Posted on :Friday , 24th March 2017
Recently, Ethiopia has launched the new Agricultural Extension Strategy, which is considered to speed up the transformation of Ethiopian agriculture. The Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources had recently tabled the new Strategy for discussion with stakeholders.
According to the discussion, the agricultural, market-oriented, climate change extension services are typical instruments among global and continental institutes to bring radical change in their respective goals. This is true of extension programming in general, and is particularly true for agriculture-related programmes. In our case, the agricultural extension system in this country is at a crossroads.
The execution of agricultural extension services will determine the future of agriculture. The clock is running; there simply is not much time to decide what changes are needed, and then to implement those changes. If the agricultural extension system experience a successful turnaround, the future of Ethiopian agricultural production and productivity will be more bright. The needs for agricultural extension programmes will be greater in the future than any time in the past.
In this regard, the government of Ethiopia is highly committed to sustainably increasing agricultural production to meet the growing demand for food, industrial raw materials, and foreign currency earnings. To make this happen, the new agricultural extension strategy is the prime tool in achieving agricultural development, poverty reduction, and food security.
Apart from responding to the growing demand of farmers and semi-pastoralists, there is a need of dynamic and proactive extension system to elevate the level of the national economic growth. Rigorous and vibrant extension system is also a fundamental policy instrument for necessary attitudinal changes and creating demands on national agricultural extension programmes.
Beyond changing the attitude of people, the agricultural extension can play a significant role in replacing traditional farming mechanisms by modern and advantageous systems to raise the volume of production and productivity of farmers.
Though development experts are crucial in achieving agricultural development, poverty reduction, and food security, the government of Ethiopia has made great efforts to transform the agricultural sector mainly through strengthening its extension services as part of the general agriculture policy reform.
If we look back on the status of the agriculture sector development in the past, considerable efforts were made to improve the extension system of the country, however the system was not bringing the desired results. Thus, it has significant value to prepare an extension strategy for agricultural development and to scale up the future direction of the extension services.
Since research-based agricultural extension services were began to be provided to the surrounding farming communities by Haramaya University of Agriculture in 1953, the country has implemented several agricultural extension systems at different times aimed at supporting rural communities. Under Ethiopia's current Agriculture Development-Led Industrialization strategy, the extension system remains a critical tool.
The government firmly believes that an effective and efficient extension system plays an important role to transform smallholder subsistence agriculture to commercial agricultural production system. This will be realized through facilitating the adoption and utilization of yield- and quality-increasing agricultural technologies.
In fact, the extension system in Ethiopia has great potential to help farmers throughout the country. With approximately 21 development agents per 10,000 farmers, and even more in the high potential areas, Ethiopia has one of the densest agricultural extension systems in the world.
The Ethiopian extension system uses Farmer Training Centres (FTCs) approach, coupled with farmer groups such as one-in-five arrangements and development units, which are considered an entry point for the grass-roots extension services and for the bottom-up extension approach. For instance, FTCs are currently assisted by development agents and farmer groups to give a wide-range of agricultural extension services, forward looking and sustainable farmer-owned agricultural extension system.
Currently, the government has established close to 12,500 FTCs that are functioning at different levels. It has also established 25 Agricultural Technical and Vocational Education Trainings (ATVETs) to produce development agents in various sub-fields of specializations.
Moreover, the country has also been implementing a participatory extension system since 2010 following the commencement of the first Growth and Transformation Plan. Although such efforts has been made so far, the system was not producing as per the demand of smallholder farmers.
These days, many yield-and-quality-improving technologies have been generated in the agriculture sector, and they are reaching smallholder farmers at least to some extent. It needs proper implementation and sufficient strategic interventions to overcome system-wide bottlenecks.
In sum, the development of this agricultural extension strategy is the first of its kind focusing on agricultural extension services. It is set forth as a foundation to enhance the agricultural productivity and production of smallholders through the development of innovative, systematic, and dynamic agricultural extension system. The strategy will surely assist to increase agricultural production to meet the growing demand for food, industrial raw materials, and foreign currency earnings.