South Sudan government should promote agriculture productivity through rural extension service

By Chap Phan

July 27, 2012 (SSNA) — Rural (Agricultural) Extension Service involves deliberate use of communication of information to help people from rural area make good decisions concerning farming activities. Extension is a service or system which assists farmer through educational procedures in improving farming methods and techniques, increasing production efficiency and income, which enhances level of living and have positive impact in lifting social and educational standards of the whole country.

South Sudan National Bureau of Statistics shows that 83 percent of Southern Sudanese resides in rural area and about 4.13 million of South Sudanese lives below the poverty line which mean that 51 percent of Southern Sudanese live on less than $ 1.25 per day. Also, 78 percent of Southern Sudanese depend on crop farming or animal husbandry as their primary source of livelihood (SSNBS, 2009).  These statistics say a lot about the need for smart public policy discussion, and this paper seek to offer one major public policy that have potential to have huge impact on ordinary Southern Sudanese’ lives.  In this article I discusses that Rural Extension Service offers the best pathway for increasing and maintaining long-term agricultural productivity in South Sudan.

If the Cush nation wants to increases productivity in agriculture, investment in Rural Extension Services offers the best sustainable solution for agricultural productivity.  Agriculture services have been reported to have substantial returns on agricultural productivity in different countries throughout the world i.e. Singapore, South Korea, its model that had worked and should works for South Sudan. There are no unique paths for South Sudan to move from an agriculture-based to an urbanized and into high-income countries without increasing agriculture productivity. Given the high youths unemployment in South Sudan, investment in agricultural sector will stimulates rural development and generates employment opportunities for the urban people as well, and most of all, it will increase a sustainable food production.

South Sudan has great potential for expanding and developing the agricultural sector.  The country is well endowed with the basic agriculture essentials; about 90 percent of the land is arable land and the longest river, the Nile, goes through the heart of South Sudan. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO, 2012), only about 3.6 percent of available land was under cultivation between 2005 and 2011. Many Southern Sudanese still relied on imported food from Kenya, Uganda and North Sudan despites the fact that South Sudan has comparative advantage in term of arable land and water supply then those importing countries.

The first-order impact for Rural Extension Service is the obvious increases in agriculture productivity, which benefits urban dwellers as well as rural populations. Increases in agricultural productivity benefit the poor directly through increases in production and also benefits the urban dwellers through reduction in food prices. That is, rural poor will expand their production process and productivity gains will induce lower food prices, which are direct benefits to the poor populations. Rural Extension Services improves production for small farmers due to better access to information and farming techniques that would be generated by the Rural Extension Services. The first increase in agricultural productivity will stems from rural famer’s production by brings the land to production.  The second-order impact is that Rural Extension Service will enable small farmers to realize and promotes technological progress and therefore localizes the technology. This is the major reason for supporting Rural Extension service; the benefit of localizing technology would put South Sudan at greater advantage over other African countries. Adopting and localizes technology that fits the local conditions need huge human and institutional capacity, and Rural Extension Service offers the best pathway for localizing technology in South Sudan.   

The main position of this paper is that South Sudan should adopt Rural Extension Service because it is the best pathway for increasing sustainable agricultural productivity, (the reader should observed the emphasis on sustainable productivity). Equally important, this paper focuses on role of learning to learn, the role of capability building and institutions for local conditions. That is, the needs of “learning what one is good at producing.” This paper emphasize the importance of identifying the key challenge, which is the process and need of transforming foreign technology into local technology that is conductive to local conditions. What South Sudan requires is a localized technology that meets the condition of the area and promoting Rural Extension Services increases the chance of realizing that. Whether a country followed “Labor-intensive products or natural-resource based model” most techniques used in the advanced countries requires “tacit” codification before it usage and lack of capacities can delay specialization process. I am emphasizing that there is role for domestic tinkering in process of adopting successful foreign technology and this can be achieves better through Rural Extension Service. Lack of agricultural productivity in Africa is connected to the difficulties of importing technology “off-the-shelf and localizing it for local conditions and South Sudan can learn from past mistakes (the advantage of leaning form other countries’ mistakes), we should adopt a proactive approach to development.

Thus for this paper the term rural extension services is use as a proxy for technology because usefulness of rural extension service is to help brings technology to the rural area, technology as used in the text does not imply just machine either. Technology here refer to adaptation process that enable the person to use technology, inherent or acquired capability (skills) possessed by people and/or institutions which enables them to convert available information into desired outputs. Also, the term technological capacity building use here is a dynamic and progressive process in which human and institutional capability is developed and sustained for communities and nations in order to benefit from economic interconnections within the country or global system (Stiglitz, 1987).

1.1 The basic framework

Being good at producing a particular good/service more cheaply (Comparative Advantage)  entails elements of search and involves uncertainty to all countries, many countries does not know beforehand what they are good at producing, and every country have to make an effort to discover their comparative advantage which requires investment.  In addition, importing foreign technology “off-the shelf” entails significant costs because successful local adaptation requires considerable domestic tinkering; there are costs associated with importing the technology, and costs associated with applying it to local conditions which requires capabilities, human and institution capabilities (mukand and Rodrik, 2003).  South Sudan as a nation lacks both human and institutional capabilities that can help builds local agriculture technology, that’s the main reason why agricultural productivity had not changed much since 2005 in South Sudan. Agricultural sector in South Sudan have huge potential for economic capacity to produce enough food for the growing population and possibly for the whole region, but that potential of agriculture productivity is constraints due to lack of progress in knowledge and skill in agricultural methods. The underlining problem is lack of investment and capabilities that would enable average Southern Sudanese to specialize in agriculture production.     

Economic theories regarding development path and growth have converged to recognize that economic growth requires foreign technology. Developing countries can benefits from technology discovery from the advanced countries, but only if they applied the technology to the local conditions so that technology can finds roots. History shows that advanced countries discovered their comparative advantage by searching for solutions within their country and using foreign technology as a reference tool. It’s my position that a country, South Sudan in particular, can discover its own comparative advantage, South Sudan can finds it comparativeness by making effort-investment toward that end, and this has been problem for many African countries, South Sudan should heavily invest in agricultural sector given it huge advantage in arable land and water endowments.  

2.1 Absorbing Imported technology

Currently South Sudan suffers from two important and distinctive inefficiencies, the country lack investment in agricultural sector, and this has resulted in lack of entrepreneurship, which can retard specialization. That is, rural farmers provide essential human resources of entrepreneurs; farmers allocate their time and use farm products based on incentive structural. Average Southern Sudanese farmers had not had chances to exploits their comparative advantage because the government did not provides accurate protection (security) in case of Unity State (Mayom county), Jonglei, and Upper Nile states; and because the government did not make investment toward agricultural sector in case of other seven states. . In other words, technical change in agriculture, which is the major sources of increased in productivity in the developed countries, has not been transfers successfully to South Sudan because small farmers did not a chance to learn and use/absorbs it in their respective conditions. Inefficiencies in government policies reduce the economic contribution that agricultural sector is capable of making. It’s common for many African governments to discriminate against Agriculture Service in favor of urban population. The discrimination is rationalized on the ground that agriculture is inherently backward and that it have little economic contribution toward economic development. The truth is that agriculture growth is the foundation of sustainable economic growth. Juba should prioritized agricultural sector if it wants to attain a practical economic progress.

I have emphasized the importance of leaning to learn and desire to localize the nature of learning-local technology.  The point is that entrepreneurs are essential in research, entrepreneurships are important; they are the one who can localize technology if given the right incentive to do so. Innovative and entrepreneurship desires reflect set of mental attitudes and social conventions that seek out alternative ways of thinking and performing.  The importance of social innovations and entrepreneurships factor are comparable to the technological factors; both have important development strategies and implications.  In other words, if learning what a country is good at producing requires an investment and government fails to provide incentive for those activities; those activities may well be neglected. When I was in Juba this January I observed that majority of young people are routinely engaged in cards game and have no income generating activities, which is a common trend from a well neglected Mayom town to well-populated and crowded Juba, yet the government officials seem to wonder why there is high crime in Juba and high insubordination in many small part of the country. Many young people abandoned rural area in hope of finding meaningful job in the urban area only to realize that they cannot finds a job.   Most young people in South Sudan, the possible entrepreneurs, are seeking job in “modern sector” and agricultural sector is neglected. The best solution is to stop movements of rural population into urban area, which can only be induce by investment on rural area, hence the need for Rural Extension Service.  In short, Technical possibilities are favorable, but the economic incentives that are required for farmers in South Sudan to realize this potential are not there.

Agriculture is not desirable career choices for many elites and establishment of Rural Extension Services would stimulates interest from the community and this can captures the interest of the rural young’s people. Investing on Rural Extension Service will help bridge the skills and knowledge necessary for the exercise of the agricultural as profession, instilling the a sense of social importance of the work, and securing recognition and importance of agriculture as an occupation. Achieving a proper balance investment between agriculture and other branches of economic activity will encourage entry of young persons into the various branches of agriculture in sufficient numbers; this will closed the gap between technical developments affecting agricultural production and their use in practice. General improvement in rural livelihoods and the promotion of greater satisfaction in agricultural productivity will induce technology progress at local level.

History shows that advancement of a country depends on how it prioritizes and strategizes it resources endowments.  South Sudan as a country is relatively rich in natural resources, but poor in skilled labor. Although the country has comparative advantage in term of leaning form other countries’ mistakes, it has no capacity for both human and institutional development. This author believes that industrialization cannot be realized until structural changes are put in place and rural agriculture extension researches are critical for building capacity and institutional level. Most advanced countries established institutions and enevireoment that enabled their citizens to collaborate and build capacity among the community of actors. One of important role a government can play is to recognize the importance of good policies. It’s well documented that rapid economic development of the Asia Tiger countries in the latter part of the 20th century has been attributed largely to their deliberate policy on capacity building through investment in human capital and institutional building. Development in Southeast Asia was promoted through systematic and deliberate policies directed at capacity building both human and institutional.   The central point is that the existing structural in relationship to institutional and capacity building effort does not support the national ability to engineer social and economic development in South Sudan.  Empirical studies suggest that there is a strong links between building local capability and the ability to respond to challenges. Having human and institutional capacity make it possible for a country to adopt technology that would enable it to localize technology to the conditions of the country, that’s what South Sudan government should promote.

3.1 Government role

So far the agricultural research in South Sudan has being limited and high priorities seem to have being oriented toward large scale commercial farms/businesses.  The need for a small-scale farmer is great. Extension service is heavy undertaking and this is because the benefits of extension are not easily realize; Extension services have high externalities that are hard to captures in the market place in relative to social benefits. Therefore, this provides theoretical justification for government subsidies for the rural extension. The major reason why government should support rural extension services is that extension services have public good attributions.  In addition, the government should promotes agriculture polices that induce farmers to change their practices. Providing irrigation system, better water management system, and providing subsides in form of storage facilities, marketing facilities, prices support, and flexible credit programs can increase food production and ensured stable food security.

Having a comparative advantage in a particular economic sector is a learned and acquired skill, there is a need to develop this capability in South Sudan and appropriate policy is needed; building the necessary institutions and structures should take priority. Currently the Cush nation is technologically backward, the country is still unable or unprepared to build the institutional/management structures for overcoming their problems.  A policies design that encourages accumulation of technology should take priority.   The promotion of Rural Extension Service is the best instrument that can fills short and long-run objective for increasing agriculture production in South Sudan.

4.1 Summary and conclusion

Investment in Rural Extension Services can improve agricultural productivity and increases farmer income and this will induce a conductive technological progress environment, which is critical for the technological subsector in the process of agriculture productivity. The purpose of rural extension services is to transfers information from global knowledge based and into localized knowledge based so that it can be useful for the local farmer conditions. Thus, it is in this context that extension service is important instrument in spreading knowledge based information that enhances farmer productivity in South Sudan, extension services generate knowledge in term of research and that knowledge enhances information concerning agriculture input, agricultural decision that improves the rural population welfare-increases productivity in their agriculture activities. Information about how to use a particular input, and information about timing and market price are important for small farmers. Rural extension services reduce cost and improve cost-effectiveness for small farmer in the rural area. The main position of this paper has been that Rural Extension Services can enable small farmers to sustained increases in productivity and this in the long-run can lead to a new technological breakthroughs, which will further economic growth, and therefore South Sudan government should aggressively adopt and place policies that favor it. The intention is to direct publicly funded agriculture research toward the needs of small scale farmer and the poor at large. Indeed, increase in productivity in agricultural sector is important and rural extension service should take the appropriate priority. All in all, Development progress for South Sudan development in the next five years is not a sure thing, South Sudan needs technological ability, they need to builds capacities that can sustained the process and ensure effectiveness of technological adaptation for local conditions.

The author holds master degree in economics and resides in Grand Rapids, Michigan USA, he can be reach at [email protected]


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 World Bank, World Development Report, 2008, World Bank. Weashtion DC.   

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