Ethiopia has the largest number of frontline agricultural extension service providers. Despite the huge potential, the extension system is supply driven and production focused. SNV is integrating value chain development approach to make the service more demand driven and market oriented.
The extension system in Ethiopia has great potential to help farmers with a farmer to development agent ratio of about 1 to 500 households. In the country there are over 56,000 Development Agents (DAs) providing agricultural extension service at community level. The Ethiopian extension system uses Farmer Training Centre (FTC)-based agricultural extension approach. These centres serve as places for information dissemination, training, demonstration and technical advice including entrepreneurship development.
Despite this potential, the system is more of supply driven and production focused. In addition, the front line extension workers – Development Agents – have limitations in business skills and entrepreneurial mind-sets. Assessments done by various stakeholders reveal that the overall field-level extension system is often limited in its ability to meet farmers’ needs and demands.
Demand driven and market oriented extension service motivates farmers to adopt improved technologies and practices to increase production and productivity. SNV is providing technical support on market oriented extension service through integrating and incorporating the value chain development approach.
Projects of SNV are providing agricultural extension service to farmers through various extension communication methods such as peer-to-peer learning, use of lead/model farmers, Farmer Training Centres (FTCs) and on-farm demonstration and experience sharing events.
For the improvement of the extension service provision, SNV has also prepared guiding documents, and provided trainings and coaching to build the capacity of extension workers. The support has shown encouraging results in productivity, access to improved technologies and practices, and making farmers competitive in the market in terms of price and quality.
Recognising the gaps in the government agricultural extension service, the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources (MoANR) has taken the lead to develop a national agricultural extension strategy. SNV, a technical member of the strategy team, has contributed inputs important to integrate and incorporate the value chain development and market oriented extension approaches into the extension strategy of the country.
The strategy advocates for market oriented and demand driven and value chain based extension approach to improve access and quality of the extension service through promoting and strengthening of pluralistic extension approach. It has also acknowledges the role of the private actors (input suppliers, processors etc.), non-governmental organisations, cooperatives and knowledge institutions in the provision of extension services to farmers.
“The new agricultural extension strategy of Ethiopia will benefit smallholder farmers across the country. It will create great opportunity to get extension and advisory services on both production and marketing aspects to sustain their income as well as improve their living condition” said Adebabay Mengist, Project Manager, SNV Ethiopia.
The participation of SNV in the extension strategy has contributed in bringing higher-level attitudinal change and recognition to scale up the value chain development and demand driven extension approach to benefit smallholder farmers.