"Involving farmers in the entire extension delivery process, and surrendering more control and responsibility to them, will improve their attitude towards ownership – increasing adoption and the sustainability and scalability of the process."
In 2009 SAA decided to modify its approach to agricultural extension and productivity enhancement, from demonstrating production plots with recommended input packages (fertilizer, seed, pesticides), to Farmer Learning Platforms (FLPs) consisting of field demonstrations of more adaptable, low-cost technologies and capacity building with farmers. The reasons for this change were to show technologies which were in reach of farmers’ limited resources and to involve farmers intensively, and in a more participatory way, in these activities. Hence, the technologies demonstrated on-farm are based on farmers’ needs and their respective demands, while the training sessions with Extension Agents (EAs) help to develop their skills and knowledge, provide solutions to constraints in agricultural production and inform about options and opportunities to improve farm enterprises. Thus the role of farmers is changing from being recipients of improved technologies, selected by SAA and EAs, to being drivers of agricultural innovation, voicing their needs and demands. Involving farmers in the entire extension delivery process and surrendering more control and responsibility to them, will improve their attitude towards ownership - increasing adoption and the sustainability and scalability of the process.
Certainly the FLP approach has had far-reaching consequences on how SAA staff and EAs were supposed to work and what goals and results were to be achieved. In this respect 2010 and 2011 have been challenging years for the Crop Productivity Enhancement group in trying to accomplish the transition from the old to the new extension model.
In 2010, the main emphasis was still on field demonstrations. Training was limited to one session between SAA staff and EAs and the implementation training of EAs with farmers. However, during the growing season, EAs gave continuous back-up to farmers when required and supported the groups in evaluating the technologies, while SAA officers monitored and supervised these activities. In 2010, 30% more Technology Option Plots (TOPs) were planted in the four countries with the highest increases in Ethiopia and Nigeria (70%) and lowest in Uganda (2%) as compared to 2009. Likewise, overall 11% more Woman Assisted Demonstrations (WADs) were implemented but, while in Ethiopia, Mali and Nigeria the number of WADs were raised between 12 and 70%, in Uganda the team reduced them by 25% to have a one to one ratio with TOPs.
TOPs and WADs are usually implemented by farmers’ groups. For WADs it is a requirement that the plots are managed by a women’s group. Some 30,000 farmers participated directly in SAA initiated activities. Sixteen thousand eight hundred farmers had registered as owners of Production Test Plots (PTPs) and several thousand other farmers participated, either in training activities with EAs, or received instructions by host-farmers when they inquired about the demonstrated technologies.
The number of farmers who registered, or were observed to have implemented part or the entire technology package demonstrated in the TOPs, also increased by about 18% in 2010. However, following up these Production Test Plot Farmers (PTP farmers) and capturing their experience and opinion of the new technologies has remained a challenge for the SAA team and has been handled differently in the four countries. Based on the 2010 experiences, the team tried to improve interactions with PTP farmers in 2011, giving more emphasis to this group during their field visits because they represent the more innovative farmers and early adopters – important for technology dissemination and for demonstrating the success of our extension work.
In field demonstrations 16 different crops were planted:
|Women’s group explain their field demonstration plot in Uganda.|
Although the majority of TOPs and WADs showed how to use inorganic fertilizer appropriately in the different crops or demonstrated new crop varieties to the farmers, other technologies such as Striga control, intercropping, planting density, pesticide use etc. were applied according to demand from farmers.
The results obtained from the TOPs and WADs confirmed again (as in 2009) that relatively low applications of inorganic fertilizer in combination with improved agronomic practices such as row planting, timely planting and weeding or application of organic manure, could increase yields by 30 to more than 100% irrespective of the crop planted. Furthermore, the results showed that women farmers’ were as efficient as men farmers in raising yields if they use adequate inputs and attend training sessions.
In Nigeria and Mali the productivity enhancement team was also involved in projects funded by different donors with the overall goal of raising farm productivity by employing specific technologies and/or crops. These projects complemented the other activities and opened possibilities for extending and intensifying our work with more farming communities.
In the second half of 2010, a new set of concepts and procedures for SAA extension activities, and a new mid-term log-frame, were developed by Theme 1. Additions and modifications to the previous FLP approach have been put in place and implemented for the first time during the field season of 2011. The more significant changes and complements are:
In this respect a second workshop was conducted in May 2011, the main topics being data collection, analysis and presentation and the implementation of the new Concepts & Procedures.
|SAA Program officer for Crop Productivity Improvement clarifies questions with farmers’ group in Sikasso region, Mali.|
The FLP approach together with capacity development of the National Agricultural Extension Service and collaboration with other SAA-teams will help us to achieve our goals of improving farm productivity and providing opportunities to the farmers for income generation. Inevitably, there are constraints and issues which have an effect on our work and performance. These include:
Some of these concerns will be directly tackled by the crop enhancement team, while others might need the intervention of other SAA teams or external stakeholders.
Although we are progressing with the implementation of the new SAA approach on agricultural extension, this year – 2011 – is a year of consolidation and learning (by doing). The country teams have to adapt to the new standards either partly changing what they have been doing before and/or setting new priorities for their future work. For that reason field demonstrations have been reduced in some countries as resources were realigned to other activities (training). Additionally, we have to foster internal integration of, and collaboration with, postharvest and storage, the private partnership and the monitoring, evaluation and learning teams to increase our efficiency and provide more holistic opportunities and solutions to small-scale farmers in the shortest possible time.