National and Regional Panel Discussions on the future of Agricultural/ Pastoral Extension System

policyengagement2The Ethiopian extension system has a long history relative to many African countries and has been delivered through a variety of approaches and models. Despite this history, the system is still in its infancy in terms of coverage, communication and institutional pluralism.

Recently, the extension system has come under the spotlight and government debates and external reviews (FAO and IFPRI) are putting additional scrutiny on the system.

Future Agricultures Ethiopia is also interested in contributing to this analysis and together with the Ministry of Agricultural and Rural Development (MoARD) has organised and facilitated four regional consultations on the extension system in Amhara, Tigray, Oromiya and SNNPR. For FAC Ethiopia, work continues on the extension system and consultation and workshop reports will form a basis for an FAC Policy Brief on agricultural and pastoral extension systems in Ethiopia available soon.

The objective is to elicit opinions on the state of the extension system and look forward to the future. It gave national and regional extension experts from government and NGOs, farmers and Development Agents, and private sector (e.g. investors in agriculture) to contribute to the national efforts to improve the extension system.

Four regional consultations have been completed – Amhara, Tigray, Oromiya and SNNPR. Each panel discussion attracted up to 40 participants composed of mainly of government experts, NGOs, farmers, and development agents. A number of presentations were made (i) FAC summarised the extension path over the last 50 years; (ii) in each region, extension officers presented the current status and future direction of regional extension system, (iii) NGOs presented their innovative approach to extension. These included AgriService Ethiopia, Farm Africa, SG-2000, IPMS, and local NGOs.

In each region, Regional Bureaus of Agriculture and Rural Development (BoARD), Farmer Training Centres (FTC), Farmer Research Groups (FREG), local private investors in agriculture, were actively engaged in the discussion. In Oromiya and SNNPR, workshops were held outside the regional capital close to the farmer.

Four regional reports and one national report produced. A synthesis of these reports will also form a basis for FAC brief on agricultural extension in Ethiopia.

The consultations also enabled us to expand FAC partnerships. FAO provided us with over 500 copies of review of extension in Ethiopia and several Asian countries which were distributed to participants and regional university libraries.

The consultations also proved that the spirit of FAC is still very much alive in the regions. The FAC Regional Groups established in 2006, although depleted for various reasons, helped organise the events. We have used the opportunity to strengthen regional groups.

These regional panel discussions were follow-ups to two national level events: e-discussion on extension (Nov-Dec 2008) and panel discussion in January 2009.

The Tigray team has requested FAC to support the completion and dissemination of a study on agricultural innovation systems that was started by the Tigray Agricultural Research Institute. A proposal has been submitted but rejected on grounds of cost.

Although efforts were made to address livestock/ pastoral extension systems in last year’s consultations, the outcome has not been satisfactory. Therefore, FAC will organise a special session on pastoral extension in collaboration with PCDP – a World Bank/IFAD financed pastoral project.

FAC will also complete the process started in 2009 of establishing a regular forum (as opposed to ad hoc and irregular forums) on agricultural/pastoral development initiatives with a view to examining integration and synergy. The concept note has been accepted and work on technical detail has started.

[1] David Hughes, FAC Communications and Networking Officer, attended the Tigray consultation.