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Farm Radio Weekly is a news and information service for rural radio broadcasters in sub-Saharan Africa. It is published by Farm Radio International.

Farm Radio Weekly

Role of agricultural extension takes centre stage at Nairobi conference (by James Karuga, in Kenya)

Three hundred and fifty agricultural stakeholders from 74 countries gathered at Nairobi’s Hilton Hotel recently to highlight and put extra focus on the role agricultural extension and advisory services play in increasing food production and improving livelihoods. The Innovations in Extension and Advisory Services conference, supported by CTA (the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation), ran from November 15-18.

Michael Hailu is the director of CTA, which is based in the Netherlands. According to him, the core agenda of the conference was to put the dying practice of agricultural extension and advisory services back on the radar screen. He sees the practice as key to fighting poverty and food insecurity, especially in smallholder farmer settings. “To fight poverty, it will have to start with agriculture and making rural farming more attractive to young people,” said the director.

On the opening day of the conference, Ray Kiome, Kenya’s Permanent Secretary for agriculture, urged private players in Kenyan agriculture to join with his ministry to reach more rural farmers. His ministry has 5,700 extension employees, yet is tasked with reaching an estimated five million Kenyan farmers.

Conference participants from around the world shared solutions from their own countries. Maria Senar Linibi, a farmer from Papua New Guinea highlighted the farmer-to-farmer, needs driven extension approach. Through this approach, she has trained mostly rural women farmers in her country to grow crops.  The approach ensures they get agricultural training and disseminate it to other women farmers in their local dialects.

To help the conference delegates get a feel for the role of extension at the grassroots, five field trips were organized around Kenya. The trips were synchronized to capture extension themes discussed, like capacity development, tools and approaches in extension, learning networks, and policy. One trip to eastern Kenya’s Kalama Division in the Machakos region focused on the learning networks theme. It illustrated how farmers work with extension officers from the agricultural ministry to construct sub-surface dams.  The presence of five dams has altered the fortunes of locals who long relied on rain-fed agriculture to grow their staple maize crop. Now they have diversified to growing fruits like watermelons and vegetables all year round.

The conference also focused on the role electronic media plays, directly or indirectly, in agriculture. Doug Ward, Chair of the Board of Farm Radio International, gave various examples of how uptake of new farming practices was attributed to farmers listening to radio shows. In a plenary presentation, he presented Farm Radio International and some results of the recent African Farm Radio Research Initiative.

Plenary sessions on the last day of the conference focused on Kenya, discussing response to the food crisis in the north eastern region. This had local agricultural stakeholders discussing issues pertinent to Kenyan agricultural value chains. The conference also featured around 20 agricultural exhibitors from various countries that showcased agricultural progress from their regions.

For more information, and to read the Nairobi Declaration on Agricultural Extension and Advisory Service, visit: http://extensionconference2011.cta.int/.

Farm Radio International would like to congratulate James Karuga (who wrote this piece for Farm Radio Weekly) on being selected as one of six regional winners of a journalists’ competition organized by CTA as a run-up to this conference. His article entitled “Public and private agricultural stakeholders join to boost extension capacities” was selected out of 145 entries. To contact James, or obtain a copy of his article, please contact Farm Radio Weekly at farmradioweekly@farmradio.org

One Response to “Role of agricultural extension takes centre stage at Nairobi conference (by James Karuga, in Kenya)”

  1. kahari Says:

    Bro, we appreciate your relentless efforts to keep us updated.
    God Bless

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