V. Summary and conclusions
Agricultural development is a complex process and a challenging one as well. For purposes of this study four major sub-systems of the agricultural development process have been recognized, namely, research, extension, support, and client, which are supposed to work in harmony to bring about stable and sustained growth in agriculture. So far as the client system is concerned, it encompasses both men and women as equal partners. Unquestionably, women play a significant and crucial role throughout the Third World. In addition to farm work, in which they are actively involved with men, the burden of almost all the household chores falls on them. But despite the global consensus as to their vital role both on the farm and in the household, their importance in and contribution to agriculture are not adequately reflected in the available statistics which perhaps obscure more than they reveal. Moreover, it is found that agricultural extension networks do not provide them with satisfactory services and hence there is an urgent need for a better understanding in this regard for developing effective extension and training programmes to reach women farmers.
The present investigation was undertaken to study selected factors affecting the operation of the agricultural extension services in developing countries in reaching women farmers effectively, and to suggest measures to improve the existing services so that present and future generations of women farmers in agricultural countries apply scientific knowledge and use improved agricultural techniques and skills in their farm work, which should lead to an increase in productivity and income.
The study was conducted in selected state(s) of four study countries (Thailand, Trinidad, Nigeria and Syria). A multi-stage purposive-cum-stratified random sampling design was followed. Respondents were selected from four different categories of extension services. Altogether, 480 women farmers, 58 administrators, 40 technical officers/subject-matter specialists and 42 extension agents were included as "sample of respondents" in the present study. Four research schedules were used separately for the collection of various data, according to the objectives of the study.
The salient findings of the study were summarised as follows:
A. General characteristics of women farmers as clientele of extension services
* The age distribution of the majority (more than 55 %) of the women farmers included in the study fell between two categories, i.e. 15 to 30 and 30 to 45 years.
* In respect of marital status of women farmers, it was revealed that the largest group of women farmers was married and estimated to be more than 60% of the total in the four study countries selected. Nearly 24% of the total number of women farmers in Trinidad were widowed, followed by Thailand - 16%, Nigeria - 14% and in Syria nearly 8%.
* In terms of head of the household, only 26% of the women farmers in Trinidad were considered as household head, followed by about 21 % in Thailand, 15% in Nigeria and a little more than 4% in Syria.
* Approximately 78 % and 75 % of women farmers in Nigeria and Syria respectively had more than 6 children, while in Trinidad and Thailand nearly 93 % and 89 % of women farmers had between 1 and 3 children.
* In Syria nearly 63% of the women farmers were illiterate, followed by 60% in Nigeria, 20% in Thailand and 5% in Trinidad.
* The majority of the women farmers (more than 69%) in three of the study countries, i.e. Trinidad, Nigeria and Syria, cultivated less than three acres of land, whereas in Thailand more than 46% women farmers had between three and five acres of cultivable land.
* Approximately 86% of women farmers in Nigeria were members of different farmers' organizations (formal), as compared to nearly 73% in Thailand, 25% in Trinidad and only about 4% in Syria.
* About 51% and 48% of the women farmers in Thailand and Trinidad respectively were from the middle socio-economic group, while in Nigeria and Syria just over 81 % and 66% respectively were from the low socio-economic group.
* The majority of women farmers in all the study areas in the countries selected were found to contribute to the labour force regularly for such activities as transplanting, planting, weeding and harvesting. Land preparation, application of pesticides and irrigation were performed less by women farmers, as identified in all the study countries. However, marketing was carried out by more than 88% of the women farmers both in Trinidad and Nigeria, as compared to only about 34% in Thailand and 5% in Syria. Moreover, as compared to the other three countries, the majority of the women farmers in Nigeria were involved in processing (91.25%), transportation of crops from field (73.13%), storage of crops for family use (71.25%) and threshing/winnowing (56.25%). Most of the women farmers in all the study areas prepared meals for their families and dealt with house maintenance. More than 60% of women farmers in Nigeria and Syria collected wood for fuel and water for daily use and took care of their children.
* In Thailand, Trinidad and Nigeria both women and their husbands took part in making decisions about farm activities, such as selection of crop site (70%, 55% and nearly 46% respectively), crops to be planted (about 43%, 51 % and 56% respectively) and adoption of new varieties of seeds (55%, 49% and 45% respectively). On the other hand, in Syria decisions on farm activities were controlled mainly by the husbands. Most of the women farmers (more than 60%) in all the study countries dominated the decision-making process on what to keep for family use and storage and cooking meals for the family. The majority of the women farmers (more than 65%) in Thailand, Trinidad and Nigeria also played an important role in decision-making on management of their family income, followed by Syria (about 56%).
* Women farmers in all the study countries were saddled with a double workload: farm as well as home activities. In Nigeria, women farmers spent a total of 14.26 hours daily on farm as well as reproductive activities, followed by 11.77 hours in Trinidad, 11.74 hours in Syria and 11.67 hours in Thailand.
* About 23 % of women farmers in Thailand had land ownership entitlements compared to 8.75% in Trinidad and 4.38% in Nigeria. 41.25% of women farmers in Syria cultivated their husband's land followed by 38.75% in Thailand 30% in Trinidad and 23% in Nigeria. It is worth mentioning that about 30% of women farmers in Nigeria obtained land as a gift from their husbands.
* Most of the women farmers in Nigeria (85%) did not use modern tools and farm implements followed by Syria (62.50%) Trinidad (56.25%) and Thailand (53.75%).
* In terms of sources of labour 47.5 % of women farmers in Trinidad hired manpower compared to 43.75% in Thailand 32.5% in Nigeria and 14.63% in Syria mainly for land preparation.
* The highest percentage of women farmers using improved varieties of seeds was in Trinidad (77.5 %) compared to 48.75 % in Thailand 23 % in Nigeria and 15 % in Syria. Only women farmers in Nigeria (23%) obtained improved seeds through the extension service.
* A large percentage of women farmers in Thailand (nearly 98%) used fertilizers followed by Trinidad (nearly 88%) and the middle-man and garden/farm shop were the main sources for them. But about 64% and 58% of women farmers in Syria and Nigeria respectively obtained fertilizers from the open market and through their husbands.
* The highest percentage of application of chemicals by women farmers was identified in Trinidad (47.5%) compared to Thailand (38.75%) Syria (6.25%) and Nigeria (5%).
* Women farmers of three of the study countries (11.88% in Nigeria 3.75% in Syria and 1.25 % in Trinidad) had limited access to sources of finance. On the other hand women farmers in Thailand (61.25%) borrowed money from different sources (mainly from relatives and middlemen) for farm activities. It is interesting to note that a very negligible percentage of women farmers in Thailand (3.75 %) and Trinidad (1.25 %) received loans from agricultural banks.
* Middle-men were the main means of selling farm produce for the majority of women farmers in Thailand (46.25%) and Syria (45%) whereas in Nigeria 68.26% of the women farmers marketed their crops in the village market and in Trinidad 47.5% in both the wholesale and retail markets.
* The majority of women farmers in Nigeria - 78.13 % Syria - 58.75 % and Thailand 35 % were visited by extension agents regularly i.e. between one and two months whereas in Trinidad intervals between visits to women farmers by extension agents seemed to be irregular.
* Field extension agents were rated as the primary source of agricultural advice by the majority of women farmers in Nigeria (58.12%) and Syria (41.25%) whereas 40% of women farmers in Trinidad took advice from their husbands and about 33% of women farmers in Thailand took advice from relatives.
* High cost of farm inputs, excess of weeds and lack of storage facilities were ranked as three of the greatest problems faced by the majority of women farmers in farm activities in all the study areas in the four countries selected.
* In terms of need areas for agricultural advice from the extension service, weed control, storage of produced crops and food processing were ranked as three of the most important extension areas by women farmers in the study areas of the four countries selected.
* The majority of the respondents of Syria (82.5%), Nigeria (65.62%) and Thailand (41.25%) expressed a preference for female extension agents. On the other hand, the opinion of women farmers in Trinidad (nearly 68%) in this regard was rather gender-neutral.
B. Capacity of Agricultural Extension Services to serve Women Farmers
* Three of the four study countries (Thailand, Nigeria and Syria) have recognised women as fully fledged farmers in the statement of National Agricultural Policy. None of the objectives of National Agricultural Extension Policy in the four study countries clearly identified women farmers as a specific extension clientele group. Moreover, three of the study countries - with the exception of Nigeria - did not provide clear operational guidelines in relation to women farmers for the development and execution of extension programme activities for women farmers.
* Two groups - i.e. small farmers and women farmers - were specified as extension target groups in three of the study countries (excluding Trinidad), though it was not explicitly mentioned in the respective extension policy.
* All the study countries provided information about the availability of subject-matter specialists in the areas of crop production, crop protection and animal husbandry. In Thailand, Nigeria and Syria they were reported at zonal and provincial levels, whereas, in Trinidad they were at central level. Female extension agents of three of the study countries (except Trinidad) were officially instructed to specifically serve women farmers. Further, there was a monitoring and evaluation unit in the extension organizations of two of the study countries, Thailand and Nigeria. Besides these data, three of the study countries (Thailand, Trinidad and Syria) mentioned the existence of other specialized sections such as publications, audio-visual, information and training within the extension services.
* There was a specific women's section within the extension organizations of Thailand, Nigeria and Syria. The appointed female extension agents of the women sections in Thailand and Nigeria were mainly qualified in home economics, whereas in Syria they were qualified in agricultural subjects.
* More than 70% of the extension personnel in four study countries indicated a highly favourable attitude towards women as farmers and food producers.
* The primary extension approach identified in Thailand was the group approach, whereas in Nigeria it was the T & V extension system. In Trinidad and Syria, the individual extension approach was reported as the most predominant. In terms of extension methods employed by extension systems, the group method was mainly used in Thailand and Nigeria. On the other hand in Trinidad and Syria, high emphasis was given to individual visits.
* The average field extension agent of Syria, Trinidad and Nigeria completed 55, 22 and 12 farm and home visits respectively in 1992, while 24, 22, 15 and 8 extension educational meetings were completed by the average number of extension agents of Nigeria, Thailand, Syria and Trinidad respectively. In addition, the extension organizations of two of the study countries (Thailand and Trinidad) produced a large number of extension publications in 1992, irrespective of gender. It is worth mentioning here that only in Nigeria and Syria group extension activities, such as extension classes, demonstration, were organized to deliver technical agricultural messages specifically to women farmers. On the other hand, in Thailand and Trinidad extension programmes were mainly planned and implemented for both men and women.
* None of the study countries included women farmers in extension planning and programme development.
* In terms of research-extension linkages, administrators of two of the study countries (Thailand and Nigeria) ranked their relationship with research as "when need arises", while in Trinidad and Syria it was ranked as very weak.
* The mode of operation of the monitoring and evaluation system in Thailand and Nigeria was rated as "weak", whereas in Trinidad and Syria it was reported as "very weak".
* The proportion of female extension agents irrespective of subject areas in 1992 were estimated to be 43% in Thailand, 31 % in Trinidad, 22% in Nigeria and 14% in Syria. It is interesting to note that, of the total number of female extension agents in Nigeria, 97% were qualified in home economics, while in Thailand the percentage was 35.
* In Thailand and Trinidad there was an overall good SMS to field agent ratio (1:8 in each) compared to the other two study countries, Nigeria (1:27) and Syria (1:68). Subject-matter specialists in all the study countries were not adequately trained in gender-specific areas. This indicates a serious institutional constraint to the flow of technology between research and extension.
* Extension coverage, i.e. extension agent to farmer ratio, was found to be different in the four study countries. The information collected in this regard from two of the study countries (Thailand and Trinidad) did not show extension coverage on a gender basis (male and female). However, in Nigeria and Syria the extension agent to women farmer ratio was fairly clear.
* The extension agents of Thailand and Nigeria were reported as being regularly trained in fortnightly meetings compared to the other two countries (Trinidad and Syria) where there was no regular training. A low percentage of extension agents in three of the study countries trained in extension methodologies to communicate with women farmers (20% in Nigeria, 18% in Thailand and 6% in Syria) and in gender-specific areas (30% in Nigeria, 18% in Syria, and 10% in Thailand). None of the extension agents in Trinidad had training in extension methodology and gender-specific subjects.
* Office accommodation for extension agents were identified at block level in Nigeria and Syria while in Thailand and Trinidad it was at district level.
* With respect to transportation, the situation in three of the four study countries (excluding Syria) in general was quite good, as reported by country administrators. But the study found that, compared to male agents, female agents in Thailand, Nigeria and Syria had mobility problems in their extension service.
* Only in Thailand the extension system allocated a separate budget specifically for women farmers. But it was reported that this was used mainly for home economics programmes. The highest percentage of the total budget of the extension service in three of the study countries was allocated to salaries (85% in Trinidad, 84% in Thailand and 75% in Nigeria). In Syria, the given data in this regard was not clear for interpretation.
* Of the agricultural extension messages found in the present study, six were identified as being for women farmers: techniques of harvesting crops (Syria), storage of harvested crops (Nigeria and Syria), care of poultry (Syria), formation of women's groups (Thailand and Nigeria), food processing (Thailand, Nigeria and Syria) and home economics (Thailand and Syria). In Trinidad, existing extension programmes were formulated without considering gender.
* On average, 80% of women farmers in the study areas of Nigeria participated in farmers' classes/meetings, method demonstration and field days, followed by 40% in Thailand, whereas in Trinidad the percentage of women farmers' participating in farmer's classes and method demonstration was 25% in each category. Similarly, 39% and 28% of women farmers in Syria participated in farmers' classes and method demonstration respectively. It was also noted that, only in the study areas of Nigeria, 30% of the women farmers were reported as being contact farmers.
* Low participation of women farmers in extension activities was due to lack of time and proper incentives, as identified by the women farmers in all four study countries.
* Lack of appropriate technology suitable for women farmers and lack of demonstration materials were consistently ranked as two of the greatest problems in reaching women farmers, as perceived by field extension agents and extension personnel in all four study countries.
* More than three-quarters of the total number of respondents of all the study countries suggested that more attention should be given to the following areas in order to reach women farmers effectively: increasing gender-specific research work (91%), inclusion of women farmers in all stages of extension programme planning and development (88%), increasing the number of women contact groups (86%), need for more monitoring and evaluation in extension programmes (82%), targeting women farmers as an important clientele group in extension (81%), improving delivering techniques to overcome women's constraints of time, mobility and illiteracy (80%), training extension agents to work with women's groups (79%), providing adequate budget for demonstration materials and equipment (77%) and guidance and training of male extension agents to understand women's production activities and specific problems and needs (76%).
The findings presented in this study show that women farmers are not a homogeneous group. They represent different socio-economic situations with different needs for extension contact and the use of extension methods. It is also confirmed that the nature and extent of their involvement in agriculture certainly varies greatly from region to region. But, regardless of these variations, there is hardly any activity in agricultural production, except land preparation, in which women are not actively involved. The findings also indicate that decision-making patterns in farm work seem to be changing and women have increasingly become important members of the family as decision-makers, both on the farm as well as at home. Despite their importance in agricultural production, women face severe handicaps. Women's access to agricultural inputs has not improved proportionately. This results in a considerable loss in agricultural productivity and output. The findings of the study show that women farmers have more contacts with the extension service than was previously reported. Though their production problems may be known to the extension sub-system, they are not known to the research subsystem, due to the poor functional linkage between research and extension. Very little research is being carried out to improve the productivity of women farmers. Therefore, agricultural extension has little or not improved technology to extend to women farmers who grow the traditional food crops. In other cases, technology is available, but women are unable to obtain the credit to purchase the inputs needed to utilize the new technology. Furthermore, male extension agents of some countries do not consider the dual role of women farmers, scheduling meetings and demonstrations at times and places which are inconvenient or inaccessible to women farmers. The findings also show the level of recognition of women farmers by extension personnel as food and agricultural producers influencing extension programming which in turn affects the women's activities, resources socio-cultural constraints and participation in extension activities. Hence the lack of clear extension objectives that specifically target women farmers and the lack of gender-specific operational guidelines reduce extension effectiveness in reaching women farmers. Besides, there are extension constraints such as inadequate gender-specific training facilities for extension agents and lack of proper allocation of extension budget for programme activities which are specifically aimed at reaching more women farmers more efficiently, which also affects extension effectiveness. It was also discovered that monitoring and evaluation on a gender-disaggregated basis at regular intervals helps to make extension programming more effective in reaching women farmers.
- The findings suggest that the role of women farmers in food and agricultural production should be clearly identified, taking into consideration the different categories of socio-economic groups of women farmers. Their production problems and needs should be used as the basis for extension planning. The findings also suggest that women farmers should be given every opportunity to participate in the planning of their extension programme and the establishment of its objectives.
- The extension service should be more gender-sensitive when organizing extension activities, so that women farmers have full and appropriate access to extension meetings, demonstrations, field days and other activities. A proportion of women farmer participants should be targeted in each extension activity that can specially benefit them.
- In some places/countries where there is no cultural restriction of joint men-women participation in extension activities, extension workers should strongly motivate women farmers to attend gender-neutral extension activities.
- In countries where there is a T & V system, women farmers in each village should be selected to act as contact farmers. They should be motivated by extension agents to deliver the extension messages to other women farmers as soon as possible. The fortnightly meetings should be organized in such a way that women can attend these meetings regularly. Extension agents, when scheduling the time and place of meetings, should always take care that the visits do not conflict with women's other roles in their household.
- It is further recommended that existing women's groups in the village be organized and strengthened to increase women's access to extension, credit, inputs and even marketing services. Extension workers should collect all the necessary information related to marketing and the various sources of inputs and credit and make them easily available to women farmers, and they should train them how to obtain access to these services. Extension workers should also encourage those women farmers who are not members of village farmers' groups to take up membership. Moreover, in this case, extension worker should be trained not only in extension methods when working with women farmers, but also in the techniques of group formation and how to develop leadership ability in the women farmers so that they can operate their own groups and encourage active participation of women farmers in the different extension programme activities. Such training of extension agents should emphasize how to work well with women farmers in groups.
- There is a need to specifically identify women as an integral part of the agricultural extension policy and develop gender-specific operational guidelines which will direct the extension activities of women farmers.
- Finally, based on the findings of the study, it is recommended that regular monitoring and evaluation of extension programmes on a gender-disaggregated basis be supported and practiced by every agricultural extension service.