After reading this post, you should be able to answer the following questions:

  • What is extension education?
  • List the main facets of agricultural extension.
  • How was extension activities carried out during the pre-colonial era in Nigeria?
  • List six (6) government organized extension programmes in Nigeria.
  • Explain the history of agricultural extension in the world.
  • Discuss the various government organized extension programmes in Nigeria.

Agricultural Extension in the World

The term extension was derived from the practice of British universities of having one educational programme within the premises of the university and another away from the university buildings. The programme conducted outside the university was described as ‘’extension education’’. The expression connoted an extension of knowledge from the university to places and people far beyond.

The term ‘’Extension Education’’ was first introduced in 1873 by Cambridge University in England to describe a particular system dedicated to the dissemination of knowledge to rural people where they lived and worked. Within a short time, the idea had spread to other parts of Britain, Europe and North America.

Extension work is an out of school system of education in which adults and young people learn by doing. It is a partnership between the government, the land-grant institutions, and the people, which provides services and education designed to meet the needs of the people (Kelsey and Hearne, 1966).

The term ‘’Agricultural Extension’’ was only adopted in 1914 when the United States Federal Smith-Lever Act of 1914 formalized a nationwide cooperative federal-state-county programme and gave operational responsibility for this to the land grant colleges and Universities.

In the beginning, agricultural extension was concerned primarily with the improvement of agriculture, using conventional teaching methods. As time went on, home economics, youth programmes and rural community resource development were included. Agricultural extension spread to tropical Africa, the Caribbean, Asia and Latin America following the involvement of the United States of America (USA) in bilateral AID programmes after the Second World War.

Agricultural extension now has three main facets:        

  1. As a discipline it deals with the behaviour of people. It is educational in content and purposive in approach. Whether the content consists of agriculture, medicine (preventive and social medicine), public health, education, engineering, etc, extension is always dependent on a firm knowledge and expertise in sociology, anthropology, psychology, administration, economics, communication arts, political science and so on.
  2. As a process, agricultural extension seeks to influence the behavior of rural people through education and information exchange. The aim is to assist them in gaining a livelihood, improving the physical and psychological level of living of rural families, and fostering rural community welfare. The success of the extension process requires an atmosphere of mutual trust, helpfulness and respect on the part of both extension worker and rural people.
  3. As a service, agricultural extension makes the government ministry, the university or voluntary agency as useful as possible to the people who support it through taxes and donations. The concept that the broader function of extension work is to help people to solve their own problems through the application of scientific knowledge is now generally accepted.

Agricultural Extension in Nigeria

The history of agricultural extension in Nigeria is interwoven with that

of agricultural development in general. This is because Agricultural

extension is concerned with all areas of agriculture.

The Pre-Colonial and Colonial Periods

During the pre-colonial era by the British, conscious efforts were made in selection, introduction and teaching of the practices involved in producing good varieties of crops and breeds of animals. Farmers selected the best seeds for multiplication, from which the seedlings are been transplanted to their farms. Similarly farmers introduced to their farms improved seeds and animals from their neighbouring communities and from trans-Saharan traders from neighbouring countries.

The farmers themselves experimented upon and projected their production methodologies without the assistance of formally designated extension agents.

Extension teaching was largely through apprenticeship. Families have taught succeeding generation crop production, animal husbandry and soil management through observation and participation by learners.

Neighbours and friends shared new knowledge of improved farm practices.

During the colonial era by the British, some agricultural development initiatives were undertaken with the purpose of increasing production.

The first step was to establish the Department of Botanical Research in 1893 with its headquarters at Olokomeji in the former western Nigeria (Williams, 1978). Its responsibilities included conducting research in both agriculture and forestry.

In 1905, the British Cotton Growers Association acquired 10.35 square kilometres of land at the site now called Moor Plantation, Ibadan for growing cotton to feed the British textile mills. In 1910, Moor Plantation, Ibadan became the headquarters of the Department of Agriculture in Southern Nigeria, while the Department of Agriculture was established in the North in 1912.

In 1921, a unified Department of Agriculture was formed in Nigeria, after the amalgamation of the North and the South. The major policy of the central Department of Agriculture was to increase production of export crops for the British market which was ready to absorb it for its industrial growth. Extension activities were therefore directed towards increasing efficiency in crop production and marketing.

Regulations were made to set and enforce standards in export crop production.

The colonial government also established some agricultural development schemes to upgrade the skills of farmers and to produce agricultural commodities.

The Kware irrigation scheme was established in 1926. It was situated 16miles or 25.74 kilometres north of Sokoto town. Its purposes were to increase rice yields and provide experimental data on production under severe drought during dry season and flooding during the rains.

The scheme started with 1000 acres or 405 hectares involving 800 farmers with farms situated along the river banks. The irrigation scheme employed the shadoof which is an ancient Egyptian technique, also used by the Sudanese.

The scheme did not attain much of its objectives because

  1. the irrigation scheme (shardoof) was inadequate on large farms;
  2. it is a slow technique of irrigation;
  3. it was difficult to collect cost of services from users; (d) in 1943, 1945 and 1954, river Rima over-flooded and washed away most of the rice crop; and
  4. use of manure was not popular among the farmers.

The colonial period also witnessed the establishment of the Niger Agricultural project in 1949 with the aims of producing groundnut as export and guinea-corn for local consumption. It was also to relieve world food shortage, demonstrate better farming techniques and increase productivity of Nigeria’s agriculture. The project was sited near Mokwa at an area which is suitable for mechanized food crop production.

The Post-Colonial Period

Post-colonial agricultural extension in Nigeria can be categorized into two groups:

  1. government-organized agricultural programmes; and
  2. Extension programmes organized and sponsored by private agencies.

The first group constitutes the more extensive of the two.

Government organised agricultural extension include the National Accelerated Food Production Project (NAFPP) which was introduced in 1972, Agricultural Development Projects, ADP (1975), the Accelerated Development Area Project, ADAP(1982), and Multi-State Agricultural Development Projects, MSADP (1986).

Other programmes were the Operation Feed the Nation Programme, OFN (1976), the River Basin Development Authority, RBDA (1973), the Green Revolution Programme, GRP (1980), the Directorate of Food, Roads and Rural Infrastructure, DFRRI (1986), the National Directorate of Employment,

NDE (1986), the Nigeria Agricultural Insurance Scheme, NAIS (1987) and the National Fadama Development Project, NFDP (1992). In recent years, the Poverty Alleviation Programme, PAP (2000), and National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy, NEEDS (2004) were introduced. Specifically the National Special Programme for Food Security, NSPFS was launched in March 2003.

Some private agencies have embarked on agricultural extension services largely towards a specific clientele system of their choice. Some of the agencies are: The Nigerian Tobacco Company, oil companies such as

Shell Petroleum Development Company, and religious organizations such as the Catholic and the Anglican churches. Some Nongovernmental organizations, NGO’s such as the Leventis Foundation also operate some extension services.

Many international organisations have been involved in agricultural extension, agricultural and rural developments in Nigeria for decades. Notable among these are the World Bank, International Fund for Agricultural Development, IFAD, United States Agency for International Development, USAID, Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation ACPECCTA, and Food and Agriculture Organization, (FAO) of the United Nations.


This unit has introduced you to the meaning and history of agricultural extension both in the world and Nigeria. From these discussions you must have learnt the meaning of “Extension education” and

“Agricultural extension” as well as history of agricultural extension in the world and in Nigeria.


The main points in this unit are:

  • The term ‘’Extension education’’ was first introduced in 1873 by Cambridge University in England to describe a particular system dedicated to the dissemination of knowledge to rural people where they lived and worked .
  • The term ‘’Agricultural extension’’ was only adopted in 1914 when the United States Federal Smith-Lever Act of 1914 formalized a nationwide cooperative federal-state-county programme and gave operational responsibilities for this to the land grant colleges and universities.
  • The discussion of the history of agricultural extension in Nigeria is treated briefly in the pre-colonial and colonial periods as well as in the current or post-colonial epoch.


Jibowo, A.A. (2005). History of Agricultural Extension in Nigeria. In:

S.F. Adedoyin (ed.) Agricultural Extension in Nigeria.

Publication of Agricultural Extension Society of Nigeria, pp1-12.

Kelsey L.D. and Hearne C.C. (1966). Cooperative Extension Work.

New York: Constock Publishing Associates.

Obibuaku L.O. (1983). Agricultural Extension as a strategy for

Agricultural transformation. University of Nigeria Press,

Nsukka, Nigeria, 119pp.

Williams, S.K.T. (1978). Rural Development in Nigeria. Ile-Ife

:University of Ife Press, Nigeria, 129pp.

Youdeowei A., Ezedinma F.O.C. and Onazi O.C (1986). Introduction to

Tropical Agriculture. Longman: China, 344pp.


                        National Open University (NOUN)