Agriculture extension in Uganda
Agricultural extension in Uganda has undergone a number of transformations. Additionally, there have been marked changes in the concept of agricultural extension itself, which is increasingly seen in terms of commercial or farming for market with emphasis on “modernization” of agriculture as opposed to family farming, which produces most of the food consumed in Uganda. The dilemma is that the majority of the Ugandan farming community is predominately focused on subsistence and thus may not be suited farmerowned contract extension systems favoured by today’s global agri-business.
Baobab | Issue 68 | September 2013
Declining Food ProductionThe dilemma arises from population facing declining food production posing an immense challenge to those engaged in promoting food production through small scale sustainable farming. Agricultural extension services are under constant pressure to be responsive to ever-growing challenges of, and to show impact in, food production.
The pressure is giving rise to calls for changes in the traditional public extension systems which are now seen as outdated, top-down, paternalistic, inflexible, subject to bureaucratic inefficiencies and therefore less able to cope with the dynamic demands of modern day agriculture (Rivera et al).
There are even calls for re-examining the term ‘extension’ as it is seems to reinforce the thinking in terms of downward technology development and transfer (dissemination) processes.
What Happened with Extension Services?
In sub-Saharan African countries, the pressure to change has been exacerbated by the consequences of economic structural adjustment programmes which were implemented in the late 1980s and early 1990s and which rendered the traditional extension systems inappropriate.
Concerned with sources of agricultural growth for the future, the Uganda government has developed a new plan based upon two strategic pillars—raising overall agricultural yields and productivity and diversifying smallholder production patterns into a mix of highervalue, export oriented commodities, along with lowervalue food staples. Developed by a broad constituency of stakeholders— officials and politicians, farmers, NGOs, civil society, and the community of donors— the new plan places a high priority on agricultural research and extension and especially on improving the process of technology generation and transfer through the decentralisation of activities, greater participation of potential users, and improved utilisation of knowledge found in local communities.
Decentralising Extension Services
Major reforms of agricultural extension are planned under National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS). These include further decentralisation of extension responsibilities, from the district to the sub-county level; contracting extension services from a range of providers; involving farmers in programme planning, evaluation, and decisions about extension providers; establishing cost sharing between national and local governments and farmers; and the creation of more effective operational links between farmers, markets, extension workers, and agricultural researchers.
Under the programme, approximately 65 per cent of the NAADS resources will finance the contracting of extension services. Opportunities will be created for a range of players (including private sector, the National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO), universities and technical training institutes, NGOs, and farmer associations) to bid for providing such services. The Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industries and Fisheries (MAAIF) will ensure that NAADS operates within well-defined policy guidelines and a regulatory framework. The NAADS Secretariat will help districts and sub-counties develop the capacity to participate in the programme. Farmers (through farmers’ forums) together with sub-county administrations will manage the processes of planning, financing and contracting the service providers.
The new approach in Uganda stands in contrast to past extension programmes in a number of ways. It moves away from monolithic and civil service heavy structures by explicitly encouraging plurality in extension providers and methodologies. Perhaps most importantly, the NAADS design is an attempt to make extension advisory services much more directly responsive to farmers’ self-identified needs.
The Extension Concept
The original concept of extension was that of bridging the gap between the farmers and the sources of information or knowledge. Such sources included organisations or institutions generating knowledge and technologies such as research centres, universities and government administration agencies. This was based on what Comptom (1989) called traditional model;
Research → Extension → Farmer (Which is also called technology transfer).
Semana (1998) explained the understanding of extension concept as based on three premises namely: being educational; having a philosophy; and scope with responsibilities. The educational element of extension is two fold: being informal and non-formal.
The informal type of education is one that has no syllabus. Its syllabus is the farmers’ problems and needs. It also has no classroom, since its classroom is the farmer’s home or farm. The teaching of the extension worker to the farmers is based on the farmers’ conditions and setting. The non-formal type of extension education on the other hand is planned, has written objectives and content, can be examined but in most cases it is not. This type of education is carried out through short courses of one or two days at community centres, sub county headquarters or one to two weeks or one to two months at District Farm Institute (now some called District Agricultural Training and Information Centres and some called District Agricultural Development Centres or rural centers and schools).
Looking at extension as being educational presupposes that doing extension work involves teaching and learning. This means that the extension worker like a teacher needs to prepare and rehearse beforehand and teach well. The teaching should stimulate the farmer to learn and understand. The farmer as a learner should have interest and the willingness to learn. The seriousness and thoroughness of the extension worker is governed the philosophy of extension. Examples of such a philosophy include the following:
- “Start where people are”: This means studying the farmers through visits and surveys in order to identify their level of farming knowledge, their communication skills, their attitudes, their social cultural system, way of life, problems and felt needs.
- “With what they have”, such as farm tools and any other capital available; and
- “Help them help themselves” this means teaching farmers how to do better farming using their own efforts and resources following the principles of extension.
Gulu University Outreach Programme education and extension
According to James Opoka a lecturer at Gulu University Faculty of Agriculture, farmers are usually faced with many varied challenges. These may not be addressed at once. However, the outreach program carried out in the University has taken a combination of approaches where students visit farmer groups to provide a two way learning approach between the students and the farmers. In addition, students who graduate leave with hands-on experience, they are positive to any assignments and easily get employment.
The teaching methods in the institution include tutorials, practical training through demonstration plots, field attachments and taking students to specialized training facilities which are research based institutions. These include: Ngetta, Mukono and Serere Agricultural research stations. While at the stations, students are taken through practical trainings in different fields of specialization.
Mr. Opoka reveals that educators try to keep abreast with the current environmental issues like food security, climate change, and global pandemics among others. Lecturers are equally encouraged to be informed about e-learning tools, social media, GIS training and other tools like visual problem appraisals. He adds that the practical aspect of the training tries to address the challenges in agriculture, technological adoption, animal breeds and improved varieties of crops and livestock.
The University works closely with other stakeholders. This has led to the introduction of two curriculums (Masters in Agri-enterprise Management and Masters of Science in Post-harvest Handling). In addition, the faculty is currently doing a tracer study, consulting both the alumni and employers for a comprehensive curriculum review. The Faculty work with other agricultural research institutions to provide practical training to students, attaching students to farmers through the outreach program and consulting business communities.
Northern Uganda has vast fertile land that is underutilized. The faculty therefore strives to provide the expertise that will enable the community to benefit from this resource. As it stands, farmers wait for students to reach them. They are however encouraged to reach for assistance from these institutions and other agricultural resource centers in the region.
John Opira and Esther Lung’ahi
John Opira is ALIN’s Country Manager based in northern Uganda and can be reached through; email@example.com.
Esther Lung’ahi is a Project Officer at ALIN and she can be reached through; Elungahi@alin.net.
Semana A.R. Agricultural Extension Services at Crossroads: present dilemma and possible solutions for future in Uganda, Makerere University Department of Agricultural Extension/Education
Semana A.R. 1987, The need for establishing a research extension linkage. In CIAT African Workshop Series No.2 Workshop Proceedings: Bean Research in East Africa Mukono, Uganda 27-25 June 1988.
Rivera M.W., WILLIAM, ZijpW. and Gay A. (2000) Contracting for Extension: Review of Emerging Practices. AKIS Good Practice, Agricultural Knowledge Information System (AKIS) Therapic Group. The World Bank.