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Currently, the RECODA Academy targets two main groups: new graduates from universities and NGO personnel; and agricultural extension officers and super-farmers from RIPAT groups. College and university agricultural students are often required to undertake a stated period of field study as part of their training programmes, and attendance at the RECODA Academy combined with a period of practice with RIPAT provides an excellent opportunity for them to fulfil this requirement. Potentially, the academy could even be extended to cater for the needs of representatives from a wide variety of development organizations and farming communities.
The content of RECODA Academy courses The slogan of the RECODA Academy is ‘Bridging the technology gap’. The academy has a comprehensive curriculum that is compiled and taught by experienced RECODA staff, with an emphasis on practical fieldwork in rural communities. The curriculum covers topics ranging from drought cycle management to marketing agricultural produce and the value chain.
The academy runs bespoke courses based on community development skills. It aims to spread the use of best practices, and works from case studies taken from the RIPAT projects.
Topics and materials depend on the trainees’ needs, with course objectives, expected outcomes, training methods, and course lengths being defined accordingly. At the end of the course, participants should be capable of facilitating rural economic development projects, carrying out consultations, and implementing RIPAT-like development projects that lead to livelihood improvement and poverty alleviation in rural Tanzania.
The curriculum for the RECODA Academy courses covers the following areas:
• introduction and important definitions in rural economic development;
• community mobilization, sensitization, and capacity building;
• bridging the technology gap;
• consultancy and facilitation skills;
• conservation agriculture;
• drought cycle management;
• participatory rural appraisal;
• project cycle management;
• imitating RIPAT approaches;
• entrepreneurship skills, marketing agricultural produce, and value chains;
• farm planning and management by smallholders.
riPaT, reCoDa anD governmenT insTiTuTions 129 and two of the super-farmers who were soon to qualify as paraprofessionals. Since the end of the course, these groups had met on a voluntary basis and had already started eight new RIPAT groups and made plans to establish four more. In addition, the original RIPAT groups to which the paraprofessionals belonged had donated planting materials for the new groups.
RECODA realized in August 2011 that, even though these 12 new RIPAT groups did not require much funding, support for them from the village agricultural extension officers and paraprofessionals ran the risk of being discontinued if there were no funds to cover the transportation costs for the advisers and a small payment in appreciation of their efforts. Meanwhile, it became clear that Korogwe District council had not planned for funding under the ASDP budget to support these 12 new RIPAT groups. RECODA visited the groups to encourage them and show appreciation of their work while they were awaiting funds from the government.
A similar model has been set up in Karatu District; 20 agricultural extension officers from the district participated in the RECODA Academy course together with 32 superfarmers from RIPAT 3 in September 2011. The district agricultural officer informed us that there were plans for eight new groups based on the RIPAT concept and organized by the graduates from the course. It was also planned that the eight groups should adapt elements of the RIPAT concept and incorporate these into the current ASDP set-up. The district agricultural officer expected that the operation of each of these eight new groups would be facilitated jointly by one agricultural extension officer and one paraprofessional, working together as a team. The idea was that the agricultural extension officers would provide technical advice and arrange the community mobilization and sensitization procedures while the paraprofessionals would facilitate the organization of the groups and the training and make follow-up visits.
These two examples of how the RECODA Academy courses have been used by the local governments in Korogwe and Karatu are interesting in that, independently from each other, they have arrived at the same model for continued partnership between the newly qualified paraprofessionals and the government extension system. In the case of Korogwe, inspiration for this came from the RECODA Academy participants themselves, while it came from the district agricultural officer in the case of Karatu.
11.3 Influencing local government and its agricultural policies One of the goals of the RIPAT project is that its model for support to rural communities should serve as a good example that can be applied by local governments and NGOs in Tanzania and in the broader region of Sub-Saharan Africa. The establishment of the RECODA Academy and the outcomes from this represent one very structured approach towards achieving this goal.
Another less structured, but equally important, approach is the advocacy work carried out by the executive director of RECODA. He constantly takes time to nurture RECODA’s relationship with the local government authorities in the four districts where RIPAT operates.
RECODA has increasingly sought to influence the policies adopted by high-level government staff. This is done by keeping policy-makers and technical staff informed about the progress of RIPAT. This advocacy work largely takes the form of explaining the activities of RIPAT in important forums such as district consultative committees, regional riPaT, reCoDa anD governmenT insTiTuTions 131 elements of the RIPAT interventions; these elements are all RIPAT principles that are not directly transferable from an NGO to the local government system.
First, the ASDP stipulates that a maximum of 20 per cent of programme funds should be used by local governments to implement the programme, leaving (the local government staff argue) too few resources to pay for the agricultural extension officers to make frequent visits to farmer groups, which is one of the central elements in the RIPAT concept. One extension officer told us that she was responsible for 29 groups, but with hardly any funding she had difficulty in paying for her transport, so she visited the groups only very occasionally. When we talked to farmers in the area, it became clear to us that the lack of attention from their local extension officer was perceived as indicating a lack of accountability to them and disinterest on the part of the officer – which created a general feeling of mistrust towards the extension officers.
Second, the ASDP guidelines stipulate support for a single agricultural technology for each group. This stipulation has been made in response to national political pressure to ensure that there are visible results from the projects; promoting a single technology makes it easier to demonstrate take-up. This means that it might not be possible to directly copy the RIPAT principle of providing a basket of options. However, this does seem to be a question of interpretation, as the district agricultural officer in Karatu in fact included support for a full-scale RIPAT basket of technologies for ASDP groups in the 2011–12 budget (although the funding was not made available). However, whether this technology basket will be provided to the ASDP farmers as a basket of options from which they can make a final selection or as a fixed, predetermined package with no choices is yet to be seen at the time of writing.
Third, the ASDP guidelines stipulate that funding for technology inputs should be transferred directly to the ASDP group account, effectively decentralizing the input procurement process and devolving it to group level. A group of agricultural extension officers interviewed in the Karatu local government office expressed frustration over not being able to control the input procurement process. The problem of the ASDP design is that, although it devolves power over procurement to the group level, it does not provide adequate organizational support for the farmer groups to enable them to make effective decisions.
Despite these obstacles, the outcomes in Karatu and Korogwe districts of the training provided by the RECODA Academy indicate that the difficulties can be overcome.
Although persuading government agricultural staff to adapt and adopt the RIPAT concept is a complicated and lengthy process, RECODA is slowly beginning to succeed in this.
11.4 Conclusion Even though the institutional sustainability of the RIPAT concept beyond the formation of RIPAT groups and local village involvement was never an objective per se of the intervention, RECODA has put a great deal of effort into developing sustainable institutional structures for the RIPAT concept. RECODA has sought to build links with government institutions, and through these to influence local agricultural policy. The most tangible results of this work are the RECODA Academy graduates themselves, the partnerships established between the local governmental extension system personnel and the paraprofessionals, and the voluntary work done by these people in establishing 132 Farmers’ ChoiCe new RIPAT-like groups. None of this could have been achieved without the support of the local district government, which the RECODA executive director has continuously consulted and kept informed of the progress of the RIPAT groups.
It will be interesting to monitor the results from the new groups that have been started as a result of the work of the RECODA Academy. We believe that this model of partnership between local government authorities and paraprofessionals has great potential, both for the spread of the RIPAT components and for the impact of ASDP groups.
Despite the various obstacles to integrating the RIPAT concept and practical intervention with the ASDP initiative, there are opportunities for developing closer links between RIPAT and ASDP in the future. These are best exemplified by the approach of facilitating knowledge transfer and the training of agricultural extension officers through the RECODA Academy. Furthermore, the continuous close dialogue with local government authorities and the sharing of results and best practices from the practical experiences of the RIPAT groups have proved that it is possible to influence local government policies in order to scale up the use of the RIPAT concept in agricultural extension services and to ensure long-term sustainability of the RIPAT intervention.
CHAPTER 12 Summary and concluding remarks Helene Bie Lilleør and Ulrik Lund-Sørensen, Rockwool Foundation Research Unit 134 Farmers’ ChoiCe In this book we have provided a comprehensive evaluation of RIPAT, an approach to agricultural extension for improved technology adoption among small-scale farmers in northern Tanzania. We have done so first by having the project developers and implementers explain what characterizes the RIPAT intervention in Part I of the book, and then subsequently in Part II by letting three different teams of evaluators employ their expertise and respective methodological strengths in evaluating and analysing the implementation, impact, context, and adoption of the RIPAT intervention and its different components.
In this chapter we briefly summarize and comment on the main findings in each of the chapters contained in the book, leading to five overall conclusions to be drawn from the evaluation of the RIPAT intervention.
Part I: RIPAT implementation and evaluation design In Chapter 2, Maguzu, Ringo and Vesterager, representing the designers and implementers of the project, outline the reasons for the development of the RIPAT intervention and describe the main features of the design and implementation of the four RIPAT projects conducted to date, which were intended to close the agricultural technology gap as a means of improving livelihoods and self-support among small-scale farmers.
The focus of the project has been on facilitating the availability of a choice of different agricultural technologies by organizing farmers into groups and presenting them with a basket of technology options. The group then implemented all technologies from the basket of options in a joint experiential learning process on the common group field.
Each individual farmer chose which technologies to adopt on his or her own farm and to what extent. The objective was to ‘improve their small-scale farming systems and hence to increase food security in the household and alleviate poverty’.
The implementers have been pragmatic in their approach, designing an intervention that is adapted to local contexts. Rather than adhering to a set extension methodology, they sought to combine the traditional view of extension – which can be classified as a top-down methodology focusing on knowledge and technology transfer from experts to farmers through teaching and information dissemination – with the more bottom-up participatory approach to extension used in the Farmer Field School (FFS) methodology, where farmers learn to identify and solve problems together and experiment with new technologies through experiential and reflective learning in the field.
The use of a basket of technology options is a clear example of how Maguzu et al.
have sought to combine these two contrasting strands of extension methodologies.
Although the composition of the basket of options is modified according to local needs and demands, and each individual farmer makes a choice as to which technologies from the basket of options to adopt on his or her own fields, and to what extent, RECODA maintains a strong influence on the selection, dissemination, and management of the different technologies used by the group. By presenting the farmer groups with a varied set of technologies, ranging from perennial crops through conservation agriculture to improved breeds of livestock, RECODA enables each individual farmer to make an informed choice about what to adopt according to his or her needs and available natural, financial, and human resources.