By Zainab Joaque
Agriculture is more than a business; it is not only about production, it is also about managing natural resources for future generations. The question we need to ask ourselves is: ‘can improvements in extension and advisory services really contribute to poverty reduction, food security and improved livelihoods? I can safely say yes it can but not in isolation.
Extension is a non-formal and continuous education service, which operates in the rural areas and promotes processes of management, production, processing and trading of the agricultural and non-agricultural activities and services, including forestry and craftwork.
The Economic Policy and Research Unit of the Ministry of Finance, May 2007 report titled: ‘Prospects for the Poor in the Face of National Agriculture Reforms: A Poverty & Social Impact Analysis of Changes to Agricultural Policy in Sierra Leone,’ outlined the following: “As the Agricultural Sector Review of 2003 reports, there have been various approaches to extension adopted in the past, including the training and visit system. The war has interrupted extension services and they have barely been rehabilitated since. Current levels of provision are minimal and have little impact. The 2006 Service Delivery and Perception Survey reported that: Most farmers in Sierra Leone hardly interact with extension workers”.
“For this study, farmers were asked whether they have ever been visited by an extension worker in the past year, the majority (71%) of agricultural households interviewed nationwide reported not having been visited. Only respondents in the North reported receiving visits from extension workers in 37 percent of cases, the highest nationwide. For the past 1 year  over a quarter of service providers interviewed also admitted that they did not visit their operational areas, while 22.7 percent of those who did visit their farmers within their coverage areas did so only once. Two visits in the year were reportedly made by 13.4% of the service providers (CESPA 2006). There are, however, at least two good reasons to hope that a revitalized extension effort can make a difference,” said the 2007 review report.
We need to respect and recognize the effort of small scale farmers, livestock keepers including women farmers, without recognizing them I think extension can do more harm than good, there will also be other guiding principles around participation and other good practices. The issue is HOW can we as a nation achieve extension services for all our farmers, which is a high level public good, the problem is on the scale of attaining that and how to do it, even if we know how to do it, it has been done at a micro level way, so let us be thinking of a way to scale up the achievement of this service, the issue of food security is very high level which is something that can be achieved if tackled by many stakeholders along the value chain, from policy issues to private farmers and producers, so it is better for us to work along this line and see how best we can achieve these high level objective.
We have the Framework for African Agricultural Productivity (FAAP) which seeks to advocate for farmers to be placed at the centre of Agricultural Innovation Systems. It guiding principles of subsidiary, pluralism, gender, accountability, monitoring and evaluation all embedded in the FAAP, if put together we will be able to solve the issue of food security. It is not a problem of reaching to the farmers but a problem of commitment, extension services cannot be implemented if we do not have a clear policy.
In the whole agricultural value chain in extension farmers are the last to know, the systems are not conducive for them. They live in remote areas where accessibility to information is rear, and they do not get it on time, which is a burning issue and needs to be addressed. They are resource poor and they live far from better information facilities, feeder roads and the time they used to go through it, they don’t participate fully at first hand on innovations that have been developed for them. Currently many Sierra Leoneans have poor access from their communities to other villages and market centres in the country. According to Integrated Household Survey data 2003/4, the problem is not so much that there is no road close to people‘s communities but that the majority of communities, even in rural areas, reported having a road, but rather the quality of the existing roads. No less than 294 of 542 communities surveyed had a road that was impassable during the rains, with a median of 3 months impassable. Even in urban communities, almost half of them reported roads impassable in the rainy season.
They need to be organized into a powerful lobbying group, farmers need to be encouraged and assisted in participating in the whole production and marketing chain. They need to get access to where their products are being sold, they need to influence the buyers and also need to know where their goods are being taken to. Government and the International community should provide substantial funding in improving delivery in extension and advisory services to small holder farmers. For us in Africa extension is a public good, the people who are being provided with those facility cannot afford it.
If we get all farmers organized, to pull more if not all of the value chain they will be able to pay for extension services because now one of the major problem of agriculture is that the returns of farmers is so woefully inadequate and their children do not see a future in agriculture and that the fundamental problem needs to be addressed in terms of farmers organizations. Extensions infrastructure needs to be built by government, donor agencies put a lot of money in agriculture and a lot of that money goes into consultants and technical assistance that is not really needed which is really bad. If just 20% goes down to the grassroots levels we will see agriculture and food production triple, with not much effort. We need to take more bold and drastic approach to up the agriculture project so that there will not be a shortage of information and technical system to the grassroots farmers.
The issue of extension is an issue for the government; they must ensure accountability by giving information, to the farmers who are responsible for production as they are in areas where they can’t be access easily. The use of rural radios is key; it is their role to ensure that farmers are trained to ensure performance. The new progressive farmers may not have the resources to pay for these extension services.
At the Innovations in Extension and Advisory Services International Conference November 2011 which I attended, a case study presented by Mr Jethro Greene, Chief Coordinator, Caribbean Farmers’ Network in St Vincent and the Grenadines, disclosed that for his network to get the critical mass of small farmers and an impact in looking at social stability, they as a network found out that when they get small farmers working together, they tend not to create farmers organization, but instead they create a facilitating environment for them to work together to influence policy, market and produce together, this method according to him proves to be very effective, rather than having a Ministry of Agriculture going to the farmers because a donor says to create a farmers organization, they do not last, but when you create a facilitating environment, where people work together, it achieves it desired objective. Mr Greene said also that to be a member of the Caribbean farmers network the farmers need not registered as a farmer’s organization, all they have to be is just a cluster of farmers working together, that is the kind of liberal approach they are working with, what they also found was that in the haste to push things forward the network made a serious mistake of forcing farmers into groups that do not work.
The vision for us as a nation is to see all our farmers as entrepreneurs with business savvy, who is not only a producer but also tie up at the value chain. We should let the farmers see themselves as someone who can become a very influential business man in our society, and this whole idea of subsistence farming should be thrown out of the window. What we need to do is to tag it into different segments for small farmers we will know that they will need a certain type of extension services whereas the larger and more commercial farmers would need another type of service. We also need to allow the larger progressive farmers share their knowledge and idea with the smaller farmers.
Agriculture should be left to the hands of the farmers, for us to develop agriculture properly we need to put it where it belongs. Everyone even children must develop an appreciation of agriculture and farmers, because when they use the word subsistence farming they are referring to people who will plant in their backyard garden, but it is basically not referring to business farmers that we are looking at. If the whole population develop an appreciation for agriculture, food and nutrition issues it will mean that the image of the farmers will be changed over a period of time, and they will become full business sponsors within the scheme in the society.
The role of NGOs in providing extension services has changed substantially over past years, originally, most NGOs focused on social skills, now, with expanded donor resources being invested in extension, entrepreneurial NGOs are hiring away the best public agricultural extension advisors. Most of these new NGOs are very successful in competing for and carrying out donor-driven projects and they are also providing advisory services. In a press release issued September 2011 titled ‘Machinery Training Benefits Rural Farmers’ the PAGE program (Promoting Agriculture, Governance and the Environment) which is a four year project funded by USAID and implemented by ACDI/VOCA ran a machinery operation and maintenance training course for 53 farmers in Koinadugu district. According to the release farmers were appreciative of the training “Abu Samura, a tractor and power tiller operator who works in the Agricultural Business Center (ABC) in Falaba (Wara Wara Yagala chiefdom) claimed he could talk until tomorrow and not run out of reasons why the training exercise was important to him: “Before the training, we had little knowledge about organizing and undertaking maintenance for different farm seasons, which has affected my farm work and cost me a lot of money. We were only doing it in our own local ways.” the release states. But, are these NGO extension and advisory service providers sustainable after donor funding ceases?
We should respond to the need in redesigning and revitalizing the call for extension and advisory services, in other to reshape the global food system, which seems to be a stall task, the ongoing famine in the horn of Africa as once again reminded us that food security is crucial to the prosperity of not only those of us who live in the region but also to the world at large. We are beginning to understand the inter connectedness of our existence in much deeper ways and we are beginning to respond to that call, creating and maximizing at any given opportunity, so we must because we behold it to this planet and to ourselves. The small holder farmers had no funds to pay for extension services, as they produce the bulk and any effort to stop poverty must start in agriculture.
Videos on extension and advisory services
By Zainab Joaque
by conference reporter
The green growth concept today gained new grounds as one of the overarching development paradigms at the Durban climate change conference, with experts agreeing that failure by the world community to effectively manage climate change would create an environment that would be too hostile for future generations to live in.
Spearheaded by the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) a side-event on green growth filled the biggest hall of the Africa Pavilion - most of the participants were experts and policy-makers, according to the Information and Communication Service of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).
Mr. Abdoulie Janneh, the United Nations Under-Secretary General and Executive Secretary of ECA, whose Commission has done extensive work on green growth attended the side-event. The last Africa Economic Forum co-organised by the ECA focused on green growth.
Senior officials from Brazil, Ethiopia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the Republic of Korea used the side-event to share their unique and powerful stories about green growth initiatives that are being undertaken in their respective nations, underlying the fact that GGGI is one of the rare initiatives that is entirely driven by emerging and developing countries.
But it is Lord Nicholas Stern, author of the famous Stern Report on the economics of climate change, who encapsulated the vision of GGGI and what it stands for when he told the audience that climate change and environmental protection are inextricably intertwined.
“Development, adaptation and mitigation and climate change is not a diversion from the environment”, he explained, adding that GGGI will continue to work to enhance the conceptual understanding of the challenges posed by the different realities.
Earlier, the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) held its 8th Board of Directors Meeting on the sidelines ofCOP17. The board selected two new board members: Messrs Kevin Rudd, Foreign Minister of Australia and Christian Friis Bach, Minister for Development Cooperation of Denmark to initiate greater cooperation around the world on developing green growth policies.
The meeting was attended by former Prime Minister of Korea and GGGI Board Chairman Han Seung-soo; the UAE Special Envoy for Energy and Climate Change and Chief Executive Officer of Masdar, Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber; Minister Trevor Manuel in the Presidency for the National Planning Commission of South Africa as well as by various other influential leaders who specialise in green growth and climate change.
GGGI was established by governments and individual actors to accelerate “bottom up” (country- and business-led) progress on climate change and other environmental challenges within core economic policy and business strategies, the institute describes itself.
Mr. Janneh has strongly suggested that building green economies in Africa will be an important element in preserving the environment and humanity’s common heritage. It would be recalled that at the opening session of the 2011 African Economic Conference Mr. Janneh defined the green economy as a concept for improving economic and social wellbeing that also ensures that production processes and consumption patterns do not further damage the environment.
ECA hosted the 2011 session of the African Economic Conference from 25th October this year, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. ECA’s Economic Development and NEPAD Division (EDND) runs a service which has a vibrant component on the green economy.
By Conference Reporter
Africa has what it takes to quadruple food productions from area expansion and yield increase inspite of challenges posed by climate change, Josue Dione, Director of Food Security and Sustainable Development at the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), said in Durban yesterday.
Speaking at a side event on "Agriculture and Food Security in Africa", at the margins of the ongoing COP 17, Dione said in a press release that using available pre and post harvest technologies as well as its vast natural resources, the continent can also effectively adapt to and mitigate climate change in agriculture.
Haseeb Md Irfanullah est le chef d'équipe du programme de gestion des ressources naturelles et d'action pratique pour la réduction de la vulnérabilité au Bangladesh.
Il a pris part du 15 au 18 novembre à cette conférence Internationale sur les innovations et le conseil agricole tenu à Nairobi au Kenya.
Dans un article publié en anglais sur le blog http://www.trust.org/alertnet/blogs/climate-conversations/not-everybody-..., il fait une analyse sur la prise en compte de la problématique du changement climatique dans les débats qui ont eu lieu pendant ces quatre jours.
Pour lui, les questions de changement climatique n’ont pas été suffisamment mises en exergue et en lien avec les défis de l’innovation dans les services de conseil et vulgarisation.
Conversations climatique - tout le monde n’a pas parlé du changement climatique lors de la rencontre de Novembre
Par Haseeb Md Irfanullah
Certains peuvent dire que le changement climatique est devenu un programme de développement surfaite. (Venant d'un pays au climat plus vulnérables - Bangladesh - Je répondrais que c'est ce qu'elle devrait être.) Mais une récente conférence internationale sur les innovations dans le conseil et la vulgarisation agricole tenue à Nairobi a montré que la question n’est pas encore assez prise en charge dans l'ordre du jour de la problématique de la vulgarisation agricole.
Au cours de cette conférence, plus de 400 participants constitué d’agriculteurs, professionnels de vulgarisation agricole, chercheurs, décideurs, de la société civile, du secteur privé et des représentants des médias venus de 75 pays se sont réunis à Nairobi pour passer en revue plus de deux décennies de pratiques d’innovation agricole.
Cette conférence de quatre jours sur les Innovations dans les services de conseil et de vulgarisation a été parrainée par dix-huit (18) agences à travers le monde. L'événement visait à relier les connaissances et les expériences des services de vulgarisation agricole à la politique et des actions pour améliorer la production agricole et la sécurité des moyens de subsistance.
Environ 100 documents et exposés introductifs plusieurs tables rondes ont souligné les progrès, les expériences, les priorités, les défis et les opportunités dans la vulgarisation agricole et des systèmes de conseil.
Par l'ampleur de la participation et le volume d'informations partagées, la conférence a sûrement indiqué que la problématique de la vulgarisation et les services conseil est de retour sur l'agenda du développement.
Cependant, je trouve que la question de la vulnérabilité posée par le changement climatique a été largement négligée dans cette manifestation d'envergure internationale.L'importance du changement climatique est venue sporadiquement dans les discours des délégués, à des discussions ouvertes, et dans la déclaration finale de la conférence le 18 novembre - la "Déclaration de Nairobi sur la vulgarisation agricole et les services consultatifs».
La déclaration reconnaît que «l'agriculture paysanne et l'agriculture familiale est le premier contributeur de base pour la production agricole dans la plupart des pays en développement, et donc indispensable pour atteindre la sécurité alimentaire et nutritionnelle et pour faire face aux changements climatiques." Et il a noté qu’il y a «une pléthore d’initiatives, adapté à la situation et au contexte spécifique, sensible au genre et au climat, qui sont en cours de mises en œuvre, impliquant un large éventail d’organisations.
Mais les nombreux documents présentés ont manqué de souligner ces derniers, sauf trois d’entre eux - le montant des investissements supplémentaires sont nécessaires dans le système d'extension en raison du changement climatique (un papier de la FAO), comment le partage des connaissances traditionnelles peuvent contribuer à l'atténuation et l'adaptation (en provenance du Ghana ), et comment l'utilisation du système d'information géographique a aidé les agents de vulgarisation à diffuser efficacement l'information présenté par le Cameroun.
L'incertitude que pose le changement climatique exige sans doute des innovations. Et étant donné, l'importance de la sécurité alimentaire et les moyens de subsistance, la vulgarisation agricole ne fait pas exception. Alors que, les idées novatrices qui ont été présentées à Nairobi dans un éventail de domaines, ne sont pas liées au changement climatique de manière explicite.
J'ai trouvé l'écart très intéressant, étant donné que la conférence est venue juste quelques semaines avant la COP17, négociations sur le climat à Durban et après les négociations sur le climat COP12 à Nairobi exactement cinq ans en arrière.
J'ai discuté de cette question avec un expert de premier plan de la vulgarisation agricole participant à la conférence. Je suis d'accord avec son point de vue que, étant donné sa complexité, l'importance du changement climatique doit encore être pleinement appréciée par bon nombre de personnes qui travaillent dans la vulgarisation agricole.
Même les innovations présentées lors de la conférence étaient largement déplacé d'un coin d'une case à l'autre - de considérer une question sous un angle différent. Mais sûrement, parfois, nous devons être à l'extérieur de la boîte, surtout quand il s'agit de traiter avec le changement climatique et toutes ses incertitudes.
Lire la version originale en anglais sur http://www.trust.org/alertnet/blogs/climate-conversations/not-everybody-...,
Blog article about the conference: Climate Conversations - Not everybody is talking climate change this November
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