In-depth assessment of the public agricultural extension system of Ethiopia and recommendations for improvementThis study was conducted to assess the strengths and constraints of the public extension system and to provide suggestions on “best fit” solutions and their scale-up opportunities. The review used a variety of analytical tools to deduce the overall findings, including extensive field visits to six of nine regions in Ethiopia; interviews with farmer trainees from farmer training centers (FTCs), extension personnel, extension experts, nongovernmental organization (NGO) groups, and government representatives; and a literature review on Ethiopian extension. The study assessed strengths and constraints in the field-level extension system, the agricultural, technical and vocational education and training (ATVET) system, and the extension institutional environment. The researchers also considered the overall enabling environment within which extension operates.
The strength of the field extension system outlined as a result of the assessment includes a strong foundation of FTCs and trained development agents (DAs) already in place in the field. The study indicates that roughly 8,489 FTCs have been created throughout Ethiopia, and about 62,764 DAs have been trained in total, with 45,812 of them at post. Woreda (district) and regional offices are adequately staffed. DAs and woreda staff have strong technical skills and theoretical knowledge, and are generally trained as specialists. Pockets of entrepreneurialism and innovation exist in specific FTCs and woredas.
While acknowledging these strengths, the researchers also identified several sets of constraints within the field-level extension system that require attention. Basic infrastructure and resources at the FTC and woreda level remain a major constraint, particularly in relation to operating funds: the vast majority of FTCs and kebeles do not have operating equipment or inputs to pursue typical extension activities on demonstration farms. There are major “soft” skill gaps for DAs and subject matter specialists (SMSs) in the FTCs and woredas, and their ability to serve farmers is limited given a lack of practical skills. The overall field-level system is often limited in its ability to meet farmer needs and demands; mechanisms to make it more farmer-driven and market-oriented would yield greater results. The authors employed a similar approach at the ATVET level to identify strengths and constraints. Strengths at the ATVET level include a strong record of training broad groups of DAs, a strong technical curriculum, and some pockets of innovation and practical training, including linkages to markets and farmers. Constraints include limited success in enabling DAs to gain practical experience, particularly related to their internships at the woreda level; limited linkages to the broader educational system and research system in Ethiopia; and a general lack of resources to effectively transmit the required skill set to DAs.
The recommendations emanating from the study include making the extension system farmer-driven at all levels, broadening of extension service offered considering the great variation required in services by farmers, resourcing FTCs for farmer impact, improving mindsets of development agents, improving motivation of development agents, implementing a performance culture and transparency at all levels of extension, and improving linkages throughout the system recognizing the importance of a system wide approach to extension. The countrywide enabling environment in which extension operates is shown to be critical to extension efforts. Various aspects of the enabling environment were considered, including seed and other inputs, water management, and credit systems, as well as producer groups. Constraints were also assessed, leading to the conclusion that the enabling environment requires strengthening, particularly in the areas of seed and credit, if extension is to achieve its full potential impact.
The major impact of the study was the acceptance of all the recommendations from the study by the government of Ethiopia and commissioning of several diagnostic studies with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The results from these studies gave rise to the establishment of the Agricultural Transformation Agency which is providing support to the Agricultural Growth and Transformation Program of the government of Ethiopia.