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COMMUNICATION IN AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH AND INNOVATION PROCESS

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COMMUNICATION IN AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH AND INNOVATION PROCESS

 

ABSTRACT

The aim of this study is to establish that indeed communication is at the heart of change. Regardless of the sophistication of technology, its use or adoption is dependent upon the communicative processes amongst stakeholders leading to its formulation, conceptualization and design. In the first part, a general review of existing body of literature is presented. This shows that there is a major gap in the extension arm of the agricultural system in Nigeria, because as at present the top-bottom approach that has not yielded much impact is still in use for information dissemination to farmers. The thesis then goes further to interrogate the National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services (NAERLS) Zaria, with the view to ascertaining the participation or otherwise of local farmers in the research and innovation process. The over reliance on mass media by NAERLS to propagate the outcome of research findings in spite of its limitation and non-participatory posture is one of the key findings of this research work. This study goes further to interrogate the rationale behind the continuous use of this method amongst others and recommends the institutionalization by NAERLS of traditional forms of entertainment as extension media.  Songs, dances, poetry and drama can convey information in an interesting way. It concludes that the process of communicating research and innovation needs to be reviewed to make for the participation of farmers and all stakeholders in the research and innovation process.

 

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

1.1  Background to the study

In an article on sustainability and technology transfer, Richard Wilk (1995), an American anthropologist, mentioned a file folder of materials that he had accumulated over several years. The file contained 25 separate project proposals, feasibility studies, implementation plans, and project assessments. Submitted over a period of a century, all these studies considered commercializing the production of edible palm oil from a tree native to the Belizean rainforest. In each of these initiatives, imported cracking and rendering technologies developed for use in other tropical palm-oil industries were tried. Despite easy access to dense, high-yield tree stands, all these projects failed, even those with direct government subsidies. Throughout this period, household production of edible oil by indigenous people, using a variety of simple, local technologies, never stopped.

According to Grenier (1998), this story prompts several important questions: Did anyone bother to ask the local people who, how, where, when, and why of their local palm-oil production system? By learning about the local production system, could the proponents have avoided any of these costly failures? If the researchers had established joint ventures with the communities, could development objectives and sustainable-development goals have been served? If participatory technologydevelopment techniques had been tried, could hybrid technologies (a combination of indigenous and foreign inputs) have yielded successful ventures? What would have been the outcome had any of these proponents worked with the indigenous people?

With an estimated population of 167 million people (NPC, 2011) growing at the rate of 3.65% per annum, Nigeria‟s population by the year 2020 will be about 201,320,000 million. Oparaeke and Ofor (2010) state that if the current food production growth trend of 1.35% annually is not increased to tally with or surpass the population growth rate, then the country is in for a turbulent future. A popular knee jerk approach employed in a bid to raise adequate food supply in the country is the intensification of innovative agrarian programmes. A most remarkable campaign of this sort was the Operation Feed The Nation campaign (OFN) launched by the Federal Government on May 20 1976 with the motive of producing more food, specifically by persuading farmers to adopt new technological packages such as improved seeds, fertilizers, feeds, pesticides and herbicides.

OFN is regarded as a classic example of a diffusion campaign in which the mass media were involved. In the organizational structure of the programme, the media were assigned the onerous role of disseminating the campaign exhortations to farmers. The media diffusion strategies used in the campaign have been identified as including news stories, commentaries, editorials, features, cartoons and national advertising. Others include slogans, radio talks, discussion panels and special documentaries. In addition to these, publicity vans were used to address villagers, posters and handbills were distributed, films on modern agriculture practice were shown and plays popularizing OFN were performed, all in a bid to demonstrate the benefits of modern farming. Extension workers were also drafted to give further education and guidance to local farmers on the new farming techniques.

Information about the OFN was so profusely diffused that even till this day, OFN remains a household concept in Nigeria. The profusion of information about OFN, however, could not induce the much-needed agricultural excellence. An indication to this fact was that food importation had ironically risen to astronomical heights during the campaign period while exportation of cash crops decreased. In 1977, for example, N780.7 million worth of food was imported. A year later, the import bill rose to N108.2 million.

With the inauguration of a new civilian regime in 1979, the OFN was labeled a dismal failure, discarded and replaced with a supposedly more radical agrarian revolution. In 1980, the Green Revolution was launched with the usual objective of attaining self-sufficiency in food production, this time, through increased production and processing of good raw materials, livestock, fish and cash crops. In the manner of its forerunner, the Green Revolution was propagated through the mass media but did not enjoy as much publicity as the OFN. Part of the problem was that the Green Revolution was born in a tense political climate. For the mere sake of discrediting the political party controlling the centre, state governments controlled by other parties insisted that the media under their control never gave space or time to the programme.

On the other hand, the distribution of inputs followed a spoil system in which only party loyalists who turned farmers overnight were granted loans, inputs and other related facilities to the detriment of genuine full-time agriculturists and peasant farmers. So, at the end of it all, the Green Revolution failed to produce enough food for the nation. Rather, Nigeria's import bill, as ever before, continued to mount. Between April and December 1983, a staggering sum of N5.5 billion was spent on food importation, especially rice. Between the demise of the Green Revolution and now, a series of innovation campaigns have been quietly launched. The food situation, however, does not seem to show any signs of improvements. If anything, it was worse than ever. It is estimated that between 2007 and 2010, Nigeria spent about N98 trillion ($632 billion) importing food into the country.

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