Farmer Awareness & Participation

Farmers in Africa do not receive knowledge about the modern technologies available and how to use them to improve and preserve their crop yields, in a timely, efficient and consistent way. Often governments lack enough extension agents and the resources to enable farm visits. The extension agent-to-farmer ratio on the continent commonly varies from 1:2,000 to 1:10,000.

The extension service providers role is to build capacities of farmers about the value of using improved seed, use of appropriate fertilizers, employing good agronomical practices and postharvest handling methods to increase their productivity and preserve their produce. But due to lack of these services, crop productivity of smallholder farmers in most countries in sub-Saharan Africa is very low.

AGRA is addressing this challenge through enhancing capacity for agricultural systems, and through identification and training of self-employed, village-based “agri-preneurs” or “advisors” (VBAs). A VBA is a kind of “lead farmer” who is selected by the Ministry of Agriculture extension agents together with farmers in his or her village. The VBA is trained by both public and private sector actors on a wide range of topics from input selection, planting to marketing of produce including the standards and quality required by the market.

Information and communication technology (ICT) applications are also employed to assist in training VBAs and help them convey key extension messages that are needed by farmers.
Vision of a health system

Extension needs to be governed in a way that makes it more demand-driven, inclusive, and accountable. An inclusive extension system better identifies farmer needs and implements a system of accountability. The reach of extension can also be extended by reforms to increase space for pluralistic service provision. Sustainability of farmer-farmer extension models is driven by local institutional support, social capital, technical backstopping, and personal motivation of farmer trainers to work as volunteers. Lessons from private-sector extension include provision of integrated services, assurance of markets, responsiveness to farmer demand, and supporting producers to meet quality requirements.

Basis of Comparison

The recommended extension agent to farmer ration by FAO is 1:500. Many countries in Africa have an extension agent to farmer ratios of 1: +2000 making it difficult to reach each farmer in a season.