A Comprehensive Assessment and Recommendations on Strengthening the Rwandan Agricultural Extension System
[For the full report: Click this link or download below]
Purpose of the MEAS Assessment:
To identify opportunities for investment in terms of:
· Policy direction and support
· Structural arrangements
· Collaborative activities
Key components of the assessment included:
- Current policy and institutional capacity at national level
- Linkages between national and field-level extension activities
- Research and extension linkages
- Adequacy of advisory services
- Pre- and in-service agricultural training
- The use of ICT tools and techniques to support extension
- Nutrition extension
- Gender issues
The Modernizing Extension and Advisory Services (MEAS) team begins this report by recognizing that if Rwanda is to realize its publicly stated national goals of increasing agricultural productivity and reducing rural poverty, the country must have strong, well-trained and competent extension workers and farmer-driven extension system. Fortunately, the country has nearly all the needed elements to bring this about if the various elements are brought into proper alignment with each other and some needed short-term jumpstart investments are made to bring about needed change in critical areas. We make these observations not only on the basis of our observations and interviews in Rwanda, but also against the comparative background of our work with the Worldwide Extension Study that is monitoring and tracking Extension programs in countries around the world.
The current Extension landscape in Rwanda is one that is marked by a great deal of flux and change, and one in which a variety of different extension models are being experimented with and used. To provide clarity and focus, it will be important to refer often to the overall development strategy and the role that Extension is called to play within that strategy.
The MEAS team agrees fully with the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources (MINAGRI) in terms of its short- and long-term strategy to develop the agricultural sector in Rwanda. First, the technology transfer function, especially the supply and sale of inputs, should be increasingly and progressively taken over by the private sector. However, this process will take considerable time and, in the process, farmers and farm households must learn how to increase their agricultural productivity and farm incomes. This process will require the development of a pluralistic extension system whereby the public sector (a coalition of resources from MINALOC—Ministry of Local Government, MINAGRI—Ministry of Agriculture, and MINEDUC—Ministry of Education) and the private sector, as well as non-governmental organizations (NGOs) all have critical roles to play in bringing about agricultural development.
A critical part of this process of increasing farm incomes will be for farm households to learn how to intensify and diversify their farming systems. Because farm size is very small in Rwanda, both men and women farmers will need to learn how to produce and sell more high-value crops, livestock, fishery and other products. Also, especially in Rwanda, farm households need to learn how to pursue sustainable farming systems, so their farms will remain productive over the long-term. These options and decisions are largely dependent on the local agro-ecological conditions, access to different markets (e.g. distance and transportation options), as well as gender and household interests.
Extension Policy and Institutional Assessment
The MINAGRI’s April 2009 National Agricultural Extension Strategy document highlights the importance placed by the Government of Rwanda on developing a pluralistic agricultural extension system that captures the strengths of Top-Down approaches as well as the strengths of Bottom-Up approaches
The team agrees that the Government of Rwanda’s stated Guiding Principles for its new Agricultural Extension Strategy are sound and based on well recognized core concepts within the field. Extension must:
· Be participatory
· Utilize multiple approaches and multiple methods
· Be farmer-led (i.e. demand-driven) and market-oriented
· Be process and results oriented
· Involve multiple actors in delivering extension education, information, and services
· Build on already existing initiatives
Rwanda Agricultural Board and National Agricultural Export Board
The recent restructuring that produced the Rwanda Agricultural Board (RAB) and the National Agricultural Export Board (NAEB) out of previously separate agencies within MINAGRI was a positive step in the right direction in terms of linking Extension and Research closer together. And, the related move of redeploying RAB subject matter specialists (SMSs) to the four new zonal offices, where they can be closer to the farmers and front-line extension workers they will work with and serve, is a positive development that needs to be built upon as RAB moves forward.
Although this new RAB configuration is definitely an asset to be valued and utilized, nonetheless, it still will have some “growing pains” that will require guidance and monitoring.
It is recommended that particular attention be paid to helping RAB staff learn how to function in their new roles as Extension subject matter specialists, including how to develop a collegial “two-way” relationship with the new MINALOC frontline district and sector agronomists they will need to be working with at the local level.
Priority setting in Rwanda takes place through a unique multi-party consultative process called imihigo. At the district level mayors direct district-level imihigo discussions that take into account national needs and priorities, farmers’ needs, as well as local realities and opportunities. In one district that the team visited, although pineapple was not a national priority crop, the district planning team realized that the district had the potential to produce pineapples on a commercial scale and that farmers already had some experience, albeit on a small scale. The planning team negotiated with a fruit and juice processing company, Inyange, and established a market. Pineapples then became one of the focus crops for the district and they started pushing for 100 ha of pineapples the first year rising to 200 the second year. The district did the same with cassava when they heard of plans to set up a cassava processing factory in the region.
Once the priorities are set, the district mayor signs a performance contract with the president of the country in which the mayor pledges to ‘deliver’ certain volumes of production. The Executive Secretary of each sector also negotiates a similar public imihigo contract with the Mayor he reports to for the performance outcomes of that sector; and the contract is signed by the Mayor and the Executive Secretary. From that point on extension takes the form of campaigns, using all available resources, to mobilize farmers to produce. Even the army can be used to help mobilize farmers to produce.
Knowledge and skills become a crucial factor to ensure that farmers are able to produce the right quantities and quality required by the market. Therefore, MINAGRI has a huge role to play to ensure that frontline extension workers have the capacity and skills to provide the right knowledge and advice to the farmers and producer groups being served.
However, because the frontline extension workers (EWs) are under MINALOC, it is not clear how MINAGRI can build the capacity of frontline extension workers. There is a need to strengthen linkages between the two ministries (see 220.127.116.11 and 5.3.2 below for some practical opportunities for actualizing the linkages).
In line with District Agricultural Platforms being established under the BTC project, it is recommended that similar platforms be formed at sector (SAPs) and cell levels to allow farmers to have more say in establishing extension priorities. A major concern the team observed was the multiple functions that are often assigned to district and sector agronomists. Many are assigned a whole range of other duties outside agricultural extension like monitoring housing construction. The district sometimes hires high school graduates on short term contracts, say three months, to be the frontline extension workers for that period. When their contracts end, the sector agronomist takes over.
It is recommended that duties of district and sector agronomists be streamlined to focus on agriculture. This way, they will be able to develop the necessary expertise and have more time to provide quality advisory services to farmers.
Agricultural Education and Extension Education
Whereas this assessment was conducted when there were still several separate universities, the recommendations in this section are made with the impending move to one national university in mind.
The National Agricultural Extension Strategy (NAES) of April 2009 recognizes agriculture as the “pillar of economic growth” (p5). An important pre-condition is the existence frontline EWs who are appropriately trained to drive the agricultural modernization process.
The best approach was to look at MINAGRI’s strategic vision and check capacity of EWs to work towards that vision.
Relevance of pre-service training
The need in the field is for general agriculture extension workers who have both technical and process skill training. As of now, universities only offer training in specialized agricultural fields like: crop production; horticulture; agro-forestry; animal production; veterinary medicine; soil science; soil and water management; irrigation and drainage management; agricultural mechanization; agricultural economics; agribusiness. Therefore, there is practically no training in extension methods and management skills. Therefore, graduates with any of the above qualification are recruited as agronomists at districts (degree) and sector (diploma) levels. In addition, there was no evidence of demand-driven extension skills being taught in the current pre-service training programs.
There is no systematic training for district and sector agronomists to enable them provide advisory services across the board. It appears that in-service training was curtailed by the placing of district and sector agronomists under MINALOC (Hakizimana 2007) and cell agronomists are almost ‘bare-foot’ EWs.
Enhancing Extension training
There is practically no training in extension methods despite the fact that NAES definition of extension (p16) recognizes the need for extension professionals with knowledge and skills in “communication, adult education and facilitation” methods.
It is recommended that an appropriate faculty be strengthened to provide leadership in developing more effective extension training skills and knowledge.
The strengthening process would involve systematic training needs assessment (TNA), stakeholder workshops, curriculum design, and development of modules. Modules will include:
Ø Extension methods;
Ø Participatory extension methods and approaches;
Ø Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) and extension program planning;
Ø Extension management – including matrix management;
Ø Adult learning;
Ø Training methods and audio visual techniques;
Ø Farmer institutional/cooperative development;
Ø Group dynamics and problem solving;
Ø Agricultural information and communication technology (ICT) management;
Ø Gender and youth in agriculture;
Ø Extension research, including experiential learning/action research projects.
NAES already recognizes the importance of several of these:
Ø Extension methods. NAES (p22) recognizes the existence of many methods.
Ø Participatory extension methods and approaches.
Ø NAES has a strong farmer participatory orientation. A precondition for the success of these approaches will be the availability of knowledgeable and skilled frontline staff, both public and NGO extension workers.
Ø Participatory Rural Appraisal and Program Planning
Ø Participatory rural appraisal (PRA) is an excellent approach for field extension workers to both learn what type of extension services farmers want and an effective way to identify innovative farmers and then to engage them in participatory farmer experimentation and evaluation.
Ø Farmer institutional/cooperative development
Ø Farmer institutional development is one of four specific objectives of NAES (p.17) and is particularly important given the Government’s plans to gradually disengage from extension service delivery in favor of private extension services (NAES p.21).
Ø A key and indispensable factor for the privatization process will be to establish strong and effective farmer organizations that are: motivated and sufficiently independent to effectively represent their interests; able to articulate their needs; contract private advisory services; monitor and evaluate performance of delivery services; articulate and defend members’ interests; and lobby for these services.
Many of the farmers’ association in Rwanda today were created “mainly to benefit from assistance of NGOs and not to share their efforts and capacities to solve common problems” (NAES p.12). Thorough knowledge of farmer institutional building and understanding as to how groups work on the part of field level advisory service providers will greatly enhance extension efficiency.
Extension management training
Extension management, including matrix management, is a technique of managing an organization through a series of dual reporting. It should be noted that the move of district agricultural staff to MINALOC has led to an “absence of a functional relationship between MINAGRI and the decentralized agricultural extension services” – especially at district level and below (NAES p.14). Training in matrix management for senior staff in MINAGRI and MINALOC could restore some functional relationship between the extension field staff and the MINAGRI. Hakizimana (2007 p.6) alludes to the need for the MINAGRI “to establish a working relationship with local government authorities to ensure access to information from the farmer and also to advise these farmers on the applied technologies”.
Therefore, it is recommended that relevant management staff within MINAGRI and the MINALOC be given in-service training in matrix management.
Focus of current advisory services
Current advisory services focus on production agriculture, especially for the priority staple food crops. Little attention is being given to emerging high-value crop and livestock products that could increase farm income, especially for small-scale men and women farmers. Given that the “agricultural production system in Rwanda is dominated by small-holder farmers with less than one ha of cultivable land” (NAES p.5), farmers need to do all they can to maximize income from their small land holdings. They could greatly enhance their incomes by adding appropriate high-value crop and/or livestock in the process of intensifying and/or diversifying their respective farming systems. This would be sharply in line with the Government’s Strategic Plan for the Transformation of Agriculture (PSTA II) global objective of “…maximization of profits for agricultural production…” and the development of entrepreneurship and market linkages (NAES p.7). Prior to the current NAES, Government had already adopted a comprehensive programme which was named the Integrated Development Programme (IDP) with ten pillars, one of which was “Post-Harvest Processing and Marketing – to assure food security and promote commercialization of agriculture through support for value addition and an increase in internal and export sales” (NAES p.9).
Part of the reason why field extension workers continue to focus on disseminating production technologies is that the current training at universities and colleges primarily focuses on crop and/or livestock production practices. Therefore, field extension workers do not have the needed skills and knowledge about providing advice beyond the basic production practices. Knowledge and skills about high-value crops, as well as small-scale agro-processing and value addition is critical, given the government’s plans to put special focus “on modernization of agriculture, agricultural processing industry and development of the informal sector” (NAES p.6). It should be noted that during interviews with the Minister of Education, he also expressed the need for universities to come up with a more “market-oriented” curricula.
It is recommended that an appropriate faculty be strengthened to provide leadership and training on developing agricultural value chains.
Therefore, the faculty would develop modules including the following themes:
Theme 1: Animal products processing (small scale processing, storage, transportation,
grading, packaging, safety, quality assurance).
Theme 2: Crop products processing (small scale processing, threshing, storage,
transportation, grading, packaging, safety, quality assurance).
Theme 3: Marketing and market analysis (analysis of comparative advantages,
organizing markets, negotiations, linkages, price factors, transportation).
Theme 4: Small agri-business management (financial management, value chain analysis,
principles of value chain, entrepreneurship).
The above would be based on the country’s priority value chains since opportunities, constraints and challenges along all value chains are “commodity specific.”
Therefore, this university should also develop a degree program in agricultural extension, with a value-chain orientation.
Therefore, it is recommended that the degree program target first those that are already in the field, especially diploma holders, in order to quickly address the current knowledge and skills needs.
The MINAGRI and/or MINALOC, through this university and/or CICA, should use the modules to provide short-term in-service training for the field extension workers. Although the NAES envisions a “…gradual disengagement of public services from direct extension service delivery…” (p.8), it is hoped that MINAGRI and MINALOC will both maintain oversight on human resource development to ensure continual availability of appropriately trained human resources, be it in the public or NGO sector. This would be in line with one of PSTA‘s ten strategic axes which is “Strengthening capacities of service providers, privatization and promotion of private sector” (NAES p.7).
However, developing this capacity, especially in the private sector, will take considerable time. If the MINALOC plans to set up a community innovation centers (CICs) for each of the 416 sectors (which would be easily feasible, given that there are already good meeting rooms in each sector office), then these centers could provide a focal point for both training farmers as well as distance education for cell level extension staff and farmer group leaders. It is hoped that, through joint planning and matrix management training, both MINAGRI and MINALOC can develop a shared vision regarding the skill needs for sector and cell-level extension workers, as well as farmer training using these proposed CICs.
Given the lack of familiarity with agricultural extension degree programs, it is recommended that the awareness creation process includes experience sharing visits to other universities with extension programs within the region like Haramaya University in Ethiopia, Sokoine University in Tanzania, Egerton University in Kenya, Makerere University in Uganda and Bunda College in Malawi. The team to visit these universities would include MINAGRI and MINALOC officials, as well as the Rector and/or Dean of the selected university. While the MINEDUC is important and could be included in the visiting team, ministries of education do not normally worry about specific details of individual programs. They usually have no problems with well-articulated needs for new programs coming from universities.
Type of Graduates Needed
Given that the role of all sector-level agronomists is to function as generalists, irrespective of their training background, it would make sense to come up with a general agricultural extension degree program.
Therefore, it is recommended that an appropriate faculty be strengthened to develop a strong general agricultural extension degree program
To accomplish these objectives, there will be a need for a catalyzing dialogue among the main stakeholders involved in agricultural extension delivery - especially MINAGRI, MINALOC and MINEDUC; to develop consensus on the vision and goals of the extension system and setting up priorities for action; analyzing the training needs of extension staff; and helping agricultural universities make their curricula more responsive. Catalyzing dialogue on training might require an external intervener to initiate the process. The dialogue will lead to the development of modalities for implementing the desired training. The custom-made training programs could be run as a partnership between the university and MINAGRI, possibly through the new Training and Capacity Building (TCB) unit within the new Rwanda Agricultural Board (RAB) or CICA. In addition, MINALOC must be included in developing these custom-made training programs for their staff.
Improving the Capacity of Key University Faculty
Generally, agricultural training given at the four universities visited (ISAE, INATEC, NUR, and Umutara) is weak due to:
a) Critical shortage of qualified faculty, especially extension training faculty. On average, the universities have only a third of the critical faculty that they require)
b) Lack of equipment and facilities for practical training.
The Minister of Education alluded to these weaknesses above and further suggested mentoring programs with experienced universities in the West. Also, the lack of M.Sc. training in the country (apart from Soil Science and Environmental Management) acts as a disincentive for B.Sc. holders in the extension system, like district-level agronomists. They do not see career advancement as a prospect for themselves.
It is recommended that an appropriate faculty be strengthened to provide quality training and to provide M.Sc. level training in order to address the current staff shortages and the need to improve career prospects for those already in the service.
Need for a professional platform (i.e. an agricultural extension professional association)
Rwanda is experiencing multiple approaches to extension involving a wide range of extension service providers using a wide range of strategies and approaches. The effectiveness of these different approaches and service providers is not well known, but some appear to create “farmer dependence” due to the distribution of free or subsidized inputs. Therefore, there is a need for systematic studies to assess the effectiveness of the different approaches and strategies. These studies would yield data and information that would inform planners. Interesting topics would include: effectiveness of outsourcing training; effectiveness of the model (or lead) farmer approach in extension; the effectiveness of farmer field school approach beyond integrated pest management (IPM); partnerships and linkages in extension service provision; decentralizing extension through local administration; cooperatives and other famer institutions as a vehicle for agricultural extension; role of non-government organizations in agricultural extension; frontline extension workers training needs. In additions, adoption studies could be conducted on a whole range of commodity values chains being promoted across the country.
An extension professional platform would encourage such studies and sharing of evidence-based best practices. The university agricultural faculties would find this as fertile ground for conducting research and sharing the results as part of their faculty professional growth and also for their teaching. In the absence of a professional platform, extension workers are, on-their-own, struggling to find the best way of making a difference at farmer level. There is no way of harnessing the experiences these extension workers are going through, for purposes of learning and sharing. Therefore, an agricultural extension professional platform would provide practitioners an environment for professional growth through life-long learning as they meet (face-to-face) or otherwise learn from each other, as well as encouraging each other to conduct research and learn from their work. Also, data and information generated through this professional platform (or through specially commissioned studies) would help inform policy formulation and policy change processes.
An extension professional platform would also provide an environment for open debates that enable practitioners to internalize the concepts and policies, while translating these policies into a language that can be understood by rural communities. Establishing and running such an association requires a few ‘champions’ who initiate and show direction; as well as a volunteer university that would host this platform and act as a focal point.
The extension professional association recommended here is similar to the (American) Association for International Agricultural and Extension Education (AIAEE), the European Society of Extension Education (ESEE) and the South African Society for Agricultural Extension (SASAE). These organizations enhance professional growth by encouraging research studies and sharing of experiences. In both cases leadership (champions) and the initiative to form the associations came from universities but they draw membership from across the extension profession in their countries and beyond. But the initiative could come from anyone interested – including development partners. The Rwanda association could affiliate itself to the African Forum for Agricultural Advisory Services (AFAAS), which is a constituent member of the Global Forum for Rural Advisory Services (GFRAS), to benefit from other experiences in the continent and beyond.
It is recommended that the university selected to provide agricultural training, with strong support from both MINALOC and MINAGRI, will provide leadership in setting up and running this new professional association of extension workers.
The current official platforms initiated by MINALOC and MINAGRI through PASNVA, which are structured from national to village level, are essentially for planning and implementation purposes – and everybody will say what they are doing is working (PASNVA report).
Extension Information and Communication Technology (ICT)
Few sectors have undergone as much rapid transformation recently as the ICT sector, and many of the latest innovations have a high potential to dramatically change how communications activities are conducted with both farmer and internal Extension worker audiences. In looking at the whole spectrum of a pluralistic Extension system, we need to take a multi-layered approach, because different socio-economic groups within Rwandan society will have access to different types of ICT devices and services.
It is important to begin by recognizing that the Ministry of ICT has done an excellent job of laying the foundational framework for a robust ICT infrastructure in Rwanda that can be built upon to strengthen the delivery of Extension services (including internal communications and training within the public sector extension system).
The NICI (National Information and Communications Infrastructure) plans (phase 1 and phase 2) were created with the express purpose of using GOR resources to create the necessary “building blocks” for a comprehensive ICT infrastructure, and then having the private sector eventually run the infrastructure as soon as a proper regulatory environment had been created.
A major ICT constraint for the country thus far has been affordable, high-speed internet connectivity. Up until now, Rwanda has had to rely on satellite based data services, which are both slower and much more expensive than fiber based services. Consequently, there has been a great deal of demand for getting off of satellite and onto fiber.
Under MINICT direction, the GOR just completed building a 2,600 km country-wide fiber optic backbone ring that connects all 30 Districts of the Country with the capital, Kigali. By virtue of the national network design featuring a true circular “ring” design with 2 exit points – one each in Mombasa, Kenya and Dar Salam, Tanzania – the network can survive even a catastrophic failure at a single location and still maintain service for most users. MINICT also has plans for a “last mile” deployment of wireless broadband that should be completed within the next 24 months. In the meantime, again as a result of careful planning by MINICT, Rwanda’s mobile phone network currently covers 95% of the land mass of the country (and the areas without service are generally areas without much human population – such as forests and game preserves).
We strongly recommend, therefore, that going forward, Extension should plan on leveraging these ICT infrastructural resources to the maximum extent possible, both for internal communication and training and for communicating with farmer audiences directly.
District and Sector level Extension workers – ICT
District workers currently have both laptop computers and internet connectivity, but the connectivity is currently relatively slow (that will be addressed soon when the fiber ring is lit up and extension district offices are connected). Sector level staff members currently have computers, but lack any sort of connectivity for their machines which severely limits their usefulness for any sort of timely two-way communication, data sharing, or information gathering. This must be changed as quickly as possible.
ICT Observations from Visits with Farmer Groups
Among farmers, the dominant ICT device is the common voice/sms capable cell phone. Among all the farmer groups we visited with, there were never less than 1/3 of those present who had a cell phone on their person. And, in most groups, that figure was between 50% - 80%. In contrast, almost no farmers owned a computer, and only a few had ever used one at a public telecommunications center (and those were primarily younger farmers).
Farmer groups such as Imbaraga use computers more than typical farmers.
Agricultural Information and Communication Centre (CICA)
CICA was created through the PASNVA project, in recognition that a national center was needed to deliver 5 essential information/communication services. Those were: (1) a documentation center and library; (2) a GIS lab; (3) a group for managing the MINAGRI website and the AMIS Portal (Agricultural Management and Information System); (4) staff to develop Extension publications; and (5) staff to develop extension audio-visual materials.
We support the findings of the BTC final evaluation report of PASNVA, November 2010, when it said that CICA represents a fundamentally sound beginning on which MINAGRI can continue building. We also agree with the general findings that: “CICA should be integrated in MINAGRI, as a separate unit for extension, communication, and information; providing services to service providers as well as to other MINAGRI agencies, projects and programmes.”
The current staff, who are working on the AMIS computer portal and in producing new publications, are very talented and productive; however, the current number staff assigned to these tasks is greatly inadequate for the volume and importance of the work to be done.
e-Soko is a new service to provide current market price information to farmers and other parties in the food market chain via low-cost cell phones using either sms or via voice. e-Soko was developed by MINAGRI and the Rwanda Information Technology Authority (RITA) with funds from the World Bank. The service currently provides information on all major agricultural commodities (staple crops, vegetables, and fruits) sold in 50 markets throughout the country. For several reasons the platform on which eSoko is based is currently up for major revision, so this is a good time to consider how to make this service stronger. When we surveyed farmers in the field, few of them knew of the existence of the eSoko service, but when it was fully described, virtually all farmers seemed very interested in having access to that sort of real-time information
Extension ICT Recommendations
Future investment plans for advancing both MINALOC and MINAGRI’s agricultural improvement goals should focus, at least in part, on how best to enable Extension (and indeed the whole agricultural production sector) to best utilize this valuable new networking resource. Such an investment strategy would include:
- Utilizing current cellular data capacity immediately for extension work connectivity in the field (and in the sector-level extension offices).
- Equip sector-level Extension workers with a cutting-edge tablet computer with cellular data capacity and also standard “wifi” (such as an iPad2). As was demonstrated by the ICT specialist on this assessment team who used his iPad2 in farmers’ fields throughout the country, such a device would radically change how “plugged in” and productive Extension workers could become. Such a device could be used not only to enhance currently inadequate methods of internal electronic communication, but also empower the extension worker to become more of a “knowledge worker” while working with farmers. With an iPad2, Extension workers would have access to email and web resources wherever they went (including the field). The field staff could also be trained on how to use their iPad2’s as information gathering devices – taking photos with the built-in camera, mapping important locations and issues with the built-in gps, or even shooting videos of successful farmers demonstrating a particularly successful technique that could be used to help train other farmers (like the videos being created in India’s successful “digital green” project. Finally, internal procedures within CICA/MINAGRI could be developed to electronically package and distribute all extension publications with a searchable reader for the iPad2 so that every worker had the full AMIS library pre-loaded on their iPad.
- CICA needs to be strengthened so it can produce more of the type of extension information that farmers want and need to become economically successful. The staffing of CICA needs to be both underwritten with more solid funding support and integrated within MINAGRI as a cross-cutting, integrated communications and IT service group.
- Strengthen the AMIS portal. Information on the AMIS portal is currently stored in the pdf file format, and while that preserves the look and feel of paper-based publications, it does not necessarily display as well on small portable computers or smartphones. Also, the portal currently lacks a way that multimedia elements such as video resources can be played back in a consistent way on all computing devices. We recommend bringing in an external technical consultant to work with the current AMIS staff to explore how to migrate to more of a Cascading Style Sheet (CSS) method of coding the master documents and using html5 methods of embedding multimedia content (such as video) in webpages so they will playback well in all types of computing devices (including iPad2’s). Finally, we recommend that the more basic text elements of the content on AMIS should be customized so that it can also be accessed directly by the farmers themselves using the technology developed by ForgetMeNotAfrica. This information would most probably be organized into a series of sequentially transmitted sms messages on a single concept or practice. These messages could be timed with weather and calendar specific release times.
- Improve and expand e-Soko services. Leverage the recent research results gained by Dr. Khin Cho and Dr. Don Tobias in Rwanda concerning what features farmers and others in the food chain want in terms of information from a phone sms-based market information system. Work with staff with the MarketMaker program at the University of Illinois (a MEAS partner) and the ForgetMeNotAfric group in the UK to transform the current e-Soko system and take it to “the next level” where it more fully and effectively meet the needs of Rwanda farmers.
- Collaborate with AFRRI and Farm Radio International on Radio Production. Work with AFRRI (the African Farm Radio Research Initiative) and Farm Radio International to strengthen the development and production of local radio. Farm Radio International has a proven track record of coaching and mentoring partner-broadcasters, and teaching them how to produce local documentaries and educational dramas for radio that reinforce the local culture and use local traditions of oral storytelling to convey agricultural information in an engaging way that audiences will respond to.
The team observed that the Rwanda Government recognizes the impact of malnutrition on economic growth and poverty reduction and has made incredible progress in the nutrition and health sector through different programs like:
· Management of acute, severe, moderate malnutrition at the health facilities
· Increase coordination to enhance implementation of nutrition activities
· Micronutrient nutrition and existence of national food fortification alliance
· Existence of an active Nutrition Technical Working Group;
· Decentralization of nutrition activities at district and sector levels
· Community health workers in each village for social mobilization and referral service to health centers
· Nutrition support and counseling for people living with HIV/AIDS
· Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV/AIDS
· Growth monitoring and Promotion (GMP)
· Infant and Young Child Feeding including (Promotion, protection and support)
· Community Based Nutrition Programs
· Vitamin A supplementation for children 6-59 months and postpartum mothers
· One cow per family and one cup of milk per child initiatives
However, the nutrition situation remains a critical public health problem as the national prevalence of protein-energy malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies are still major constraints to the well-being of mothers and children. There is a need for monitoring and evaluation of all nutritional interventions.
There are four community health workers (CHWs) per village who work on voluntary basis. To improve their effectiveness, it is recommended that a review be conducted to establish CHWs training needs and to improve their incentives.
The country has a strong political will to promote gender equality as a pre-requisite for sustainable development.
The following highlights reflect some major achievements in advancement of gender issues in Rwanda:
· Rwanda has a Constitution that guarantees gender equality and there has been significant increase in the number of women in decision making capacities. There exists a mandated requirement that at least 30% of all positions be filled by women. As of 2008, 52.25% of parliamentarians were women, and 32% of Ministers and State Ministers were also women.
· Laws of inheritance, succession and land tenure give equal rights to women and men.
· The National Women's Council helps ensure that the governmental mandates regarding gender equality are appropriately implemented.
· Gender awareness has been generated throughout the country through the media, gender training and sensitization campaigns are ongoing.
· Rwanda has achieved gender parity in primary school enrolments since 1994, and the rate has increased from 76 to 90%.
· EDPRS has been globally recognized as one of the most gender-sensitive poverty reduction strategies.
· Ratification of CEDAW and the Beijing Platform have been integrated into national policies, the constitution and translated into Kinyarwanda.
· Women can now inherit land due to newly modified family law.
· Women's District and Guarantee Funds address poverty amongst the female segment of the population.
· Women have been mobilized to supplement the justice system and are part of Unity and Reconciliation through the GACACA courts.
 It should be noted that the MEAS project is in the process of developing training modules for these different skill areas needed by both field extension workers and extension managers. These modules can and would be shared with these faculty members who want to provide both pre-service and in-service training for extension workers.