New perspectives are needed regarding public funding and private actors Public

funding of extension is essential, but that does not mean that public extension institutions should carry out or run extension services. . .. Governments may contract out some or all of the implementation to nongovernmental institutions (farmer organizations, specialized consultants, NGOs). ... In order to do this effectively, governments must develop the capacity to monitor and evaluate activities they finance. .. . Having producers and private sector actors cofinance extension, either individually or through their professional organizations, can result in savings and the more efficient use of public resources.

• Pluralism and decentralized activities require coordination and dialogue between actors. Centralized and standardized national extension systems do not produce satisfactory results. No single approach or organization fits all. ... To be effective, extension must be able to address change. Extension systems must be ultra-flexible to respond to new situations (opportunities or crises). Decentralizing guidance and decision-making bodies can facilitate that.. . . Producers should have a choice or a range of providers in terms of methods, quality of service and cost.. . . Nonetheless, the multiplicity of actors combined with decentralization make national coordination and consultation essential. National and local forums for dialogue and coordination between farmers and other stakeholders ... are required to:

- set common aims and frame policies;

- harmonize working methods and tools;

— capitalize on experiences and exchanges of information;

— carry out follow-up and evaluation;

— orchestrate activities and fairness in target groups;

— achieve efficient deployment of public resources;

— pool training and research facilities.

This dialogue must be equitable. Coordination must not become central control by another name.

A central conclusion that follows from these principles is that technology development and extension work must become more demand-driven:

There is now a growing consensus that to create a demand-driven technology system is to directly involve farmers in identifying problems, establishing priorities, and carrying out on-farm research and extension activities.. . . The creation of a balance between institutional "supply systems" and farmer-initiated demand-driven extension/technology systems should in many cases be the ultimate goal of countries eager to advance to higher stages of development and competitive power.113

While the responses to farmers' demands for information must be provided by a variety of institutions, Rivera (2001, p. 27) warns that pluralism is not always the same as partnership. The latter results in learning by all institutions involved in the process, and it is a relationship of equals. If the process is not structured properly, the existence of multiple service providers under government contract can simply be a way of implementing government mandates, without relinquishing central control over the process.

The approach of participatory technology development can be carried out relatively independently of existing extension systems, although the requirements of contact with research institutes and sustained sources of funding argue for some kind of institutionalization of the work, however loosely it may be structured. Farrington has summarized some of the ways in which a participatory approach can be applied:

• Approaches based on farmer participation in diagnosis, testing and dissemination. Normally organized with groups of farmers rather than individuals, these approaches recognize that researchers and extensionists are unlikely to capture the complexity, diversity and risk facing low-income farmers, that

farmers' own knowledge is important, and that farmers themselves are best placed to interpret how relevant new technologies might be. These approaches demand the types of group organizing and support skills hitherto rarely found in public sector extension. Yet some types of organization (e.g. NGOs) have successfully supported the growth of cohesive membership organizations A simpler but potentially more powerful and increasingly popular approach is to have farmers visit experiment stations in order to select technologies appropriate to their circumstances, then provide feedback to researchers.

• Farmer-to-farmer dissemination. Less formal efforts based on many of the same principles, but not necessarily requiring group formation, have been used at least since the 1960s, when Oxfam sponsored farmer-to-farmer visits across Central American countries, and subsequently have been tried elsewhere, particularly in Southeast Asia.

• 'Para-professional' extensionists. Some groups select one or more of their members to interact with public sector extensionists and researchers either across the board or on specific aspects of local farming systems. Whilst some initiatives assume that the paraprofessionals will do this largely on a voluntary basis, others link the provision of advice with input supply. Small farmers may pay for a package linking inputs and advice. . . payment for advice alone is largely restricted to commercial farming.114

The FAO's Farmer Field Schools, outlined at the end of Section 8.2 above, represent an effective means of involving farmers in both agricultural research and extension, as do experiences such as the CIALs in Latin America, the PBA program on the north coast of Colombia, and the thrust of participatory technology development pioneered in Zimbabwe, Malawi and other countries in Africa. Through participatory experiences, farmers themselves become extension agents for their neighbors and nearby communities. In fact, one of keys to the spread of CIALs has been training farmers as trainers who can go to other locations to explain and facilitate application of the approach.

Farrington also indicates that governments are responding to the availability of these 'non-traditional' kinds of extension in various ways:

First, government is tending to pull out village-level extension workers, partly because of financial pressures and partly because of farmers' growing capacity to reach higher into the technology generation and transfer system [through both their own organizations and NGOs] in order to draw down suitable technologies. Government is therefore scaling back, but the boundary will necessarily shift unevenly; where those producing commercial crops can readily obtain technical information from private sector input supply, processing and marketing organizations, the scaling back needs to be more extensive than among subsistence-level food crop producers.

Second, the number of organizations representing or working on behalf of the rural poor is increasing rapidly. Some government departments are beginning to provide technical support to them and to learn lessons through "feedback" from them. . .. Further, they need to provide an environment that will support the emergence and growth of such organizations. . ..

Third, there is a move toward providing the funds for low-income farmers to contract extension services from government departments and NGOs . . .115

One general lesson to emerge from such experiences is that there are many ways to disseminate agricultural technology, some of them more effective (and cost-effective) than formal extension services as they have been structured in the past. Another lesson is that the organization of farmers

114. J. Farrington, 1995, pp. 540-542 [emphasis added].

NGOs have begun to assume a greater role in agricultural extension, frequently focusing on areas that the government has neglected. One reason for their success has been their community-based focus. In West Africa, for example, the Se Servir de la Saison Seche en Savanne et el Sahel (the 6-S Program for the Savannah and the Sahel) promotes village organizations, helps groups establish community development programs, and provides funding and technical assistance for projects including village crafts, cereal banks, market gardening, soil conservation, and reforestation. With an annual budget of $1.25 million, 6-S is now operating in Burkina Faso, Mali and Senegal. Since its founding in 1976, it has established2000farmer organizations (averaging eighty members per group) in about 1000 villages. . . . In Northern Ghana the Agricultural Information Service, funded by the Presbyterian Agricultural Station at Langbensi, works with more than twenty church-based agricultural stations and coordinates with the government research station at Nyankpala. ... (D. Umali-Deininger, 1997, pp. 214-215).

at a local level is a key to successful extension, especially in the case of low-income tillers and women farmers. Often NGOs are leaders in promoting community organization.

While participatory research programs sometimes eliminate the need for a separate extension effort in those localities, extension still can add considerable value for the vast majority of farmers, and in some cases it can strengthen participatory research programs. In this regard, a third lesson is that NGOs are a very useful force for technology transfer. However, official policy generally has been slow to recognize this contribution, and accordingly it is not always as effective as it might be. In many countries, rural NGOs operate with complete autonomy, in isolation even from one another. This circumstance gives them greater flexibility to work closely with rural communities but it has some disadvantages. One drawback is that approaches to crop management and resource management which prove successful are not shared among NGOs, or between them and public sector extension workers, and so the benefits of the approaches are more limited than they might otherwise be. Another shortcoming is that the NGOs' own extension workers do not receive the full benefits of the experience of the public sector extension system, and their linkages to the agricultural research system usually are weak. In other words, valuable as their contributions might be, they could be enhanced through greater co-ordination with other efforts. Sometimes, a single NGO is effectively 'trying to rediscover the wheel', in circumstances where other NGOs or public sector experts already have discovered it in the same country.

Co-ordination of rural NGOs is a delicate issue, since they understandably see great advantages in their autonomy. However, co-ordination carried out with a light hand could lead to improvements in the knowledge transmitted to rural populations. The public sector could usefully sponsor differ-ent kinds of forums in which NGO experts exchange information about experiences and lessons learned and attempts are made to collate the lessons and transmit them even more widely. Alternatively, the NGOs themselves can form umbrella organizations to carry out this function.116 An example of this on an inter-country basis is found in Latin America, where eight NGOs, working in seven countries, formed the Consorcio Latinoamericano para la Agroecología y Desarrollo (CLADES) for the purpose of strengthening their efforts to disseminate agricultural technology to small farmers.117

The role of the internet as an informational tool should not be overlooked even in poor rural areas, although it has been little exploited for this purpose to date.

116. These conclusions emerged from a workshop with rural NGOs in Nicaragua, funded by USAID and led by the author, held in Managua in July of 2000.

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