The work and papers presented during the joint international agriculture education World Conference in Windhoek, Namibia were a good representation of both global scholarship and localized approaches to technology transfer and rural development. A few examples are a presentation given on Sasakawa SAFE program training rural extension workers in west Africa, a rural community survey in Ethiopia, and an FFA sponsored student experience in Zambia.
Sasakawa Foundation has long supported agricultural development efforts throughout Africa. They are broadly known for their efforts to combat hunger and make a difference improving on-farm productivity. In Mali, Sasakawa has supported providing training to agricultural extension workers providing them professional development opportunities to increase their effectiveness in working with farming communities. The project aims to strengthen agriculture education in general but is focusing on extension workers as the mechanism for driving change. The goals are to increase human capital, generate new indigenous information, and disseminate agricultural technology to where it is needed. The program consists of both pre-service and in-service training to create a broadly skilled professional able to comprehensively assist communities. Interesting that many extension agents were wanting programs on biotechnology and advanced agriculture methods. Some of the issues encountered in the program included farmers really needed access to credit along with extension training, the SAFE program is unsure how to adequately assess farmer impact of extension training, and needed more contact with women extension professionals.
Next presentation was about a rural community survey activity in Tigrey, Ethiopia. The study looked at quickly appraising the situation in drought stricken communities and was a great illustration of the differences between a rapid rural appraisal (RRA) method and a participatory rural appraisal (PRA) method. This study in Tigrey went to great efforts to understand the needs of the communities in their own terms rather than providing a structured survey. An especially striking aspect of the survey was to ask the community to recreate their geography – first with sticks and stones and dirt and then on a blackboard. This exercise seemed to not only be valuable in understanding the surrounding area and the composition of the community, it also helped in understanding the internal dynamics between community leaders as they went through the process of constructing the map. Another exercise mentioned was asking the community to create a community calendar.
Creating opportunities for student international engagement is critical to a well-round global outlook. Supported by external donors, the FFA sends their leaders to areas around to expose them to different agricultural contexts. This presentation dealt with two students who traveled to Zambia to look at conservation agriculture mechanisms and resource conservation. The students worked with a program called COMACO and the “Its Wild” outreach marketing effort to connect vulnerable communities to agricultural markets and enlist their help to protect wildlife and other resource conservation efforts. This program is a perfect example of exposing students to global agriculture and the themes of hunger, conservation agriculture, competition over resources, and the need for global cooperation. This program seemed to do an excellent job creating global linkages for our future leaders in agriculture.