Analysis of Quality and Economic Performance of Extension Services in the South Central Region of Burkina Faso: a Public Private Comparison




In the context of privatisation of agricultural extension services as recommended by the Government of Burkina Faso, there was a need for empirical research to inform policy makers about the opportunity of such privatisation. Therefore, this study aimed at assessing the perception of farmers under private and public systems about the quality of extension services, estimating their willingness to pay for better and sustainable extension services, assessing their farm technical efficiency levels and analysing the profitability of a private organisation delivering extension services. Four services were selected in this study. These services were: Facilitation of access to credit, facilitation of input provision, technical support and facilitation of access to market. The private sector was represented by a Catholic non-governmental organisation called Organisation Catholique pour le Développement et la Solidarité (OCADES-CARITAS) and the public sector was represented by three provincial Departments of the Ministry of Agriculture. Two groups of farmers were selected from six localities in the South Central Region of Burkina Faso. The first group, selected from three localities, included 136 farmers under public extension system. The second group included 135 farmers selected from three localities covered by private extension services. Using Likert scale measurement techniques, descriptive statistics and econometrics methods (Probit and Tobit), it was found that both farmers who access public and private extension services were satisfied with the quality of facilitation of access to credit, facilitation of input provision, technical support, and facilitation of access to market. However, it was observed that farmers under private extension system had better appreciation of the quality of services they received than farmers under public extension. Farmers under public extension services (who currently receive fee free services) were willing to pay to receive better quality services. The average amounts they were willing to pay were 300 FCFA/month for facilitation of access to credit, 455 FCFA/month for facilitation of input provision, 400 FCFA/month for technical support and 450 FCFA/month for facilitation of access to market. Farmers under private extension were ready to pay 245 FCFA/month more for facilitation of access to credit, 855 FCFA/month more for facilitation of input provision, 825 FCFA/month for technical support and 900 FCFA/month more for facilitation of access to market. In terms of efficiency of food crop farms, it was found that farmers under public extension system were on average 54% technically efficient, while the score was estimated at 46% for those under private extension system. All food crop farmers irrespective of service provider are inefficient. The public receivers are cotton farmers, who could use information received from cotton extension companies for their food crop, hence, the higher inefficiency. The estimated extension costs (376,642,125 FCFA) make the delivery of the services not profitable for the private organisation which supplies them (the Benefit-Cost ratio calculated was less than one). External support of farmers should continue; for farmer to benefit from extension information (whether they pay or not) training on effective application of extension information is key.




1.1.   Background


For over two decades, how to increase agricultural productivity and farmers’ incomes has been a regular worry of governments across the world and Africa in particular. In African countries, agriculture is the main economic activity involving majority of the population and mostly in rural areas. For instance, 63% of the African population is rural and agriculture employs about 65% of the total work force (Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), 2013). The performance of agricultural sector in Sub- Sahara Africa (SSA) is constrained by governance problems, low soil fertility, poor access to inputs, insufficient storage, transport and marketing infrastructures, limited technical knowledge, lack of information to address knowledge, and weak information dissemination (AGRA, 2014). Agricultural research is therefore a means to generate new knowledge about agricultural techniques and practices or to improve existing knowledge; and extension is the means to disseminate this knowledge and information to farmers in order to improve their farming activities. The system of generating and disseminating new knowledge includes four phases: evolvement phase, linkage phase, delivery phase and adoption phase (Farinde, 1996, cited in Ayansina, 2011). At the evolvement phase, information about new technology, farm organisation and practices is generated by Research Centers and Universities based on farmers’ need and government policy. That information is, at the linkage phase, brought to the extension service providers (public or private) which are the links between farmers and researchers. When the extension providers obtain the information, they start disseminating the new technologies to farmers at the delivery phase. That dissemination


is done through the implementation of various methods such as Farmer Field School (FFS), Training and visit (T&V), mass media, etc. The last phase refers to the adoption of new practices by farmers who are convinced about the importance of these practices in the improvement of their farming activities. That top-down or linear approach was criticised for not promoting farmers’ participation in the information generating process and implying financial constraints for Governments which have the role of coordination of agricultural policy (Swanson, 2008, Taye, 2013).

Although the Agfrican agricultural production has increased, the productivity has stagnated compared to Asia or America. The increase in production has been mainly due to the increase of areas cultivated and the increase of labor force rather than the increase in productivity (New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), 2013).

In Burkina Faso, agriculture is characterised by a high level of volatility in the sense that it is mainly rain-fed and is therefore very sensitive to climate variations (Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), 2013). Agricultural productivity is low, hence the difficulty to meet food security and food self-sufficiency goals. Farmers have low access to input such as fertilizer, improved seed; new agricultural techniques or practices and information for commercialization of their crops. Efforts have been made, but still remain insufficient to change the situation (Direction Générale des Productions Végétales (DGPV), 2010).

The agricultural situation in Africa in general and in Burkina Faso described above, shows that the system of generating and disseminating agricultural information (about new or improved practices, opportunities for credit and marketing) is facing many challenges which need to be addressed in order to make the agricultural sector effective in achieving the food self-sufficiency and food security goals and in promoting


sustainable development. Extension in the context of agricultural activities means mainly education in order to change the behaviour of farmers from some practices to others assumed to be better, more effective and efficient. Agricultural extension was initially related to agricultural research activities from which new farming techniques, better inputs and new social organisations, can be produced in order to help farmers (Kristin, 2008; Swanson, 2008; Swanson & Rajalahti, 2010). The definition includes the function of providing or sharing new knowledge and information to rural communities with the objective of improving their production, their access to market, their income and their well-being (Anderson & Feder, 2004; FAO, 1997; Kristin, 2008Swanson & Rajalahti, 2010). The information and knowledge provided can include estimates of future prices of farm products, new research products, and farm practices (how to use input for example).

Many Sub-Sahara African countries have been using extension services as a means to help increase agricultural productivity and production, farmers’ income and to improve rural development. A study conducted by Bindlish and Everson in Burkina Faso and Kenya (1997) has shown that areas covered by extension services had higher yield than those which were not and that farmers participating directly in extension services had the highest yield. The National Agricultural Advisory Services program promoted in Uganda led farmers to adopt improved production technologies and practices and that enabled farmers to avoid large declines in their income (Benin et. al., 2007). In the highlands of Ethiopia, Elias, Nohmi, Yasunobu and Ishida (2013) have shown that smallholders’ participation in extension programmes has increased farm productivity by 20%.

From late 1950-1960s until the post-structural adjustment period (2000s), extension


services in African countries have been delivered  mainly by the public sector through


the Ministries of Agriculture because extension information is a public good (Ponniah, Puskur, Workneh, & Hoekstra, 2008). In this system, decision-making and management are highly centralized and formalized (FAO, 2008). The decisions and priorities are taken at the top by the government functionaries and are applied through Extension Field Staff (EFS).

Around the world and particularly in developed countries, the growth of commercial farm sector and trade liberalisation have contributed to a rapidly developing global food system and a wide range of new and proprietary technologies for many of the major crops. That has led technology transfer systems to become progressively privatised since production technologies were becoming more and more private good (Swanson, 2008). Delivering information to farmers is the core aspect of extension services. Agricultural information can be either general or non-excludable (market information, improved agricultural techniques or cropping patterns, etc.) or specialised and excludable (advices in the use of fertilizer for a specific field or farm operation, etc.). In the first case, such information tends to be a public good and in the second case, it tends to be a private good (Anderson & Feder, 2004).

For African countries, many aspects of extension were supposed to have strong public good characteristics that is why public extension has been common in the region. However, the public extension has been criticized for not being relevant, effective and efficient (FAO, 2008). Several reasons can explain this situation, but the main ones are the low staff morale and the financial stress which has put extreme pressure on governments to demonstrate the pay-off to investment in extension and has led to the need to explore alternative options by involving the private sector, local communities and producer groups (FAO, 2008; Ponniah et. al, 2008). In addition, farmers express

demand for information and may be ready to pay for it provided that they perceive the


information useful for their activities. Therefore, even if the role of the public sector remains important in supporting farmers, it is more and more advised that private sector should increase its role in providing extension services in partnership with public sector whose role would be to create a good legal environment for private enterprises (Swanson, 2008; Virmani, 2013).

The institutional arrangements for public and private extension services are different. Public extension refers to agricultural extension service that is formulated, funded and provided by the Government through state agencies. Such services can include supply of information about market prices, input supply, technology transfer, research and development, and training for adoption of new farming techniques. Such services are most of the time seen as public goods whose supply may not be profitable for private enterprises, because of the non-excludability of the services. Private extension on the other hand is provided by organisations which are not under the direct authority of a Government. Their intervention policy, the management of their team and mode of delivery of extension services are independent of Government. The service providers can involve the third sector (civil society, Non-Governmental Organisations), the private business enterprises and the farmer organisations. However, in terms of funding source for both private and public extension services, many alternatives exist in the sense that private actors can finance public services (fee-for extension service and contracts with public institution) and public actors can also finance private services (subsidies to providers of extension services and publicly financed contracts for extension services) (Anderson & Feder, 2004).

In the case of Burkina Faso, the delivery of extension services has always been part of the overall agricultural policy. During the colonial period, extension services were

focused firstly on cash crops and they were provided exclusively by foreign agencies


or governments. But after independence in 1960, extension activities were progressively provided by the national government with the financial and technical support of foreign governments or agencies (Direction Générale des Productions Végétales (DGPV), 2010). Besides the government, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), and farmers’ cooperatives are getting more and more engaged in the delivery of agricultural extension activities such as facilitating access to credit, providing market information, promoting new farmers’ organisations, disseminating new farming techniques and training farmers to protect the environment and increase productivity (DGPV, 2010). These actors are financially supported by donors (international NGOs) or their members (in the case of farmer organisations); they also sometimes hire the services of public extension agents. Apart from the cotton sector, where three cotton companies are providing extension services on a for-profit basis, providing information and knowledge to farmers with full cost recovery is not found in Burkina Faso (DGPV, 2010).

1.2.   Problem Statement


The constraints to Burkina Faso’s agricultural sector are many and related to access to inputs, equipment, credit, markets and more generally information to improve productivity and farm management. For instance, only eight per cent of farmers have access to credit and a low proportion of cereal output is marketed (7% for millet, 10% for sorghum and 30% for maize in 2009) (Direction de la Prospective et des Statistiques Agricoles et Alimentaires (DPSAA), 2011). The proportion of area receiving agricultural input was 21.4% in 2010 (DPSAA, 2011); in 2013 only 44% of the target of 11 026 farmers being covered by extension services was realised (Secrétariat Permanent/Stratégie    de    Croissance   Accélérée    et    de   Développement Durable

(SP/SCADD), 2013). Agricultural extension services are supposed to support  farmers


in different ways (providing knowledge about new agricultural practices, organisation, access to input, access to credit and access to market) and therefore are supposed to help mitigate the constraints indicated above. The agricultural sector in Burkina Faso is characterised by a dominance of smallholder farmers (900 000) with 72.2% having less than 5 ha, and 1.1% having more than 20 ha. For smallholder farmers, the yields are low and many of the commodities (except for rice and cotton) are produced mainly for self-consumption because these farmers are facing challenges to increase their yield and they cannot rely on markets to make profit. While rural development requires the creation of opportunities for rural dwellers to increase their incomes, and well-being, relying only on subsistence agriculture may not promote the development of Burkina Faso’s rural areas.

Smallholder farmers have low access to agricultural extension services not only because the government budget is limited, but also because their needs are not well defined. For instance, from 2006 to 2010, when the total proportion of public expenditure for agriculture exceeded 10%, the share of that amount was 3% for technology transfer, 3% for commercialization, and 6% for agricultural research. Besides, the proportion of expenditure to agriculture has declined since 2010 (FAO 2013). This makes it difficult to reach all the farmers and provide them with appropriate services. In addition, the farmers’ needs are not well addressed because they are not properly involved in the process of designing the extension services to be delivered and the approaches and methods to be used, making them supply-driven. Consequently, so far, the public extension service has failed to help farmers achieve the goals of enhancing productivity and income. Generally, public extension is facing criticisms on the costs involved in providing extension activities, low funding, not targeting the right population for these activities, low response to the extension needs of farmers and ultimately the


effectiveness of these activities (Alexopoulos, Koutsouris, & Tzouramani, 2009; FAO, 2008; FAO, 1997).

Therefore, to improve and expand extension activities with the objective of less government involvement, several strategies have been developed. Due to the financial constraints and the need to support farmers through appropriate services, in 2010, Burkina Faso adopted a national framework for promoting and improving agricultural extension services called ‘Systeme National Vulgarisation et d’Appui Conseil Agricoles (SNVACA)’1. The framework recommends a progressive privatisation of agricultural extension services to complement public extension. This is motivated by the following reasons: (i) meeting the targeted and real needs of producers through a demand-orientated provision of services, (ii) the possibility of multiplicity of choices of services available to farmers or farmers’ organisations (pluralism in extension services), (iii) increasing the participation and accountability of farmers or farmers’ organisation in the mobilisation and management of their resources and (iv) the participation of farmers or farmers’ organisation in the management boards of public advisory services.

Private extension is seen as a way to overcome limitations of public extension in the sense that it can be more efficient in the delivery of services; it can lower government expenditure and it can provide higher quality of services (Sulaiman, Hall, & Suresh, 2005). For instance, Riaz (2010) has shown that in Pakistan, farmers seem to trust the information from the private sector since that information is supposed to be more relevant, up-to-date, accurate and timely compared to information from the public sector. However, whether private extension is effective and appropriate is not so clear


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