Research session I: Extension Reform and strategies
Three research topics were discussed during this session. Tools for sustainable food security and development which involved PRA-RRA, Swim lane Diagrams and value chains was one of the topics. The session examined three tools that are used in improving, planning and implementation of programs in post conflict Afghanistan. The Swim Lane technique is especially useful because it is a systems approach that identifies needs, and arranges data in a related and visual manner that can be easily appreciated. The fact that it spells the responsibilities of every participating member in a program makes it very relevant in planning. The value chain also depicts the interdependent processes as well as reveals a holistic view of a sector; in this case the agriculture sector. Small farmers are also linked to the markets through the value chain.
In addressing agricultural development assessment and strategies in post conflict Iraq, the most important issues identified was confusing land tenure use and policies that generate more conflict. Constraints encountered in these regions were the absence of local markets and cold storage facilities, inadequate water and electrical distribution, limited communication and infrastructure as well as lack of international educational opportunities. Extreme absence of technology and lack of youth development were also issues that were raised as constraints in post conflict Iraq.
The Sasakawa Africa Fund for Extension Education (SAFE) strengthens the capacity of African Agricultural institutions. It provides formal continuous educational programs to mid-agricultural and rural development workers so that graduates can then use the leadership qualities acquired to strengthen farmers training needs and economic welfare. SAFE trains its graduates on diverse skills to meet farmer’s needs through a supervised enterprise project (SEP). SEP programs were assessed for the SAFE training program’s effectiveness to determine necessary changes. The views of SEP graduates were assessed on training programs and needs for improvements. Graduates of SEP developed higher competence for trainings that involved learning by doing and they most frequently employed that method with their clients. Cost was also indicated as a constraint that limited the implementation of SEP programs with clients.
Using tools like PRA and RRA techniques to obtain information relevant to the farmer that empowers them is useful for developers. Reinforcing and categorizing the obtained information by using Swim Lanes helps depicts relationships between the different stakeholders involved in a development process. Several planning tools can be used simultaneously by development agents for a more efficiency. With Swim Lanes, duplication of development efforts are avoided and accountability can be ensured.
Extension can be viewed as a vehicle for change in post conflict Iraq. Technical and vocational educations are means to encourage fast recovery of the region. Agricultural associations could be valuable in speeding the development process. Also using interdisciplinary teams for implementing the development agenda in post conflict Iraq is a promising practice that facilitates the development process of the region. Most importantly, understanding the culture of the people of the region is very crucial in implementing any development activity.
Funding continues to be a big problem with extension services. Also, collaboration between government extension services and NGOs as well as between extension and research is lacking. This is unfortunately a major challenge with Africa’s extension services as emphasized by the SAFE program.