National Extension Policy
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Improving linkages between research, extension and small holder farmers

 Internationally reviews of research and extension systems frequently highlight a ‘disconnect’ between agricultural research scientists, extension staff and small holder farmers. FAO observes that “the lack of a close working relationship between national agricultural research and extension organizations, and with different categories of farmers and farm organizations, is one of the most difficult institutional problems confronting ministries of agriculture in many developing nations” (Swanson et al., 1997). 
Kassa (2008) has emphasised “the central role of farmers in the technology development and transfer process” and argues “that the whole process of technology identification, development and transfer must shift from a ‘top-down’ conveyor belt system towards one in which the research-extension system becomes more demand-driven, customized to local conditions and needs and responsive to farmers’ pressing problems”. 
Kassa observes that this alternative approach has been necessitated by “ample empirical evidence that ...that non-adoption of technologies by farmers emanated from the fact that the technologies in question had been either unresponsive or inappropriate to the needs of the farmers” This suggests that “the whole process of technology development and dissemination must be based on equal partnership between farmers, researchers and extension agents who learn from each other and contribute their knowledge and skills”.
These observations which are widespread in the international extension and research literature have stimulated extensive debates on how best to set national agricultural research agendas and to improve variable flow research-extension-farmer linkages to enhance innovation. It has also raised questions about the nature of knowledge – in particular the relationship between scientific knowledge and local indigenous knowledge systems.  This suggests that policy on extension and advisory services needs to conceptualise what the relationships and flows of information should be between: 
  • farmers who are often cast as passive end users/beneficiaries of research but who are often innovators in their own right with detailed knowledge and experience of local conditions, 
  • the extension services who are often characterised as the transmission agents for the findings of scientific research and new technologies 
  • the scientists who research solutions to problems and develop new technologies.
The development of policy on extension and advisory services needs to involve farmers, extension officers and the research scientists. We need to examine how best to set the research agenda, how small farmers, foresters and fishers can contribute to shaping national research priorities and how to tap into the potential for ‘citizen science’ – involving producers in research activities. 

KASSA, B. 2008. Agricultural Research and Extension Linkages in Ethiopia: A historical survey. Dire Dawa Haramaya University.
SWANSON, B. E., BENTZ, R. P. & SOPRANO, A. J. 1997 Improving Agricultural Extension: A Reference Manual. Rome: FAO.

Click the image for a view of: Connecting farmers, extensionists and researchers
Connecting farmers, extensionists and researchers
Posted: 7/26/2012 (5:05:28 AM)


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