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Indonesia - An example of effective agricultural - research extension linkage

M. Kalim Qamar, Ph.D.[1]

History of the case

Poor research-extension linkages are a persisting problem in developing countries. During 1990s, ten farmer-oriented regional Assessment Institutes for Agricultural Technology (AIATs) were established in diverse agro-ecological zones in Indonesia under a World Bank-financed Agricultural Research Management II Project. The objective was to consolidate dozens of small research stations and extension centers scattered in the country and bring research and extension staff literally under the same roof. Two main functions of the AIATs were to test agricultural technologies received from central commodity research institutes on farmers’ fields, and to encourage research undertakings by non-public actors such as universities through a research grant modality. A technology assessment review committee comprising public and private stakeholders was also established at district level. The result of this unique linkage were so encouraging that once the World Bank project ended, the Asian Development Bank took over and financed further expansion of the program. Today all30 provinces of Indonesia have AIATs.

My involvement

I earlier worked in Indonesia as leader of a technical assistance team for a major World Bank-financed project on agricultural extension, and as such was quite familiar with the research extension situation in the country. For this particular project, I was a member of joint World Bank/FAO missions. In 1998, I participated in a supervision mission, and the same year participated in the project’s mid-term review mission. In 2002, I was a member of the final joint supervision mission. During all these three-week missions, extensive field observations were made through visits to the AIATs as well as to other stakeholders including universities and farmers. In preparation for these missions, I reviewed relevant documents and later prepared the extension-related parts of mission aid memoires.

Lessons illustrated

In my very long international experience in several dozen countries , I see the Indonesia case as the best hope for meaningful collaboration between research and extension. If research and extension are put in the same institute, with the same terms of reference and service benefits for both research and extension workers, and let the institute be headed either by a senior researcher or a senior extension official, and basic training is provided in research to extension workers and basic training in extension to research staff, and the institute engages non-public actors and farmers in technology assessment, the notorious weakness in the present research-extension linkages could be removed to a great extent if not fully.

Importance to MEAS

MEAS could recommend to developing countries, especially where decentralization is going on, to get out of box mentality in applying decades old stereotype methods to link research and extension institutions which have not worked. They should instead adapt the technique, used by Indonesia, to their local situations.

[1] Former Senior Officer , Agricultural Extension & Training, FAO/UN Headquarter, Rome; presently Independent consultant based in Maryland, USA; Email: mkalim.qamar@gmail.com; Home telephone: (301) 926-0334

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