Agriculture is indispensable in the economy of every nation in the world. Its impact on the sustenance of life, improvement of livelihoods and contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) cannot be over-emphasized. It is important to note that agriculture has a significant role to play in the achievement of a world that is free from poverty and hunger, and it is also a key sector that impacts many of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
It is no longer news that many agricultural innovations are unknown to farmers and other potential end users due to weak linkage of agricultural extension with research. Gratitude to some research institutes for the good work being done in ensuring that innovations developed by them are well disseminated to farmers. Despite this, there is need to do more in order to achieve sustainable development of the agricultural sector and also bring about significant improvement in the livelihoods of farmers.
The role of agricultural extension agents is paramount in ensuring the proper adoption of any significant agricultural innovation (especially improved seed varieties, good agricultural practices, mechanization, among others). Extension agents serve as links between the farmers and the researchers. They are professionals who are knowledgeable about agricultural concepts, methods and practices, as well as scientific methods. Therefore, it is easier for them to understand any information coming from the researchers. In addition, they have been trained to understand the sociology of the rural areas and agricultural communities where the farmers who constitute the majority of the ultimate end users of agricultural innovations are located.
Thus, they put into consideration the demographic and socio-economic characteristics of the farmers and then decide the best and most appropriate means of disseminating the agricultural innovations in a timely manner.
For agricultural innovations to further enhance the transformation of the agricultural sector, there is need for proper and timely diffusion or dissemination. It is important to note that the main aim of dissemination is for the farmers to adopt the innovation and continue its usage. Nevertheless, the rates at which farmers learn about innovations and adopt them differ from one place to another.
In order to foster the adoption of innovations in the agricultural sector, the characteristics of the innovations such as compatibility, complexity and cost should be properly considered. The compatibility of the innovation with the life style, values, belief system and practices of the target audience (farmers) has to be ensured. In addition, the method of use and application of the agricultural innovations should be made as simple as possible so as to ensure that farmers continue their usage after the first adoption. Furthermore, it is necessary to ensure that the cost and maintenance of the innovations are not beyond what the farmers can afford.
Having properly understood the characteristics of the farmers who represent the target audience of agricultural innovations, and ensured that the innovations are in conformity with them, the next line of action is to create awareness about the innovations using the communication and extension methods that best fit the target audience.
Thereafter, knowledge about the agricultural innovations should be increased so as to arouse the interest of the potential end users (farmers) in them. This could be achieved through demonstrations and giving examples of success stories.
Moreover, the farmers should be well guided by the extension agent so that proper evaluation of the innovations is ensured. This could be achieved through result demonstration.
Also, proper guidance of the extension agent is required in the trial of the innovations by the farmers and other potential end users. Successful trial will help in creating positive perceptions about the agricultural innovations and therefore aid their full usage.
The continuous use of the innovations by the farmers will thereby result in increased agricultural productivity and food security. In the long run, there will be positive change in the world as the adoption of these agricultural innovations will gradually bring about a world that is free from poverty and hunger.
In conclusion, there is need to strengthen the linkage between agricultural extension system and agricultural research institutes in order to ensure that agricultural innovations are widely embraced by farmers. Also, there is need to ensure that agricultural extension agents are adequately empowered and equipped to effectively and efficiently carry out their professional functions.