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Supervised Enterprise Projects as a Community Development Tool


The big challenge in the 21st century is how to accelerate the development of rural communities in the sub-Saharan Africa. The meaning and approach to community development have varied over time due to the combination of political, economic, and social factors in developing countries, as well as global economic trends and opportunities provided by donors for development. Community development strategies target an improvement in living standards of people (Mellor, 1970), an empowerment of individuals and groups of people to participate and effect their own change in communities (Christenson, 1989), improvement in infrastructure, health  and  human resource development through the provision of appropriate knowledge and skills in agriculture, reduction in poverty, enabling food security, and managing of natural resources in a sustainable fashion (Stiglitz, 1998). Virtually all countries and donors agree on the need for higher educational institutions to contribute to development.  According to Rivera (2006) the ultimate goal of agricultural education and training should promote human advancement through increased agricultural contributions to the economy with emphasis on applying knowledge via teaching and research to meet the needs of production, agricultural export, and domestic consumption within a highly competitive world trade environment. This chapter looks at the use of Supervised Enterprise Projects (SEPs) which is a community development tool and core component of the Sasakawa Africa Fund for Extension Education (SAFE) degree course.


Dr. Festus Annor-Frempong

Department of Agricultural Economics and Extension,
School of Agriculture, University of Cape Coast, Cape Coast, Ghana.

Telephone: +233244741679



History and Background

Human resource development in agriculture is a key component of the programs of Sasakawa Africa Association  (SAA) that have engaged thousands of frontline extension workers and millions of farmers in 14 sub-Saharan Africa countries to promote the use of higher-yielding technologies for maize, wheat, rice, grain legumes, roots and tubers and other important crops (Feed the Future, 2010). To hasten the development of communities, the Sasakawa Africa Fund for Extension Education (SAFE) has been at the forefront of promulgating SAA programs in human development through agricultural extension curricula revitalization in collaboration with selected African universities and colleges, ministries of agriculture and Winrock International Institute for Agricultural Development (a US-based NGO).

Prior to the development of the SAFE premiere curriculum at the University of Cape Coast in Ghana in 1991, the majority of the agricultural extension workers who worked in ministries of agriculture, private agencies and NGOs in sub-Saharan Africa did not have exposure to the important human side of agriculture, including communication, rural sociology, problem-solving and critical thinking skills, and the capacity to work as a team. Moreover, the training of extension personnel did not reflect the kinds of tasks typically engaged in by extension staff in their real work environment. Therefore, there was a discrepancy between the training and the required functioning of extension staff (Zinnah & Naibakelao 1999; Van Crowder, Lindley, Bruening, & Doron, 1999). To address this challenge, the Supervised Enterprise Projects (SEPs) were adopted as the nerve of SAFE programs. SEPs represent a creative response to the fit between the preparation of extension professionals and the real needs of rural communities (Kroma, 2003). SAFE has supported 15 programs in universities and agricultural colleges in 9 countries in Africa. Each program facilitates the implementation of 20 to 40 SEPs per annum.

The Practice of Supervised Enterprise Projects

SEPs are practical agricultural activities (of educational value) formulated by mid-career students under the guidance of lecturers and employers with active participation by beneficiaries and implemented to improve professionalism of students and livelihoods of beneficiaries through mobilization of resources and creation of linkages with appropriate institutions and evaluative schemes over a 5 to 8 month period. The philosophical basis of SEPs is experiential learning – the combination of theory, experience, and critical reflection.  Experiential learning provides learners with the opportunity to develop life-long learning skills and builds on the confidence and commitment of learners so that they can work with other individuals in participatory ways (Carr and Kemmis, 1986; Kolb, 1984). Each SEP has production (or development) and a learning (or research) objective. The production objective addresses the benefits of projects (improvement in yields, quality and post-harvest losses reduction) to beneficiaries (farmers). The learning (or research) objective addresses opportunities for learning by students as they improve the situation that they are dealing with. The learning objective is often in the form of mini-action research as a way of accomplishing production objective. The learning objectives could be in the form of trying to understand the effectiveness of the various extension or training methods and approaches used.

SEPs have 3 distinctive but interdependent phases. These are planning, implementation and evaluation phases (Annor-Frempong & Akuamoah-Boateng, 2002). The planning phase enables students to: undertake courses that are relevant for conceptualizing, planning, implementing and evaluating SEPs; conduct needs assessment with the involvement of beneficiaries of project and major stakeholders; and develop winnable proposal under the guidance of assigned lecturers and other resource persons. Various methods that provoke critical thinking skills such as term paper writing, seminars, end-of-semester examinations, peer group discussion and practical sessions (experimentation) are used to facilitate the planning phase. The implementation or fieldwork phase enables students to interact directly with farmers, transfer the vast academic subject matter and appropriate technology to solve problems, and gather information from real-life situations in the field to improve on the classroom instructional component of the program. The evaluation phase ensures that university professionals, employers of students, and students compare ideas expressed in the proposal and field observations so as to offer appropriate solutions and also to tap into the indigenous knowledge of the farmers on various agricultural practices to improve SEPs. Students are given the opportunity to share their experiences with their peers.

The Contribution of SEPS to Community Development

The SEPs play a very useful role in the overall development of extension agents and farmers in many communities in sub Saharan Africa.

Human Resources for Community Development

The SEPs are designed such that people (students and farmers) develop their full potential to use knowledge, skills, competencies, preferences, and talents to shape development. Firstly, the mid-career staff of several of governments and private extension organizations gets the opportunity to achieve their core mandate of identifying problems of farmers and exploring practical ways to correct them. SEPs immerse students in valuable farmer-focused, experience-based learning activities during training to develop the knowledge, skills and change in attitude to work in future. Secondly, farmers and other beneficiaries have acquired knowledge, skills and bettered their standard of living through the access to information and technical assistance provided by students and supervisors through SEPs.

Empowerment of Beneficiaries

SEP processes ensure the effective participation of beneficiaries who are mainly farmers in the planning, implementation and evaluation phases of the projects that affect them.  Involving communities in decision-making leads to better decisions that are more appropriate and sustainable, with reduced risk of failure and cost (Breuer, 1999).

Picture 1: 

Farmers in a decision-making meeting with SEP students at a community in Northern Ghana.


Technology Transfer

Experiences with SEP implementation have shown that solutions to identified problems go with introduction of appropriate technology such as improved varieties of crops, breeds of livestock, soil improvement, post-harvest, value addition, packaging, and environmental conservation technologies. SEPs thus influence the innovation decision-making process in a direction desirable to the beneficiaries.

The BoboDioulasso Region is a food basket of Burkina Faso. Farmers in this region grow a lot of maize because it is staple food for the people of Burkina Faso. The yields of maize from farmers’ farms are low due to the use of local seeds. The SEP of Mr. Osumane Sawadogo promoted the adoption of the Improved Obatampa, maize variety in the BoboDioulasso Region of Burkina Faso. Obatampa which means ‘good mother’ was developed by the Crop Research Institute of Ghana. Obatampa is noted for its high yield and valuable protein qualities. The adoption of Obatampa is good for improving the nutritional status of farmers.


Mobilization of Resources for Community Development

Students are encouraged to mobilize resources such as transport, equipment, seeds and fuel from the community and development partners. Experience has shown that District Assemblies, NGOs and philanthropist from the areas where projects are implemented have sponsored proposals presented. Participation in SEPs thus helps target resources more effectively and efficiently to the total development of the beneficiaries. 

Creation of Linkages for Community Development

The SEPs link farmers, lecturers, employers and other stakeholders in identifying and solving real-life problems. The government employees from the Ministry of Food and Agriculture in Ghana (MoFA), research institutes and others provide the technical assistance in the implementation and evaluation phases. Experience has shown that the concretization efforts of the supervisory team from universities have, in some cases, resulted in the decision-making bodies within the district in which the students worked to accept SEPs as a tool for community development. Students also work with farmer groups and are often linked to banking, credits and marketing institutions for assistance. The weak linkages among farmers, extension agents, and researchers in technology generation and adoption are strengthened through SEPs.

Assisting the Vulnerable in Communities

SEPs aimed at protecting the vulnerable such as the poor, women and children who have little or no voice in many major decisions affecting their livelihoods. Many SEPs have introduced more nutritious and balanced diets to people to improve on their health. Healthy farmers can sustain crop yields and the productivity of animals, and bring about agricultural development.

Amoanda and Anweem Kumasi are farming communities in the KEEA District of Ghana. The children are often malnourished and it became a source of worry to the District Assembly. Miss Ruth Tagoe promoted the processing of soybean, which was in abundance at the market, into a powder. The soybean powder was incorporated into the Local Weaning Foods of the nursing mothers at Amoanda and Anweem Kumasi. Follow ups at the local health post saw a sturdy and improved weight of children of mothers who used the soybean powder in their diets. One woman took on the processing of soybean powder as income generating activity and sold it to women during the weekly antenatal visit of women to the local health post.


Picture 2: 

Exhibition of various dishes prepared from soybean by SEP student

Facilitation of Infrastructural Development

SEPs invest in development of storage and processing facilities, fish hatcheries and nurseries. SEPs thus provide beneficiaries access to basic facilities to improve on farming ventures.

The DadinKowa community of Gombe State in Nigeria is noted for rice production due to the presence of an irrigation dam which makes year round rice production possible. Mr. Benjamin Shamaki addressed the problem of poor post-harvest handling and processing of rice by women processors in DadinKowa through the SEP. The community acquired infrastructure such as solar dryers, a concrete drying floor, improved parboilers, de-stoners and winnowers fabricated and disseminated to improve the processing of rice by the Engineering Department of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, Ibadan, in collaboration with Sasakawa Africa Association.

Raising Agricultural Productivity

The continued application of knowledge, skills and technology introduced during SEPs enhances agricultural production and productivity.

Small ruminant farmers at Zang Community in Yendi District of Northern Region of Ghana used to leave their animals on free range thereby leading to conflict between crop and animal farmers and loss of animals from lorry accidents and pilfering.  Mr. BaakoAbdulai addressed the problem with farmers through the introduction of housing and the provision of supplementary feeding to ruminant farmers. Results of selected animals kept and fed on supplement diets showed an increase in weight over just a one-month period. The farmers legislated and banned animals on free range in the community. Every household built a house to keep their animals. The SEP improved on the weight of animals and enabled crop farmers to achieve high harvest because the destruction of crop farmers became a thing of the past in the community.

Support Institutions for the Agricultural Development Process

SEPs support the formation of institutions such as farmer groups and assists institutions such as NGOs and the private sector to hasten the development process.

The Cocoa Services Division (CSD) of the Ghana Cocoa Board is responsible for the production and supply of hybrid cocoa seedlings. Cocoa farmers are expected to use the hybrid seeds from the numerous cocoa seed gardens of CSD. Due to the unavailability of hybrid seedlings at Adenkyensu in Birim South District of the Eastern Region of Ghana, farmers have had to use of old cocoa cultivars, which are late bearing and low yielding. The SEP of Mr. Albert Akomaning forged a linkage with CSD through SEP to establish a 1200 improved cocoa seedling demonstration nursery with 20 cocoa farm families at Adenkyensu. Each farmer in turn established a nursery, which was certified by CSD. Others farmers bought certified seedling from Adekensu to establish cocoa farms.

Creation of Employment and Alleviation of Poverty

The development and dissemination of technologies with beneficiaries generate employment. Incomes obtain from SEPs are used to support the family to alleviate poverty. 

Mr. Michael Dey facilitated the adoption of grafting techniques in the production of exportable mango cultivars (Kent, Keitt, Haden and Palmer) and nursery management of planting materials among farmers in the YiloKrobo District. This was to address the problem of the high cost and unavailability of planting materials for exportable mango cultivars (Kent, Keitt, Haden and Palmer) in the YiloKrobo Area of Ghana. The commercial production of mangoes has a high local and exports market. The project established a 1000 root stock demonstrational nursery with 20 poor farmers. Each of the farmers has taken to nursery establishment as secondary source of employment producing an average of 1000 seedlings every month. The cost of improved mango seedling ranges from GH¢2 and GH¢3.00. This implies the poor farmers could count on extra incomes from the sale of seedlings to alleviate poverty among farmers.


Lessons for Successful Implementation of SEPS

Nature of SEPs

Students and beneficiaries are given the opportunity to apply and observe the application of principles and practices. The SEPs process facilitates learning by transforming students’ experiences from the field into knowledge. SEPs by nature are occupationally oriented. They focus on occupational interest of students and seek to improve extension professionalism and the competencies of students at work. The program activities along with classroom instruction and leadership development ensure successful contribution of SEPs to community development.

SEPs also focus on the farm, agricultural business and services, agro-processing and/or rural development. Student SEPs address the real problems of the farming communities in the various regions of the country and improve on the livelihoods of rural dwellers that are the targets of most SEPs. Finally, monitoring and evaluation were put in place to ensure that university professionals and student’s employers liaise with each other to check on students’ achievement, discuss problems, and provide on-the-job instructions.

The Strong Partnership

There is a very strong partnership between farmers, officials of MOFA (in the case of Ghana), NGOs, extension professionals, prospective students, university administrators and lecturers in decision-making on matters affecting SEPs. Genuine dialogue and consultations between the stakeholders and other public and private agricultural institutions and agencies are necessary for the development and implementation of the SEPs.

The Availability of Basic Teaching and Learning Resources

The availability of basic teaching and learning resources provided by SAFE and Governments through their ministries of agriculture and universities have sustained the preparation of students to implement SEPs. In the 2008 fiscal year, SAFE spent US$ 6,211,505.00 to support 13 programs in 9 African countries (SAA, 2009). 

Periodic Reviews

Periodic workshops for lecturers and other partners on SEPs were implemented to refocus on the philosophy of the program and as orientation for new staff. The internal, external and in-house evaluations on the program have helped us to make the needed changes for improvement of SEPs. 

Commitment of Stakeholders to the Philosophy of SEPs

Stakeholders are committed to implementation of SEP philosophy and have not wavered or backed off even when questions arose about the rigorous nature, cost outlay and incompatibility with the curriculum in the universities.

Incorporation of Community and Field Based Experiences into Teaching and Learning Sessions

The SEPs provided opportunity for lecturers who hitherto remained on the campuses to visit the field (local and international) to share ideas and experiences with clients and vice versa. Real field based problems are introduced into teaching and learning in the university. SEPs have thus assisted to enrich community based curriculum delivery at universities and training colleges participating in SAFE sponsored programs. 

Problems Encountered and How They Were Resolved

Financing SEPs

The cost of SEPs to students and universities is a major challenge. A case study on SAFE programs in Ghana reveals that the SAFE programs in Ghana require approximately US$26,000.00 each year to implement the SEP component of the program. Each student also spends approximately US$1,000.00 on the off-campus SEP (Annor-Frempong & bin-Yahya, 2008). Systematic financial support is being sought from personal sources, NGOs, banks, Municipal/District assemblies, beneficiary communities, and the Ministry of Food and Agriculture to finance the projects.

Ensuring Sustainability of Field Activities

It has become very difficult to maintain the rigor among students, lecturers and employers to sustain projects on the field in view of the cost involved in supervision of projects. More effective supervision and a standardized reporting format have been developed to address this challenge. The major problem occurs when students graduate and are transferred from areas where the SEP was implemented. Projects are located on the assumption that students will go back to continue the projects. Trainees networking with potential funders and beneficiaries are being promoted to perpetuate the gains on the concept of SEPs in communities. 


The SEP experience has shown that revitalizing agricultural curricula towards the development of extension is one of the surest means of ensuring long-term sustainable community development. Agricultural extension professionals can play a critical role in achieving sustainable community development, food security, poverty reduction, and natural resource management in Africa whilst undergoing training. Therefore, African universities and colleges should play a more proactive role in community development by offering more responsive training programs and new learning methods of curriculum delivery. Moreover, national governments, bilateral agencies, donor agencies and foundations should remain engaged in agricultural education and capacity building by providing needed funds to agricultural education and training initiatives such as SAFE. It is one of the surest and most effective means of reducing poverty and ensuring sustainable development. 


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