Theme 4: Human Resource Development

Deola Naibakelao (Chad), Thematic Director/SAFE Managing Director

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See Staff section for more information.

Human resource development remains a key component in the new SAA matrix, and management of this theme has been placed in the experienced hands of the Sasakawa Africa Fund for Extension Education (SAFE). (For more about SAFE, go to http://www.safe-africa.org/)

Concerted efforts are needed to broaden the skills of national extension staff and to increase the ranks of qualified women extension professionals. Embracing the ‘value chain perspective’ in extension should help in the recruitment of more women extension agents, since recruitment can also come from food technology, home economics, nutrition and business development sectors.

There is an increasing trend in many African countries—including Mali and Uganda among the SAA focus countries—to rely on community-based facilitators (sometimes called lead farmers) to serve as extension paraprofessionals, as the number of public sector extension workers declines. Only in Ethiopia is the number of extension workers increasing. This trend requires new strategies for training these paraprofessionals.

The shift away from the public provision of agricultural extension services towards more pluralistic systems that combine public financing with outsourcing arrangements involving private sector service delivery is changing employment prospects in agricultural extension. Private service provider companies and NGOs are likely to play bigger roles in providing extension advice to farmers in the future. This calls for innovations in training by universities.

SAFE will work to ensure that universities and colleges produce the right type and caliber of extension staff equipped to support expanded interventions by farmers along the value chain. SAFE and its partner institutions have decided to revise and develop the curricula to reflect the needs of the entire agricultural value chain in order to respond to farmers' needs more comprehensively.

The need for appropriate training materials for extension workers and farmers is especially great. Many of the professionals being recruited—in SAA and elsewhere—have good technical credentials but very little frontline extension experience. Thus they tend to copy from their university textbooks and produce training materials inappropriate for use at the field level. Experienced university faculty from departments of agricultural extension and many of the mid-career students in the SAFE programs can help to transform these sophisticated resource materials into ones that can be effective with frontline extension staff and farmers. SAFE will also help to coordinate the development of short courses and training modules to support SAA field work.

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Graduates of Bunda College, Malawi

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MSc scholarship student discussing his
research with his supervisor, Ethiopia

 

The way forward

Given the growing demand for mid-career training and the difficulties for candidates employed by the private sector and for women to join full-time programs, it is imperative to offer new modes of instruction. Distance learning, sandwich courses, weekend courses, short courses, and so on are all being considered to augment our traditional offerings. We have begun developing training modules to fit alternative delivery modes, and this work will remain a high priority moving forward.

There is ample evidence that smallholder farmers can increase their incomes substantially if they process and add value to their produce. Extension services still focus mainly on production and tend to be ill-equipped to provide advice further along the value chain. For this reason, our curricula review and development process will address key elements of agricultural value chains, markets and empowering farmer organizations.

We must also ensure that universities and colleges broaden their admission criteria to provide opportunities to female candidates with backgrounds in non-agricultural production fields, such as home economics, nutrition, food science and development studies. Moreover, faculty gender imbalances must also be addressed. There are very few female lecturers involved in SAFE programs, and individual scholarships should be provided to potential female lecturers in order to increase their number.

 

Statistics of SAFE Students from 1993 to 2010

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