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Program of Support to Agricultural Services and Farmers’ Organizations

by Adama SIDIBE, Senior Agronomist , Individual Consultant, Bamako, Mali

Introduction, Background and Context

Following the review of the best experiences in the Development of Human Resources for extension agents and farmers through training or capacity building of executives, adults as well as through hands-on training, operational in the fields, the MEAS network retained the case study of the "Program of Support to Agricultural Services and Farmers’ Organizations" (PASAOP) of Mali.

The Program of Support to Agricultural Services and Farmers’ Organizations is one of the nine (09) programs from the Master Plan of the Rural Development of Mali.

PASAOP is built on National Agricultural Extension Program (PNVA) which was implemented for 04 years in Mali (2000 - 2004). This program was preceded by the two-year Agricultural Extension Test Program (PTVA) (1988-2000); these programs were all inspired by Bénor Method (Formation et visits/"Training and Visits"). Moreover, PASAOP, from strategic orientation view point, is set on such basis as (i) a qualitative development of the decentralization of Rural Development services; (ii) the search for a better performance of the agricultural services; (iii) the increased empowerment of rural development actors; (iv) a financial participation of beneficiaries responsible for the costs of agricultural extension services at the resumption ; (v) a test of agricultural extension service management transfer to beneficiaries and private service providers.

As an historical recall, it should be noted that at end of National Agricultural Extension Program (PNVA), the landscape or the configuration of the national agricultural research and extension system in Mali was characterized, among others, by:

·         the existence of a national joint program taking care of the issues related to research and extension funded by the World Bank (IDA) with a share from the Government of Mali in order to reinforce their reciprocal connections and exchanges;

·         an activated culture of inter-institutional dialogue and planning realized by the effectiveness of instances in annual planning and assessment of the research and dissemination coordination and supervision activities’ implementation on local, regional, and national levels ;

·         the sound integration of agricultural, stockbreeding, environmental and literacy issues;

·         the provision of agricultural research and extension services with equipment and logistics (vehicles and motor bikes) to ensure the mobility of the various teams ;

·         the regular organization of hands-on training sessions for the producers as well as qualifying training for researchers and extension agents such as the graduating training program of "Sasakawa Funds for Education in Agricultural Extension (SAFE) of the Foundation Sasakawa Global 2000;

·         the equipment of the extension agents at the base with tools (work schedule, map of the intervention area; daily journal book; visit book; training copybook; monograph book; selected seeds demonstration and dissemination book etc.);

·         a dramatic lack of extension agents at the base and, especially after the implementation of the voluntary retirement program;

·         the financing of agricultural extension only upon State resources without any specified contribution from the beneficiaries ;

·         the low level of beneficiaries accountability (producers, farmers’ organizations) in the management and governance of the research and extension services ;

·         the organization of research findings users in the National Commission and Regional Commissions.


Program Description, Components and Objectives

The aim of PASAOP was to assist the Government of Mali reduce poverty in the rural areas through (i) the increased productivity of agricultural and nonagricultural activities (ii) the reinforcement of institutional, organizational and technical activities of the services of the Rural Development Ministry (Department) (iii) the improved effectiveness of the agricultural producers’ organizations (iv) and finally the realization of a test of agricultural extension service management transfer to beneficiaries and private service providers (service providers) and farmers’ organization. On the organization standpoint, PASAOP was structured in four components each of which has specific objectives as it follows:

The Component “A” entitled « Support to the Rationalization and Modernization of Rural Development Services » had as specific objectives (i) refocus the Rural Development Ministry on its sovereign work of regulation, policy and strategy formulation, monitoring and devaluation and oversight (ii) improving autonomy, efficiency and accountability of public services.

The Component “B” entitled « Support to National Agricultural Research System» was focused on improving the effectiveness, relevance and sustainability of the services of the national agricultural research system through (i) strengthening and operationalization of the research steerage by the National Agricultural Research Committee  (ii) improving the scientific and managerial capacities of national research institutions and structures (iii) strengthening Research/Extension/ Agricultural Operation ties  (iv) the development of response capacity of research structures to meet the users’ specific concerns or expectations (v) make the partnership with relevant sub-regional and international agricultural research more operational and fruitful.

The Component “C” entitled “Support to National System for Agricultural Extension” based on improving the effectiveness and relevance of structures providing support and advice through (i) strengthening the intervention capacities and decentralization of State extension services (ii) testing extension services transfer to private service providers.

The Component “D” entitled « Support to Agricultural Chambers and Farmers’ Organization» focuses on improving the capacity of farmers' organizations to enable them to (i) effectively pay their roles/responsibilities in terms of representation, management, facilitation; access to inputs, agricultural credit, markets and to innovating technologies (ii) effectively participate in governing bodies of research (iii) monitor the implementation of policies as well as agricultural projects & programs.


Major Experiences or Achievements in PASAOP Phases

The experiences of PASAOP, in the center of which, the achievement in capacity building (institutional, technical, scientific, organizational, managerial, partnership, ...) that constituted a central and cross-cutting element in the implementation of all PASAOP components, are as follows:

The development and validation of a strategy with an action plan for rural training and for communication in rural areas:

·         A Policy and a National Strategy for Agricultural and Rural Training with a training plan were developed and are in the circuit for adoption. The development process of these instruments allowed creating dialogue between the structures as part of training.

·         A comprehensive and decentralized rural communication strategy was developed and validated in April 2003. As part of the implementation of this strategy, regional senior executives for communication developed communication plans. The Communication activities were on public and elected officials’ awareness building on the methodology of early warning system, the creation and inventory management of Community Food Security stocks and prevention against bird flu.

The main results and changes achieved by the component National Agricultural Research System (PASAOP, 2009) are:

Scientific and management capacity building for the National Agricultural Research (CNRA) and research institutions:

·         CNRA was equipped with human resources and materials and all expected statutory instruments. This capacity building for CNRA increased accountability of beneficiaries, programs evaluation and management of research contracts. The creation of Regional Councils for Research and Agricultural Extension (CRRVA) in the regions helped to make projects and research results more relevant and consistent with the needs of beneficiaries and with the regional development objectives.

·         The organization of the Agricultural Research Week in Mali (SRAMA) in June 2006 and in March 2009 contributed to the dissemination of research products for the public and partners.

As regards IPR/IFRA, the establishment of a scientific committee at each of these structures improved the quality of scientific papers. This contributed to reducing the rejection rate of papers submitted to the scientific commission from 15% in 2003 to 2-3% in 2008.


Capacity building for human resources in research structures:

The training sessions were for extension officers, researchers, and producers. These are summarized as follows:

·         Long-term trainings: 46 researchers from IER, CNRA and LCV

·         Short-term trainings for the research staff: 74 employees from the IER, the CNRA and LCV

·         Trainings for supervisory officers: 147 officers trained

·         Trainings for producers: 164 trained people including 74 women.

These training sessions enable relevant structures to better fulfill their missions and gain a certain level of performance through the improved quality of reports and proposals for research topics. This resulted in the reduction in the rate of rejection of projects by the Scientific Committee.


Capacity building of support and consulting agents and producers:

In this context capacity building concerned:

-          1174 technical agents over anticipated 1000, or a rate of 117.4%; 

-          7675 villages over anticipated 1,000, or 767%.

These training improved the capacity of agents and the participation of producers in the identification and definition of constraints through the Village Participatory Diagnosis (DPV).

Capacity building of Agricultural Chambers to ensure their proper duties of representation, negotiation, advocacy and formulation of projects and policies:

The organization of statutory activities allowed the consular institution to properly fulfill its institutional obligations, improve its working methods, increase the capacity of elected officials and make important decisions that improve the livelihood of agricultural producers.

A new strategic vision was printed in the management of the consular institution through the development of orientation plan for five (5) years and the establishment of operational working committees.

The training and exchange visits improved the capacities of analysis, negotiation, advocacy and formulation of projects and policies. 350 elected and were trained on their roles and responsibilities, which led to greater accountability of elected officials in the management of the institution on the major issues of the agricultural profession (APCAM is currently represented at the Steering Committees and Boards of 54 national and sub-regional institutions).

Thirty (30) senior executives and seventy (70) facilitators were trained on the diagnosis, development of micro-projects, budgeting tools, database management; this allows having a OPA directory in all regions.


Strengthening the participation of Agricultural Chambers and OPAs in decision-making bodies of research and extension:

The APCAM participated with extension and research services in the choice of technologies that were transferred, beneficiary selection, and establishment of agreements and in monitoring the implementation of the field activities under "Supplemental". This contributed to improving the consideration of producers’ real needs in the choice of technologies.


Challenges and Proposed Solutions

·         The low level of understanding the World Bank procedure manual by the Malian part was the first problem reported with negative consequences on the rate of resource mobilization and the level of achievement of program activities. The solution recommended was the training of managers on the procedures and the introduction of Trompro software for management. It was also clear that the procedure manual needed be adapted to changing institutional framework of the Ministry of Rural Development (MDR);

·         Difficulties to mobilize in time the share of the Government of Mali. The solution recommended was the payment of bills and pre-financing of activities up to 85% until the disbursement of Malian share;

·         Lack of advance preparation in terms of capacity building of private providers signing contracts for the provision of support and advice services;

·         Difficulty of mobilizing the contribution of farmers' organizations receiving support and advice services (20% of total costs) under the test agricultural extension transfer. In the absence of remunerative agricultural sector that can guarantee the raise of proper and internal resources for farmers' organizations, often the share of beneficiaries was brought by the associations of nationals of these locations or by other partners.

·         Institutional instability of services of the Ministry of Rural Development (MDR) which made it difficult to strictly implement procedures manual. The recommended solution is re-reading and adaptation of the procedures manual to the institutional development of services of the Ministry of Rural Development (MDR);

·         Lack of a component "Functional Literacy" which is a cornerstone in the process of building technical, organizational and management capacities of farmers’ organizations in general, but particularly those involved in the management of service contracts;

·         The non-separation into two different windows, the funding for strategic research and that of the on-request research in the competitive fund. This explains the imbalance in terms of balance between two types of research. The solution to be recommended in the future would be the separation into two different windows;

·         Lack of effective strategy for dissemination technologies (funding or credit mechanism, demonstration and dissemination plots of improved varieties of seeds, shop windows etc..) which had a negative impact on the level of adoption and application of innovative technologies through significant improvement of agricultural productivity and on the socio-economic impact of PASAOP. These corrections will be needed in future extension programs because "the peasants believe only what they see."


Lessons Learned and Success Factors That Can Be Replicated 

·         Given, on the one side, that Mali has nearly 80% of rural populations who are illiterate at large, and on the other, the strategic importance of preparing the withdrawal of support or projects & programs before they were closed in order to make acquired experiences durable at the base, it makes sense to plan the integration of "functional literacy" as part of technical components.

·         As regards the improvement and or amplification of the socioeconomic impact of the Projects & Programs at the base, the need for the establishment of a financial mechanism that fits agricultural financing needs is now a prerequisite. This will effectively stimulate the dissemination and adoption of techniques and technologies economically viable but also to build the competitiveness of emerging agricultural industries. All in all, this is an important guarantee for improving agricultural productivity, nutritional status and incomes of producers, and reducing poverty in rural areas. Likewise, the establishment of demonstration plots, plots for the dissemination of new varieties and window-screen plots is also an important aspect of technology dissemination strategy. As regards the sustainability and fostering inter-institutional cooperation, search for synergy but also the culture of multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary team work; the experience of the Regional Committees for Research and Agricultural Extension (CRRVA) should be capitalized, perpetuated and replicated in other similar cases.

·         Because strategic research projects and in long term are very expensive compared to on-request research projects and as part of improving the efficiency of agricultural research, the separation of long-term strategic research funding from that of on-request research becomes a highly desired improvement in of global research funding mechanism. Also the sustainability and capitalization of competitive funding mechanism and the approach "of the supplemental funding," which focused on the extension of some highly targeted and remunerative technologies (goat "Guera" micro tubers of potato, the breed "kokochè" etc.) must be given special attention.

·         Moreover, it is entirely appropriate and strategic to proceed with re-reading of economic and social development plan (PDSEC) of local authorities for the consideration of the agriculture, stockbreeding and fishing activities’ concerns.

·         Finally, the test of experience of contracting advisory support to private providers is worth pursuing and experimenting elsewhere in condition to ensure training and necessary capacity building for private providers to be current on their future roles and responsibilities. Beneficiary participation in the management of research and extension programs’ funding. In the test of contracting and transfer of extension management to farmers’ organizations and to private providers in Mali, the level of beneficiary participation in financing the overall cost of services was set at 20% and 80% by PASAOP.

·         The beneficiaries' contribution reflects and symbolizes their empowerment and real involvement in the service provision contract management. It is the same for the introduction of performance contracts that allows beneficiaries to evaluate the contractor's performance and decide over whether to continue the contract.

·         This innovation was introduced certainly due to the limitations or shortcomings reported in the State management of many projects & outreach programs around the world. These shortcomings include among others the poor management of extension workers under the civil service in absence of contract performance, recovery and untimely use of human resources and moving machineries through requisitions either for political or for operating needs of the state apparatus (elections, administrative tours, etc.). But it must be clear that the mobilization of beneficiary organizations’ share is easy only when producers or the raise of resources internal and proper to Farmers’ Organizations (OPs) through contributions and taxes poses fewer constraints. This conditionality doubled with the capacity building for private providers in the upstream of contract making are predicative of success for this great innovation.


References

PASAOP-MALI (2009). End of the Project Report for Program of Support to Agricultural Services and Farmers’ Organizations in Mali.

PASAOP (2006). Manuel of procedures of the PASAOP.

PASAOP (2005). Document of project of the PASAOP.

PASAOP (2009). Report of assessment of PASAOP.

PASAOP (2007). Agreement of loan of the PASAOP.

PASAOP (2010). Agreement of additional loan.

 

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