«Deborah Duveskog Faculty of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences Department of Urban and Rural Development Uppsala Doctoral Thesis Swedish ...»
Agricultural education and advisory services, commonly termed extension, is considered key to support farmers' efforts in enhancing agricultural productivity, income generation and poverty reduction in a changing world, since it assists farmers to solve problems and take part in the agricultural knowledge and information system (Christoplos and Kidd 2000). Extension was one of the top priorities listed by twenty-four African countries for a poverty reduction strategy (Inter Academy Council 2004). However, a bulk of the existing extension approaches do not fit the resource-poor farming context of the South who operate in rapidly changing environments and contexts (Scoones and Thompson 1994; Chambers 1993; Leeuwis 2004). In Beyond Farmer First (Scoones and Thompson 1994) it is argued that agricultural research and extension practice is far from a set of rational, systematic acts, but a dynamic process of coming to terms with conflicting interests, changing alliances and competing worldviews. To achieve agricultural and rural development, new approaches that make better use of knowledge among farmers and provide for them a stronger voice to demand advice and services and negotiating power are needed (Christoplos 2003). The specific concerns of women and youths must also be addressed further. Following the collapse of the, in the past, extensively applied Training and Visit extension system (T&V) (Anderson, Feder et al.
From having considered extension as mainly an act of transferring technologies to farmers there is now a focus on participation of communities in a facilitated innovation and experimentation process. Knowledge and information are seen as powerful tools in the process of change. The strengthening of human capital, and the production of knowledge for a framework of action is thereby crucial for agricultural development (Haug 1998). This implies that the domains of technology transfer and community empowerment, for long treated separately in development work, need to be more closely interconnected. In the often traditional societies of Africa agricultural practices is also closely connected to culture and society in the broader sense therefore the biophysical and social aspects of rural livelihoods can often not be separated. In reality though there is little recognition for the fact that large segments of populations in Africa are affected by violence, conflict, gender inequity, HIV, natural disasters that highly affect the ability of these populations to best utilise their natural resource base and build sustainable livelihoods, thus necessitating a wide range of life skills. Human development is about much more than the rise or fall of national incomes. It is about creating an environment in which people can develop their full potential and lead productive, creative lives in accordance with their needs and interests.
People are the real wealth of nations. Development is thus about expanding the choices people have to lead lives that they value (IFAD 2011).
Farmer empowerment is nowadays generally seen as an important element in developing demand-driven advisory services (Barlett 2005). The concept was first recognized in the World Development Report 2000/2001 (The World Bank 2000) as one of the three pillars of poverty reduction. Despite the lack of robust data (Alsop and Heinsohn 2005), empowerment is increasingly seen among donors and development actors as a major contributor to development outcomes (The World Bank 2000; Narayan 2005). In practice though, low priority continue to be given to human resource development support in new agricultural development policies and there is often a lack of a ‘human’ side of the poverty debate. Furthermore, major investment programs such as the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa funded by the Gates Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation primarily emphasize input and technology options overcapacity-building as ways of solving rural poverty challenges. The currently trend towards more demand-driven advisory services emphasises strategies for privatisation, decentralisation, greater participation among farmers as the way forward to improve effectiveness of extension. This means that a shift is needed from seeing extension as transfer of predefined technology messages to farmers instead making their own decisions (FriisHansen 2004). Based on Freire’s (1973) understanding this could be seen as education that is liberating in nature rather than domesticating.
However, for demand-driven extension systems to take root in practice, farmers must be empowered to develop their capacity to articulate their demands and exert pressure on the system to deliver what they want (Rivera and Alex 2004; DANIDA 2004).
An alternative participatory extension approach that seems to address some of the emerging needs is the Farmer Field Schools (FFS) approach, which provides a platform for farmers to meet regularly in groups to study the ‘how and why’ of farming. There is currently a multitude of FFS initiatives globally (Braun et. al. 2005; Neuchatel Group 2006; Qamar 2006) funded by various development agencies. The approach is increasingly gaining attention among development actors in East Africa as a community-based, demand-driven, nonformal education program that appears to stimulate both technological and human development. The FFS approach differs significantly from mainstream extension practice by its emphasis on group peer learning, facilitation rather than a teaching pedagogy and local innovation processes rather than technological message transfer. It also includes the building of life and management skills (Duveskog 2006).
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) initiated in 1999 the East African Sub-regional Project for Farmer Field Schools in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania with a second 3-year expansion phase of the project starting in 2003 (FAO 2005). This program forms the empirical basis for this study of how agricultural education can contribute to change and transformation among resource poor. The research rests on the assumption that the need for individual and collective agency among smallholder farmers in East Africa is on the increase and that in order to create development processes that are sustainable in nature an appropriate mix of technological and social advancement is required. The extent by which FFS contributes to supporting better lives in this holistic sense among poor farmers in east Africa forms the focus of this study.
The thesis consists of four published papers attached to this summary,
briefly outlined below:
I Farmer Field School in Rural Kenya: A Transformative Learning Experience. This paper looks at the impact of FFS on the daily lives of participants and their families through the lens of transformative learning theory.
II Less noise in the household: the impact of Farmer Field Schools on Gender Relations. In this paper gender roles, relations and customs as how they play out in the FFS setting are analysed and changes observed following FFS participation.
III The empowerment route to well-being: an analysis of Farmer Field Schools in East Africa. This paper explores the links between FFS participation, empowerment and enhanced well-being and evaluates the role that empowerment can play in development practice.
IV Fostering transformative learning in non-formal settings: Farmer Field Schools in East Africa. In this paper the FFS process and learning experience as a form of non-formal education is explored from an educational point of view and in the light of transformative learning theory.
3 Research overview
3.1 Problem orientation Following the worldwide collapse of past major extension systems, the decline in donor and public funding for extension and the growing recognition that past efforts in agriculture development have yielded little impact (Anderson et al.
2006), agricultural extension has in the last decade experiences a crisis. Past approaches have proved costly and ineffective, yet no obvious solutions have been put forward as alternatives, which means that while there is recognition for the need for farmer education governments and donors have been hesitant to invest in extension activities without indications of impact. The new paradigm in extension thinking demand-driven extension is globally considered the solution (Haug 1998; Leeuwis 2004; Neuchatel Group 2006). However, how to make the paradigm shift in practice is a complex and challenging endeavour. The theory tells us that demand-driven, participatory and farmerled extension is the way to go but in practice extension actors face great challenges in trying to implement participatory and or farmer-led extension services in the field and there are still limited practical solutions to make demand-driven extension work in reality (Neuchatel Initiative 2004; Macadam 2000). In particular there is little knowledge available about opportunities for alternative extension systems in the South and among subsistence farmers in particular. The issue is made even more complex by the growing recognition of the need for holistic rural services that address a broader livelihood perspective spanning far outside of the farming domain. Smallholder farming is undergoing a transition and advisory services therefore need to change accordingly.
Farming is being done in more fragile areas in complex and unpredictable situations (Chambers 1997) where no standard technological solutions exist.
Traditional forms of extension support to rural farmers, mainly addressing crop and livestock production through technological packages, do thereby not respond adequately to farmers’ needs. Solutions need to emerge locally and by farmers and what is needed is analytical and problem-solving skills that enable farmers themselves to the main agents in solving problems faced (Friis-Hansen 2004). The need for cash has triggered a diversification of income sources among rural communities and the poor increasingly draw on multiple strategies to secure a livelihood that go far beyond simply production (IFAD 2001;
Farrington et al. 2002; Christoplos 2003). These transitions require new skills and capacities among farmers and calls for an innovative farming system that is able to adjust to changing situations.
Further, in order to penetrate markets for produce, collective action is required among farmers. Farmer organisations are a key vehicle to strengthen farmers in their interaction with market forces (DANIDA 2004) and allows small farmers to pool their resources as well as benefit through greater economies of scale, bargaining power and a stronger voice (Farrington et al.
2002). This suggests that for extension to be effective in rising incomes and well-being among small holders social capital and collective action needs to be harnessed and research and extension must thereby become more farmercentred and market-driven (Swanson and Samy 2005) and contribute more directly to building local institutions for collective action. Despite believes that producers’ organisations and cohesive farmer groups will contribute to poverty alleviation, little has been done to draw poorer farmers into cooperative arrangements. This shift from focus on individual level to collective level in agricultural development requires a rethink of what extension is all about, and what the emphasis should be when it comes to providing small-holder farmers with support and assistance. There is also still a great need for mechanisms that can ensure the genuine participation of citizens (Dill 2009) and improve understanding of how participation can encourage more equal gender relations.
In the context of poverty alleviation it is becoming clear that the processes involved in alleviating poverty are complex (Kristjanson et al. 2002) and when the poor themselves define the meaning of poverty, income is only one of a range of aspects which they highlight. Recently, poverty has been defined in terms of absence of basic capabilities to meet these physical needs, but also to achieve goals of participating in the life of the community and influencing decision-making (Farrington et al. 1999). This means that a crucial aspect of poverty alleviation is access to information and human empowerment (Sen 1997). However, to aim to facilitate empowerment and social capital through extension interventions is new and there is very little information about how this can be done effectively in practice. Further, as the system of extension changes, increased attention is given to the question of what kind of services are in demand by farmers. Leeuwis (2004) argues that farmers demands go far outside of the domain of technological innovations and include marketing, communication, networking etc. Furthermore, established tools and methods for measuring empowerment impact of community education efforts are still largely lacking.
Many countries in Africa, and particularly the East African countries have a strong commitment for empowerment and demand-driven agricultural services.
Following recent changes in policies to allow more farmer-centred extension interventions innovative programmes such as NAADS have emerged.
Decentralisation of extension services to district level is underway in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.
The Farmer Field School (FFS) approach is widely applied in a range of contexts and often suggested to bridge the gap between the technological and social needs of farmers. Though most documented evidence of the approach relate to technological impact there is growing recognition that FFS impact span far outside of the technical domain including outcomes of human development (Braun et al. 2005; Davies 2006).
These observations including the need for new models for farmer learning and empowerment of rural poor, the popularity of the FFS approach but lack of evidence of its broader impact on the lives of participants as well as the gaps between theory and practice in relation to non-formal education in African contexts provided inspiration for this study.