Perceived effects of professionalization of extension services on delivery by public and private agents in South Western Nigeria
Olorunfemi, Oluwasogo David
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The need to professionalize extension services which is an indispensable way to improve and ensure a viable, effective and vibrant extension and advisory service delivery in the study area led to this study. The study analyses the perceived effects of professionalization of extension services on delivery by public and private agents in South Western Nigeria. Specifically, the study described the socio-economic characteristics of the extension agents, identified the sources of information utilized on professionalization, examined their knowledge on professionalization, evaluated the attitude of the extension agents towards professionalization of extension services, identified the barriers to professionalization and determined the perceived effects of professionalization on extension service delivery. Data were collected using a two-stage sampling technique to select three hundred and fifty six extension agents for the study. A purposive selection of three states Agricultural Development Project (ADP) (i.e. Ogun, Osun and Oyo ADPs) and two agro-based non-governmental extension organizations (NGEOs) (i.e. FADU and JDPM-RUDEP) was carried out based on the prominence of their extension personnel and activities in the zone. Three hundred and one public extension agents and fifty five private extension agents were randomly selected from the various states ADPs and agro-based NGEOs respectively. A structured questionnaire consisting of seven sections was used to elicit information from the public and private extension agents. Descriptive statistics (frequency counts, percentages, means and ranks) and inferential statistics (T-test, Principal Component Analysis (PCA), Tobit regression, Ordinary Least Square regression and Confirmatory Factor Analysis was used to analyse the data The findings indicated that there were significant differences in the mean age (t = 3.77, p :S 0.01), average household size (t = 2.81 , p :S 0.01) and mean years of experience (t = 5.53, P :S 0.01) of the public and private agents. Five sources of information which include forth-night Training Sessions, other extension agents, seminars and workshops, on-the-job trainings and extension publications were utilized and ranked differently by the public and private agents. The study showed that the public and private extension agents exhibited a high level of knowledge on the general concept of professionalization and its components. Also, the public and private extension agents were largely in support of professionalizing extension services as they both had a favourable attitude towards professionalization and its components of accreditation, registration and certification. Furthermore, the public and private extension agents had a positive perception of the effects of professionalization of extension services in enhancing and improving delivery and they both indicated similar barriers towards professionalization of extension profession. Tobit regression model of factors influencing the perceived effects of extension professionalization on service delivery using the perceived effects index generated from PCA showed that marital status (p < 0.01), educational qualification (p < 0.05), household size (p < 0.10), rural-urban background (p < 0.05), knowledge (p < 0.01) and attitude (p < 0.01) significantly influence extension agents ' perception of the effects of professionalization on service delivery. Also, the Ordinary Least Square regression result of determinants of perceived effects of professionalization (using the PCA generated perceived effect index) revealed that the knowledge level (t = 5.303), attitude (t = 12.733) and educational qualification (t = 2.037) of the extension agents were significant at 1 per cent level of significance while their marital status (t = 2.758) and background (t = 2.061) were significant at 5 per cent level of significance implying that these five variables significantly determine the perceived effects of extension professionalization in the study area. Confirmatory factor analysis of the result of the correlated exogenous constructs of professionalization revealed significant and strong positive correlations between the constructs of the extension agents' knowledge, attitude, and the components of accreditation, registration and certification. It was recommended that there is the need for extension agencies to support continuous professional development for extension agents through training, acquisition of relevant higher degrees as stated in the requirement for professionalization. Also, the public and private extension organizations should improve the conditions of services in their organizations that will help facilitate the successful implementation of professionalization for efficient service delivery.