2.4. Extension Service

Agricultural Extension in Liberia is organized in a two tier system:

a) The Rubber Extension Service for Liberian commercial farmers organized by the concessions and the Rubber Planters Association. It employs about 50 extension officers.

b) The extension service of the Department of Agriculture, which has been operating since 1960, is in charge of the traditional farmers. Beside the Directorate at the Department level, it has a county agent in each of the 9 counties, and a total of 7 assistant county agents and 76 extension aids in the country. Moreover, 10 rural youth aids and 24 home economic aids work in their particular fields.

While the county agents have a bachelor degree in agriculture and sometimes foreign training, the training of the aids is of a rather low standard. Some are graduates of the Booker Washington Institute, while others just completed primary school, and some are even illiterate. The average duration of schooling of the aids is 8,7 years.

A county agent has a pick-up at his disposal, while the aids have to travel by bicycle or on foot to reach the farmers. Equipment to help the extension staff is almost nonexistent and, of the whole budget of the extension service, 84 per cent is used for salaries, while only 16 per cent remains for support.

The rather low average density of one county agent for 16,700 and one aid for 2,000 farmers makes intensive work impossible. A low work discipline and the absence of a well defined extension programme make the operations rather diffuse. In the counties visited, the activities so far were limited to service for 60 100 usually larger farmers who requested such assistance like provision of planting material and mechanical land levelling. The bulk of the traditional farmers receive no assistance at all from the extension service.

In order to concentrate its efforts, the department recently set up a scheme to specialize extension work and use the aids for one subject only, like rice, tree crops, livestock, etc. This will make in service training easier and help to overcome the training deficiencies of the lower extension staff. A serious hindrance for extension work is the lack of feedback from agricultural research.

If an attempt is to be made at developing agriculture, a complete change in the extension service seems to be necessary. It would include change in the quality of personnel, development of a sound extension programme and a change from work with single peasants to mass extension work with organized groups of farmers.