Reviving agricultural extension in Africa

Israel Bionyi Nyoh

Studies say agricultural extension can enable smallholder farmers tackle challenges and improve yields. The extension workforce in Africa is playing a major role in improving agriculture. Challenges such as pest invasions, outbreaks of serious diseases, locust attacks, severe climatic effects, natural disasters, poor farm to market roads, and lack of finance sometimes prove difficult to overcome, particularly in rural areas where most extension workers operate. However, ICTs and KM stand the grounds to foster innovation with cost effective solutions to impact growth in agricultural productivity. Some ICTs and KM solutions were showcased at the 2nd Africa-Wide Agricultural Extension Week 2015 (AAEW 2015) held on 11-16 October 2015 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) has a very well-built reputation of using information and communication technologies (ICTs) and knowledge management (KM), (ICKM) to achieve its mission to advance food and nutritional security in Africa, The Caribbean and The Pacific (ACP) countries.

Talking about using ICKM to improve food and nutritional security, from the 12 to 16 October 2015, CTA was involved in the African Agricultural Extension Week (AAEW) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to share its rich experiences in using ICKM in agriculture for rural development with Extension and Advisory Service providers and farmer organisations in Africa.

CTA’s work during the event was centred around the conference’ key specific objective number iii- “to facilitate networking, information and knowledge exchange in agricultural extension across Africa and beyond.”

Krishan Bheenick, Senior Programme Coordinator, Knowledge Management and Benjamin Kwasi Addom, PhD, ICT4 Programme Coordinator were there to communicate CTA’s ICKM experience and support the more than 300 participants at Addis Ababa- mostly extension workers, representatives of African ministries, entrepreneurs and farmers from over 40 countries, to understand how to use ICTs and KM to improve, innovate, and transform their practices in agricultural extension.

Capacity building

At the conference, CTA hosted the Plug and Play which gave agricultural extension service practitioners the opportunity to better engage and integrate ICT applications into their activities. This was also an opening for the practitioners to get first-hand information about the latest developments in ICTs for Agriculture and for developers to meet with potential partners for future cooperation.

Participants at the Plug and Play side event also acquired knowledge on how to use ICTs and KM to develop knowledge and create awareness during the audio and video content creation training, CTA organized in collaboration with Green Digital.
Josiane Kouagheu, a journalist and agriculture blogger from Cameroon who benefited from this training produced a video, “Extensionist Farmer” to showcase how farmers capture and transfer local knowledge on to their families and the role they play in agricultural extension. She and many others were well trained not only how to develop apps, audio, and video contents but also how to use them on the web and social media to engage with different audience categories.

ICKM: a necessity

However, after working with the agricultural extension service practicing community in Africa for one week, Dr. Benjamin Addom, is confident that “CTA and partners were able to achieve their objective of creating the thirst for ICKM for extension in the participants such that they are calling for more efforts extension to create more awareness, more promotion, training and the use of ICKM approaches in extension”.

He concluded, as a result, participants have expressed the need for ICKM in extension services and they said, “we believe KM is key to extension advisory services and we want to work with CTA on developing it in future”.

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