In the field: a Supervised Enterprise Project
(SEP) at Haramaya University, Ethiopia
The SAFE (Sasakawa Africa Fund for Extension Education) initiative is perhaps SAA’s most significant contribution to institutional capacity building. Approximately 3,500 extension officers have benefitted from this program and many today are in key leadership positions in their national agricultural extension systems.
Handicapped by inadequate funding and outdated curricula, extension education in many African countries is a highly neglected area. Indeed, no more than 10% hold a BSc university degree or higher, another 15 to 20% have a higher diploma, and the rest hold a certificate or lower. The average age is over 40 (with the exception of Ethiopia) and most extension agents in SAA focus countries are men. Due to social and cultural barriers, this limits their effectiveness in working with women farmers.
From the early years of SG 2000, Dr. Borlaug was interested in establishing a scholarship program in Ghana for outstanding young extension officers. In 1992, the SAA Board approved a scholarship program for outstanding national extension collaborators in the SG 2000 project countries, which was to be administered by Winrock International. The proposal called for 32 scholarships at BSc level at local universities and 16 MSc and 4 PhD scholarships at foreign universities. Three PhD candidates were soon identified and dispatched to the USA and Europe.
But in late 1993, Dr. Deola Naibakelao, the SAFE Coordinator and his counterparts at Winrock International, Dr. Roger Steele and Dr. David Mattocks, came up with a proposal to drastically reorient the program. The foreign study was expensive – and there was a growing conviction that the focus should be on BSc and diploma studies, which fit better with the academic credentials of the great majority of extension officers. Perhaps even more important, they recommended that the SAFE program should concentrate on capacity building in African colleges and universities.
Visionary leaders and faculty at the University of Cape Coast in Ghana agreed, in 1993, to establish the first BSc course in agricultural extension to open doors for mid-career professionals through advanced training. The course featured new curricula more closely linked to the real world of African farmers.
With help from SAFE, comparable precedent-breaking revisions of extension curricula began at other universities across Africa – and there has since been a steady increase in the number of participating colleges and universities. During 2011-12, four new university programs – two in Nigeria and two in Ethiopia – are being added. Over the 2012-16 period, SAFE expects members to increase to 3,676 graduates, with 15% being female, with another 5,130 enrolled, with (again) 15% being women (see Theme 4).
Concerted efforts are now needed to broaden the skills of national extension staff and increase the ranks of qualified women extension professionals. Enhancing the ‘value chain perspective’ in extension should help in the recruitment of more women extension agents, since recruitment can also come from the areas of food technology, home economics, nutrition, and business development.
Private service provider companies and NGOs are likely to play bigger roles in providing extension advice to farmers in the future. This calls for innovations in training by universities – such as distance, sandwich and on-line modes of instruction and education with agricultural value chain driven content.