Agricultural extension in Ghana has gone through political shift from export commodity development approach prior to independence in 1957 to the promotion of food crop production. The Government shift in focus intended to modernize traditional farming practices, transfer resources and technology, and train personnel to address extension needs of peasant farmers. The Ministry–based general extension approach adopted in 1978 came under heavy criticism. The approach was viewed as a top-down and pro-urban, and was believed to pay more attention to progressive farmers, while totally neglecting poorer small farmers and women. The lack of coordination amongst various departments within the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) and the poor management of the general extension approach coupled with the lack of well-trained extension workers and the poor quality of infrastructures, called for a reform of the system (Okorley, 2007).
A Brief History of Public Extension Policies, Resources and Advisory Activities in Ghana
In response to criticisms and external pressure from the World Bank, The government of Ghana reformed the general extension system and adopted a new nationwide agricultural extension approach called the Unified Extension System (UES) that came together with the training and visit (T&V) extension management system approach. Under the UES-T&V approach, MOFA was reorganized and unified and extension was put under one department at the national level, the Department of Agricultural Extension Services (DAES). The lack of coordination and weak linkages resulting from the fact that the DAES and research institutions were under separate ministries was quickly noticed. An evaluation of the T&V approach indicated that in the pilot region were it was implemented; the T&V approach did not improve extension effectiveness. The approach was criticized as being rigid and non-responsive to the needs of the farmers nationally. It was then recommended that for extension to achieve greater improvement in the livelihoods of rural population in Ghana, the organization needed to focus broadly on farm production and income, farmer household livelihoods, and the nutrition or the rural population (MOFA, 2001). These recommendations resulted in the decentralization of agricultural extension in Ghana.
Extension services were then organized and delivered in a variety of forms and the purpose of the decentralization introduced in Ghana in 1997 was to develop a demand driven extension system, with the ultimate goal of increasing farmers’ productivity and income. As a result, the MOFA transferred power to the district level offices so that they could plan and implement their agricultural extension activities and manage their resources within the framework of national policy (Okorley, 2007). Responsibilities, including service provision and administration were transferred to the agricultural unit of the District Assemblies (lowest level of government administration), while the regional and national level administration focused on policy planning, coordination, technical support, monitoring and evaluation (MOFA, 1997). The district level extension organization provides the best opportunity to effectively involve stakeholders to promote pluralism and it is now central to agriculture and rural development in Ghana.
Today, agricultural extension approaches in Ghana range from the top-down commodity-based approaches to more participatory approaches like the World Bank's Training and Visit (T&V), commodity participatory approaches, the farmer field schools (FFSs), the innovative ICT based approaches which provide advice to farmers on-line, and the promotion of mobile phones and community radio stations. These approaches have been promoted over the years by the various extension service providers, including government (MOFA, the main actors in extension), non-governmental organizations (NGOs), producer organizations and other farmer organizations.
For many years, the Ministry of Agriculture has used its staff from the national level down to the field level to implement extension programs. With the decentralization leading to the transfer of power to the district level offices, MOFA also transferred resources including staff to district offices. This transfer reduced the level of involvement of the ministries and the number of technical staff for coordination activities. At the national level, Ghana public extension comprises 50 staff members and is managed by a team of 9 senior staff according to the MEAS report (2011). Seven of the senior staff members have a PhD and the remaining two staff was trained at the Master of Science level. Women account for 22% of senior management staff. There are 5 subject matter specialists; they are trained at the Bachelor and Master Degree levels. Field level extension workers constitute the bulk of staff (72%), with the majority of them holding a 2 to 3 year agricultural diploma, and 3% are female. There are two other groups of workers: Information, Communication & Technology (ICT) Support Staff and In-Service Training Staff. The MEAS report indicated that the public sector does not employ in-service training staff, and ICT support services personnel (Table 1).
Table 1: Human Resources in the Public Extension Service in Ghana (Governmental or Ministry-based Extension Organization)
|Major Categories of Extension Staff||Secondary School diploma||2-3 yr. Ag diploma||B.Sc. degree||M.Sc./Ing. Agr. degree||Ph.D. degree|
|Senior Management Staff||23||68||1|
|Subject Matter Specialists (SMS)||9||23||31||112|
|Field Level Extension Staff||12||250||582||30||95||1||4|
|Information, Communications & Technology (ICT) Support Staff||3|
|In-Service Training Staff|
|Total Extension Staff: 1244||12||259||605||87||275||2||4||0||0|
Source: IFPRI/FAO/IICA Worldwide Extension Study, 2011