Commercialization of Veterinary Extension Services in Nigeria:Prospects and Problems

Commercialization of Veterinary Extension Services in Nigeria:Prospects and Problems

Veterinary Extension Services -Veterinary Extension is an ongoing, non-formal educational process which occurs over a period of time and it leads to improve the living conditions of farmers and their family members by increasing the profitability of their livestock farming activities.

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In this activity, to achieve above goals, it expects the improvement of the farmer’s knowledge, skills and change of their attitudes in livestock farming technology, livestock activities and livestock marketing.

Veterinary extension looks into increasing the productivity of the livestock farming business as a whole. It includes both direct livestock farming activities and off farm or farming related activities. Veterinary extension assists, guides and directs livestock farmers to identify both livestock farming and non-farming activities which can increase their net income.

The effectiveness of veterinary extension services on both the quantity and quality of livestock production cannot be over – emphasized. These veterinary extension services includes useful information concerning improved practices in livestock farming from research stations to livestock farmers, motivating livestock farmers to effectively use these new technologies in order to increase output on income, helping livestock farmers to adopt these improved livestock farming practices, supervision and inspection of livestock farmers’ activities, taking livestock farmers’ problems to research stations for solution and helping them to form co-operative so as to collectively tackle common problems.

The provision of veterinary extension services is a double-barrelled concept. It involves both the delivery and financing of the system which are related to each other and inter-twined. Nicholas Ozor (2010) Thus, every extension service that is delivered must somehow be funded and vice-versa. Such delivery or financing can either come from the public or the private sectors or a mixture of the two

Worldwide, the public sector plays a dominant role in the provision of veterinary extension services (Lees, 1990).

According to a worldwide survey conducted by the FAO, about 81% of the extension work around the world is carried out through a ministry or department of agriculture (Swanson et al., 1990). Globally, some 600,000 extension workers are engaged in the provision of livestock information to farmers of which 95% is carried out by public extension (Rivera and Cary, 1997).

In Nigeria, extension services are provided free of charge by the government through the Ministries of Agriculture (MOA) and Special Agricultural Development Schemes (SADS). The public extension system is now seen as outdated, top-down, inflexible, subject to bureaucratic inefficiencies and therefore unable to cope with the dynamic demands of modern livestock production (Rivera et al, 2000).

The failure of public sector extension service has been attributed to a number of factors including poorly motive-ted staff, a preponderance of non-extension duties, inadequate operational funds, and lack of relevant technology, poor planning, centralized management and a general absence of accountability in the public sector (Antholt, 1994).

Mulhall and Garforth (2000) noted that due to the vast number of small, subsistence farmers in many countries, the burden on a state service is immense, especially the recurrent costs of supporting a large number of technical field level staff. While the unit cost of extension staff in many countries is low, large staff size translates into large government expenditure outlays. In an FAO survey of 207 extension organizations in 115 countries, 50 percent of these organizations have been established or were recognized in the previous two decades (Swanson, Farner and Bahal, 1990). As a result of financial concerns involved in the running of these large organizations, many countries have examined alternative structural arrangements, including the feasibility of reducing public sector extension expenditures with associated staff reductions, changes in tax raising, charges for government extension services and privatization and commercialization (Howell, 1985). Also, a number of countries have moved towards reducing, recovering or shifting the burden of the costs associated with provision of public sector veterinary extension, particularly transferring private good functions to private industry (Rivera and Cary, 1997).

The reform of veterinary extension services in developing countries has received much attention in recent years. There is an increasing interest among development planners and policy makers in the privatisation of veterinary extension services in Nigeria.  Privatization has been widely advocated as a means of improving the supply of veterinary extension services (Leonard, 1985; Haan &Beture, 1991).

Privatization has been promulgated as a way of improving the availability and quality of veterinary services to the livestock sector.  The rationale for private sector provision of veterinary extension services is generally based on an expectation of increased efficiency with the operation of private markets and with the resulting efficiencies contributing to the growth of a country’s GNP. Authority or initial enthusiasm for privatization has however been tampered by the recognition that veterinary extension require some form of public management (Unial et al., 1994).

The rational for public sector provision of veterinary extension is based on the following points;

1.            Much veterinary information is a public good;

2.            Only government extension services are likely to promote concern for natural resources management;

3.            Public sector extension may enhance the education of farmers who often lack adequate access to educational institutions;

4.            The public service often provides information that reduces risk to farmers;

5.            The service may provide information that v  reduces transaction costs; and

6.            An extension service may be concerned with community health issues related to possible human hazards such as accidents and poisonings linked to agricultural chemicals.

Veterinary extension is classified as a public good in economic terms. A public good is one to which everyone benefit and from which no-one can be denied access Sarah holden steve Ashug, Peter Bazeley 1996. Private firms are unwilling to supply service within the public good characteristics because they are unable to restrict the benefit of that service to people who pay for them. Because individuals cannot be excluded from receiving public good they have no incentive to pay for that service.

Public goods therefore need a mechanism to ensure that everyone contributes towards the cost of the programme. This is commonly achieved through the state which is able to use the power of taxation to compel payment by all beneficiaries. The availability and quality of veterinary extension is therefore unlikely to improve unless public sector performance can be strengthened. This is the area of reform that has received comparatively little attention.

Prospects for improvements are likely to rest with measures that strengthen the performance of the public sector: One of such is commercialization.

Commercialization of Veterinary Extension Services

Commercialization is defined as the re-organisation of an enterprise wholly or practically owned by the government, in which such commercialized enterprises shall operate as profit making commercial venture without subvention from the government H.R.Zayyad. Enterprises to be commercialised would also be expected to be better managed and to make profit.

Commercialization involves introduction of commercial principles into its operations, including the application of user charges, commercial accounting and commercial performance objectives, with the aim of turning it into a commercially-viable and profit-making enterprise (United Nations, 1995). According to NCP (2000), full commercialization means that enterprises so designated will be expected to operate profitably on a commercial basis and be able to raise funds from the capital market without government guarantee. Such enterprises are expected to use private sector procedures in the running of their businesses. On the other hand, partial commercialization means that enterprises so designated will be expected to generate enough revenue to cover their operating expenditures Nicholas Ozor 2008. The government may consider giving them capital grants to finance their capital projects. In both full and partial commercialization, no divestment of the federal government‘s shareholding will be involved, and subject to the general regulatory powers of the federal government, the enterprises shall: fix rates, prices and charges for goods produced and services rendered; capitalize assets; and sue and be sued in their corporate names Ozor 2008.

In commercialization, in contrast to privatization, the agency remains public.

Veterinary extension is considered as a commercial product or service, which exchanges between two parties over a required payment. Simply one party (extension providers) acts as sellers and other party (farmers) acts as buyers. Veterinary, extension can also be considered as an input such as vaccines, improved livestock breed etc, which is essential for the commercially oriented farming. As farmers have to pay for other inputs, they have to pay for extension services also.

The basic concept is that farmers have to pay for the service which they get. Either farmers pay totally or partially, it depends on the extension approach. Farmers may pay the full amount of the fee or the government   could subsidize it fully or partially. However, finally extension providers are being paid for their service.

Advantages and Prospects of Commercialization of Veterinary Extension Services in Nigeria

Commercialization is perceived to have had a positive effect on moving beyond the farm gate into involvement of the extension staff in the entire production – processing – transporting – marketing chain- consumption chain.

There also has been a shift in focus to a client orientation and a concern to identify and produce results in terms of productivity increases rather than simply engage in productive activities (Hercus, 1991).

In general, a more commercialized approach broadens the focus of extension personnel and makes an extension service more responsive to client needs and changing economic and social conditions (Rivera and Cary, 1997). It deals bottom-top management approaches that ensures popular participtance democratic multiples.

Commercialisation of services do provide poor farmers with better access to veterinary extension services through interpersonal negotiations for a felt need.

Commercialization will relieve the financial burden of government and release fund for it to use in other areas.

Government veterinary services will under commercialized argument focus on regulation, the environment, and continued provision of advisory services to rural livestock farmers.

It will promote greater efficiency and productivity in the public enterprises.

Problems of Commercializing Veterinary Extension Services

There are problems which are critical to the success of any Commercialization programme in veterinary extension. For instance, restructuring in a commercialized enterprise usually brings about the fear of lay-offs and job losses among staff.

Similarly, the difficulty in attaching monetary value to extension services may result in an inappropriate pricing of services rendered. This may drastically affect the whole programme. Ajiey P.C, 2008.

According to Rivera and Cary (1997), the most obvious shortcoming in extension services commercialization is the difficulty of collecting user fees and establishing cost accounting procedures to set charges at appropriate levels. Farmers’ poor economic background may limit their capacities to pay for extension services. The poor economic background of farmers in Nigeria, usually stemmed from the fact that majority of them are engaged in subsistence farming using crude implements with low capital outlay and low-yielding species of crops and animals which results in low income.

Conclusion

The programme of commercialization of veterinary extension services is a major opportunity for the reform of Nigeria ailing public/ state ministries of Agriculture and to prepare them to serve the need of the livestock producers.

This public enterprise will be made more accountable and more responsive to the needs of the clientele if it is meant to serve the rural livestock farmers.

The experience in Nigeria points to the fact that it is difficult for the Government in developing countries to divest its interest in the extension enterprises completely.

In many African countries, the institutional infrastructures for viable divesture do not exist. Furthermore, local capital to facilitate implementation of the divesture is not available.

Therefore, it would seem that the most viable option for Nigeria is to subject a substantial part of the public extension enterprise sector to reforms that will help achieve management and productive efficiency, through shared extension service responsibilities by the Government and professional livestock production technology package providers.

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