it is not “group” when they meet at result meetings. These people in no way can be framed under groups. A group must have an aim or goal to achieve a regular set of meetings, group activities and by-laws or constitution. Hence; the way the DAE is thinking and working at present in the name of group would, in fact, be of no utility unless there exists viability, activity, interactions, and productivity among group members.
2. Unavailability of the Block Supervisors (BSs) at the working place
In many cases the Block Supervisors do not have any transport, i.e. by-cycle. Few of them live in cities or Upazila, headquarters and serve as “House Tutor” and earn money. There are some who even stay and lodge in other’s house and just act as Tutor”. Moreover, due to tack of facilities for mobility, the BSs often do not visit the farm families. But they usually maintain good relationships with the elite people intelligently; this is helpful for them in case they are found negligent in their works — the elites peruse for them to their superiors, if necessary.
3. Inefficiency of the Block Supervisors (BSs)
Block Supervisors are almost neglected persons in the society. Inadequate attempts are made from the department to increase their technical knowledge, efficiency and competence through effective training on various aspects of technological development. Without caring and nursing the BSs one cannot expect satisfactory outcome from them. Farmer very often lack confidence on the Block Supervisors especially in the context of trustworthiness and source credibility. There is also a big question of the availability of the BSs in the locality. A farmer in Bangladesh has multipurpose farming; he cultivates various crops, rears poultry birds, and raised fishes in the pond. He want to discuss his own problems with BSs and wants solutions to his problems from the BSs. If he does not see any benefit to discuss with the BSs he automatically becomes disappointed. The Block Supervisors most intelligently keep a close link and contact with the local elites, which gives dual benefits to them. They are offered at least a good tea and refreshment if they do visit elite people, and they are protected by the elite people in case they are found guilty, or they do not have good working relations with their superiors due to their own negligence.
4. Inadequate Provision for giving Reward to Devoted Worker and Giving Punishment to Negligent Worker
It is important note that there is inadequate provision for giving recognition and reward to any genuine, honest sincere and innovative extension worker, and punishment to a worker who is negligent in his work. All are equally evaluated and judged. This weakens the extension workers’ commitment, challenges, and competitions among themselves. Many extension workers pass their days to get their salaries.
5. Administrative weakness
Agricultural Extension Officer (AEO) at the Upazila are supposed to guide and supervise the works and activities of the Block Supervisors. In many cases it is observed that the freshly recruited AEOs face difficulties and lack confidence to guide and supervises their sob-ordinates who have a long service experience. There are evidences that AEOs mostly depend on the Block Supervisors rather than to guide and supervise them. This has become a common norm as AEOs know-that due to lack of power decentralization they have no administrative control over the AEOs even they are found guilty in their duties and responsibilities. The AEOs always try to be faithful and loyal to Upazila Agricultural Officer (UAO) and maintain a good relationship with him. The AEOs often become helpless, hopeless and inactive other than to visit demonstration plots as a routine work accompanied by some desk works as directed by the UAO.
6. Insufficient cooperation and coordination among different agencies
At the Upazila level there is no effective cooperation and coordination among different nation building organizations. For example, the cooperation and coordination between the DAE, BADC, BRDB, DLS, DOF, .commercial banks are not satisfactory at the Upazila level. Not only this, the case being more worse as the linkage between agricultural research, agricultural education and agricultural extension is also very weak although on papers it appears that there exists an effective linkage. The role EPICC, NATCC, ATC, DAEPC, and UAECC are well written on papers but its effective execution is yet to be established.
7. Technological shortcomings
The researchers conducted at the NARS (National Agricultural Research System) institutes and universities are often too much theoretical. As a result, technologies developed at these institutes and universities do not meet the requirements of the farmers. There is no definite national priority for conducting research. There are examples of duplication or repetition of same types of research in different institutes. It is common practice that scientists conduct research in the line of their own previous research experience in the developed countries, make research papers from the research results, and get promotion, higher ranks and, sometimes national awards and prizes. But unfortunately, these types of research do not help and benefit the resource poor farmers at all in improving their socio-economic conditions.
8. Inability to provide advice to farmers on the marketing of Produces
For successful agricultural development extension has to be combined with other ways to support this development such as an improved supply of inputs and marketing of products (van den Ban arid Hawkins, 1996; van den Ban, 1997). There are of course, some very innovative farmers, in the community. They make frequent contacts not only with the extension agents but with the scientist of the research institutes. And there are records and reports that in many cases the innovative farmers lost their enthusiasm and interest when they failed to get fair prices or their produces due to lack of marketing facilities. There are some crops which are abundantly grown in specific season in specific areas, for example pineapple, jackfruit, mango, banana, maize, brinjal, potato, tobacco, and sugarcane etc. During the cultivating seasons the prices of these produces often come so down to the margin that farmers fail even to reimburse the production costs.
9. Socio-political barriers
Thousands of NGOs (Non-government organizations) are now working in the rural areas of Bangladesh. There are NGOs, which do not have any office in the capital city Dhaka, and even in the district town; they work independently in a very specialized area. Occasionally they work as contracting agents of big NG0s. The NGOs usually provide inputs including credit and concentrate their work in a small area, except the few big national and international NGOs. Although there is an existence of NGO related bureau in the country, in effect it has no direct control over many NGOs.
The NIGOs very often claim that they are working most satisfactorily in improving the socio-economic condition of the poorest of the poor; in radio, television, newspapers, and other media there appears many success stories of the NCOs. But the success of an NGO in one village or with few households cannot be the yardstick or symbol of development of the country as a whole (van den Ban, 1997). Conversely, if a NGO fails to become successful in one community or village, it withdraws its activities from that community or village and shifts to another place. All these often create problems for the government managed extension activities or public extension. Because, once public opinion goes against the development agents, it becomes difficult to regain their faith and confidence. Government extension agents cannot escape from their duties and responsibilities; they have to stay and work even the situation is not at all congenial.
10. Lack of active cooperatives and farmers organizations
The cooperative in Bangladesh has a long history; it started in 1904 in this region. Bangladesh Rural Development Board (BRDB) has extensive network of cooperatives down to the village level. There are more than a million of cooperatives in the country. Unfortunately, except a few, the benefits of these cooperatives, if there be any, have gone to the pockets of some rich men or middlemen. And as such the socio-economic conditions of the majority of the cooperative members have not changed much. These cooperatives are in many cases full of corruption. There are by-laws and constitutions of these societies, but in practice there is hardly any good project having sustainable impact on the beneficiaries. There is no definite goal to achieve, and hence no attempts are seen to improve or change the existing situation. However, In order to make satisfactory progress in agricultural extension the strong, viable farmers cooperatives can play a very important role.
11. Lack of public commitment.
It is irony of fate that in the public sector organizations in Bangladesh firm commitments of the persons involved towards their own duties and responsibilities are grossly missing except only a few. The universities are producing graduates, the research, institutes are conducting researches, the extension organizations are disseminating technologies to farmers, and the political parties are highlighting their manifestos and coming to power; but in reality there is zero effective linkage between all these and there is no improvement of the conditions of the poor villagers. But if one critically reviews and analyzes the socio-economic conditions of Japan, s/he would definitely be surprised to see the higher economic growth rate of Japan especially during 1960 to 1975; the annual growth rate during this time was about: 12 per cent in place of government’s target for 8 per cent.
The case of the Republic of Korea is almost similar to japan in respect of overall economic growth rate. This was possible because of firm commitment from all comers; farmers, educators, researchers, extensionists, administrators, policy makers and above all political leaders. The commitment from political leaders are especially very important for a country to make the others in the society to be committed to their duties and responsibility. However, it does not matter, which political party comes to power to form the government and rule the country, but what is important is to have a firm commitment to rapid progress in agriculture in acquiring self-sufficiency in food as well as in improving the quail of life of the poor villagers.