Farm Guidance Services of Agricultural Co-operatives
Farm guidance is agricultural advisory services through co-operatives integrated with credit, supply, marketing and other activities of co-operatives. The concept of farm guidance was conceived from the experiences of Japanese agricultural co-operatives. Farm guidance is also indispensable to an integrated approach of multipurpose co-operatives.
In most of the countries, agricultural advisory services are undertaken by the government through its agricultural extension offices and the contents of such government agricultural extension work may vary from country to country. It may be mentioned in general that most of these governmental extension work are rather confined to the technical aspect of agricultural production such as improved production techniques, use of improved inputs etc. with a view to increasing agricultural production.
However, it was often found that such extension work had not made desired impact on the improvement of agriculture or farmer’s economy. The important thing is that there will be no positive response from the farmers who make the final decision on the practical application of new production techniques unless more attention is paid, along with such extension work, to the economic aspects of application with proper provision of facilities such as credit, supply, marketing etc. whereby the farmers may be ensured of better economic return out of their increased produce.
In pre-war Japan agricultural advisory service was undertaken by separate organisation supported financially by the government and after the World War II agricultural co-operatives restarted under the new Agricultural co-operative Act with an objective of increasing agricultural productivity as well as economic and social standard of farmers. Hence, guidance service was newly added to the traditional services of agricultural co-operatives. Such guidance services are to educate the farmers in order to raise the economic and social conditions of farm household, which may include both production and living aspects of farmers.
Therefore, guidance services of agricultural co-operatives in Japan are divided into two : guidance on farm management improvement and guidance on home-life improvement, and the former is called as farm guidance. Thus the farm guidance is used in the context of co-operative agricultural advisory service for the improvement of farm management of individual farmers with an emphasis on its economic aspects while the agricultural extension service is referred to governmental agricultural advisory service on production techniques.
Objectives and Prerequisites of Farm guidance
The main objectives of farm guidance services of agricultural co-operatives are to increase economic return of individual farmers out of their produce, to improve the living conditions of the farming community for which the co-operative is serving, and to contribute for the improvement of national economy. In order to attain these objectives, farm guidance calls for specific objectives to generate an interest and willingness among farmer members for improving their farm management and to induce them to undertake improvement programme.
For this purpose, co-operatives have to extend assistance to farmers in an integrated way in the fields of credit, marketing, supply and technical know-how. It is only when this assistance is properly given to farmers, that farm guidance services of agricultural co-operatives will have real impact on the improvement of farm management. In short, firm guidance means a two-way communication accompanied by goods, money and technical know-how between agricultural co-operatives and their members. Provision of farm guidance with co-operative activities will increase farmers’ knowledge and skills and also change their attitudes. This implies that farm guidance is an educational process.
However, before implementing farm guidance to increase the efficiency of farm management of individual farmers through farm planning and provision of various co-operative’ services, it requires serious planning such as assessment of the actual resources available in terms of material, financial and human, determination of quantity of production on the basis of price structure and demand in the market, estimation of additional requirements and services needed for such production, and formulation of a production plan including budget of individual farmers and of whole community.
Farm guidance activities may include most of the aspects of agricultural management such as (a) land improvement, (b) selection of crops to be produced and bulk production,(c) production and management programme of the whole village and that of individual farmers, (d) standardization of quality of agricultural produce and agricultural inputs, (e) joint utilization of machinery and labor, (f) improvement of production techniques of farmers, (g) joint grading and checking facilities and (h) Co-operative (joint) production.
Agricultural co-operatives should decide the priority areas of the above in which they should direct their attention taking their economic and organisational conditions into account and establish a close collaboration and coordination with other agencies which are concerned with the improvement of agricultural production. Also marketing, supply and credit businesses of agricultural co-operatives need to be well integrated.
An important prerequisite for successful farm guidance activities is the existence of a common policy among different types of Societies operated in the same area, or different sections such as marketing, supply and credit of a multi-purpose co-operative, to which all co-operative activity must be directed. Without this the farm guidance will be a waste of time and money even if the Society could have competent personnel for farm guidance.
For instance, in case the co-operative expert of farm guidance visited a farmer who holds small piece of land without much produce to sell and he advised the farmer to start poultry farming with loans from co-operatives and the loan to this farmer was rejected by a person in charge of advancing loans because of the small size of the land farmer naturally loses his trust on the farm guidance expert. There are many other problems and difficulties with which the farm guidance experts are confronted in their task.
In most cases, the failures in farm guidance activities are due to lack of coordination among different agencies or different
activities of co-operatives or lack of understanding on farm guidance by leaders of the Society. These defects of Societies and leaders may tend to put more emphasis on the increasing of marketing of commodities that are more profitable for co-operatives without paying due attention to the needs of farmers or what farmers are expecting from the Society. But the increasing of the business volume of the Society only may not succeed in maintaining the farmers’ loyalty to and the confidence in the Society unless the Society extends the services they need. It is the farm guidance activities of the Society that enables it to make an integrated approach to farmers and to make real contribution to the betterment of farmers.