Adoption of WLI Technologies in MENA Region

Assessing Researchers’ and Extension Agents’ Perceptions, and Farmers’ Willingness to Adopt WLI Proven Technologies

Objective: Improve technology dissemination strategies and approaches that promote adoption of proven water and land management technologies by identifying researcher, extension, and farmer- based perceptions and constraints.

Specific Objectives:

1.       Assess farmers’ perceptions of, and exposure to, the technology

2.       Assess researchers’ perceptions of technology development and existing dissemination strategy (what is working, what is not, and why?)

3.       Assess extension agents’ perspective on existing technology dissemination strategy and identify strengths, weaknesses and opportunities

4.       Identify potential challenges and opportunities for adoption by farmers with particular emphasis on gender-based constraints

5.       Initiate dialogue between extension agents and researchers for good practices that can accelerate adoption rates

6.       Develop new and effective technology dissemination strategies with regional applicability.

 1.       Rationale

The Water and Livelihoods Initiative (WLI) is funded by USAID/Washington as a regional program and is   managed by ICARDA (International Center for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas).  The goal of the WLI is to improve the livelihoods of rural households through pilot testing of integrated water and land management strategies in the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region, focusing on selected benchmark sites in various countries.  Research on a wide array of technologies that improve water productivity, reduce agricultural water demand, and increase production efficiency are conducted on research stations and in farmers’ fields (selected benchmark sites) by scientists from ICARDA and partnering National Agricultural Research and Extension Services (NARES). To date, however, attempts to extend these technologies to farmers have been limited to demonstrations through field days and basic trainings.  Uptake of the technologies has been very slow partly due to lack of sufficient plans for dissemination and engagement of extension services, and partly due to the nature of the technologies that may or may not be in line with farmers’ interests and ability to adopt. Linking research with development (R4D) is now garnering more support throughout the CGIAR and is gaining momentum in ICARDA.

In this study, we use Rogers’ definition of “adoption” of a technology which he defines as the “full use of an innovation as the best course of action available” (Rogers 2003, p. 177). According to Roger’s explanations, technology adoption involves the transfer of the “hardware” or the “tool that embodies the technology in the form of a material or physical object” and also includes the “software” or “the information base for the tool” (Rogers 2003, p. 259). Rogers defines knowledge as the “information-seeking and information-processing activity, where an individual is motivated to reduce uncertainty about the advantages and disadvantages of an innovation” that forms the base for his innovation–decision process (Rogers 2003, p. 172). Successful technology adoption, therefore, requires a sound communication strategy to ensure effective knowledge transfer.  Without it, adoption of the hardware will not be sustainable.

In accord with Rogers’ theory, this proposal seeks to assess underlying perceptions and current strategies that are used by MENA extension and advisory services and researchers, in order to identify strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities for improved delivery of technology packages. With these new technologies and goals in mind, the WLI partners need to establish appropriateness of proposed technologies to meet community needs in specific locales/agroecosystems, and must develop a clear strategy to disseminate technologies that is inclusive of private and public extension services and programs. It is important that the roles in the R4D process are clearly delineated and that a communication strategy be developed for sharing of information between researchers and extensions systems to better assist farmers’ adopting technologies and the dissemination of information thereafter.

2.       Project Strategy and Activities

In line with the benchmarking approach, the WLI is prepared to scale-out proven water-saving technologies to areas with similar socio-economic and biophysical characteristics as the benchmark sites. However, scaling out technologies requires clear strategies.  These strategies should be based on a thorough understanding of farmers’ needs for the technology, their willingness to adopt the technology (stated and revealed preferences), and a communication plan that provides comprehensive knowledge including: (a) awareness (existence of the technology), (b) how-to (correct use of the innovation), and (c) principal knowledge (how and why an innovation works) (Rogers 2003, p.21).

We propose to conduct country studies on farmers’ willingness to adopt selected technologies; assess existing dissemination strategies followed by extension and advisory services; and researchers’ perception of different adoption strategies. The findings will be used as the basis on which individualized dissemination strategies will be devised to ensure effective transfer of technologies. Special attention will be given to identify gender-based constraints and/or opportunities for adoption. Training/capacity building of relevant stakeholders to understand agricultural innovation best practices and knowledge management will be key to achieving project success.  The evidence gathered through the studies will provide compelling arguments to these stakeholders.

The proposed studies are based on demonstrated interests of five WLI partnering research institutions in Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, and Egypt that intend to disseminate proven technologies to improve rural livelihoods by increasing households’ access to water, improving water use efficiency, providing access to lower cost feed for livestock. Technologies identified by the national research institutes are presented in Table 1 below.  The larger question of changing researchers’ perceptions and practices will be studied through surveying the WLI team members using the same questionnaire for all of the teams. 

Note: This pilot action research is a collaboration between MEAS (through University of Florida) and WLI. No MEAS funds are used in Egypt, West Bank, nor Lebanon.

Table 1: Proposed technologies for dissemination

Country

Specific Location

Proposed

Technology

Partnering

Institution

Focal person

Jordan

 

Jordan Badia

 

Marabs[1] 

NCARE

Dr. Samia Akroush

Palestine (West Bank)

Nassarya and Tamun

Silage production

NARC

Dr. Nasser Sholi

Egypt

Old Lands

Raised Bed

ARC

Dr. Sha’aban Al Salem

Lebanon

El Qaa

Conservation Agriculture

Lebanese Agricultural Research Institute (LARI)

Eng. Randa Massad

 3.       Methodology

3.1. Data collection

The study will be based on primary data to be collected through qualitative methods including targeted interviews and Focus Group Discussions (FGDs). Information will be collected from all three groups including farmers, researchers, as well as extension and advisory groups. Structured questionnaires will be designed and used for all three groups. FGD will be used to collect data from relevant Community Based Organizations (CBOs) and selected groups as deemed appropriate.

3.1.1 Structured questionnaire for farmers

Farmers will be randomly selected from three different categories:

(a)    Farmers on whose fields the technology was pilot tested

(b)   Farmers who have attended field days and other demonstrations

(c)    Farmers with no exposure to the technology

The questionnaire will, among others, consider the following data points disaggregated by sex:

1)      Educational Level

2)      Natural Assets (land and water)

3)      Livelihood strategy

4)      Engagement in community based organizations

5)      Current agricultural practices including crops grown, inputs used, etc.

6)      Challenges in current agricultural practices

7)      Average annual expected yield

8)      Access to markets

9)      Access to credit services

10)   Farmers’ knowledge of the new technology

11)   Source and frequency of technical information

12)   Basic criteria for technology adoption

 

3.1.2 Structured questionnaire for researchers

The questions will seek to establish a good understanding of researchers’ view of Research for Development, their role as researchers, levels of gender sensitivity exercised throughout the research cycle, and their theory of change on how their specific impact pathway will be achieved. Thus, the questionnaire will, among others, consider the following:

1)      Research cycle (design, implementation and evaluation)

2)      Understanding of and challenges in conducting R4D

3)      Levels and methods of engaging end-users

4)      Levels and methods of engagement with extension and other advisory services

5)      Number and types of partnerships fostered

6)      Plans for disseminating proven technologies

7)      Anticipated challenges for adoption

 

3.1.3 Structured questionnaire for extension and advisory services

Questions directed to extension agents will aim to establish a clear understanding of the challenges and opportunities in conducting extension work in and around the WLI benchmark sites. Efforts will be made to collect sex disaggregated data wherever feasible.

1)      Level of training, area of expertise, and years of service

2)      Level of collaboration with researchers (quality and quantity)

3)      Source of technical information

4)      Nature of engagement with farmers (method, frequency, etc.)

5)      Proximity of the office to the field

6)      Staffing

7)      Partnerships

8)      Challenges and opportunities

9)      Potential barriers to adoption

Moreover, dialogue will be initiated between extension agents and researchers to better understand opportunities and challenges to effective collaboration. The dialogue will be organized as part of WLI’s Annual Regional Coordination Meeting where researchers meet to share their experiences and make plans for upcoming years. It is envisioned that extension agents from participating countries could attend this meeting to learn more about the research work and contribute towards developing effective dissemination strategy.

3.2. Study area 

The research will involve four countries (Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and Palestine) and specifically focus on the  previously chosen benchmark sites that best represent the biophysical and socioeconomic conditions (challenges and opportunities) for the particular agro-ecosystem. Locations of the benchmark sites and the agro-ecosystems represented are listed below (Table 2).

 

Table 2: Proposed research site and agro-ecosystems represented

Country

Benchmark site

Agro-ecosystem

Egypt

Shakira Governorate

Irrigated

Jordan

Majedidh

Rangeland

Palestine

Nassarya and Taman

Rangeland

Lebanon

El’ Qaa

Rainfed

 4.        Expected outcomes in line with MEAS’ Performance monitoring Plan (PMP):

 1.       New Extension strategies/approaches/methods defined (Outcome 2.7)

The study will result in five country-specific dissemination strategies for the selected technologies and a regional working paper that will be based on comparative analysis of findings in the five countries. The latter will be instrumental in highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of various dissemination strategies and create a great opportunity for knowledge sharing at the regional level. The WLI will be conducting similar studies in Yemen and Tunisia and plans to integrate its findings in the regional document.

2.       Good practice reforms incorporated into public extension programs (Outcome 3.4)

A dialogue between extension agents and researchers will be initiated during the WLI Annual Regional Coordination Meeting (currently planned to take place in November 2014) to establish a clear understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing researchers and extensionists as they move towards R4D.  Training on agriculture innovation systems, use of innovation platforms, knowledge management, and R4D will be included along with opportunity for dialogue.  Evidence from the research will inform the dialogue which will, in turn, inform future recommendations for effective dissemination strategies, and facilitate their integration into public extension programs. 

3.       Rural clients receiving improved services from extension systems (Outcome 4.2)

The different perspectives as expressed by farmers, researchers, and extension agents will inform the new extension strategies/approaches/methods developed through this study.   Following Rogers’ theory, this should lead to a better opportunity to improve the delivery of information to farmers. 


5.       Primary Investigators

Drs. Sandra Russo (UF), Samia Akroush (NCARE, Jordan), and Bezaiet Dessalegn (ICARDA) will take the lead on this multi-country effort.  The first step, already completed, was a workshop on impact pathways and adoption studies held in Amman on April 15-17, 2014.  Pairs of biophysical and socioeconomic researchers from each WLI country benchmark site participated in the event and agreed on the importance of re-evaluating their respective shelf-ready technologies and strategies for out scaling.  The technologies in Table 1 (above) were identified during the workshop.

6.       Duration of project: One year (July 2014 –June 2015)

7.       Planned Activities

 

Table 3: Gantt chart (July 2014-June 2015)

Activity

Timeline (2014-2015)

JUL-14

AUG-14

SEP-14

OCT-14

NOV-14

DEC-14

JAN-15

FEB-15

MAR-15

APR-15

MAY-15

JUN-15

Design survey and various questionnaires

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Survey researchers and extensionists

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Surveys and focus groups with farmers and partners

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Design extension strategy to diffuse technologies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Data analysis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Research extension dialogue

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Report writing

 

 

 

 

Mid-term

 

 

 

 

 

Final report

 

Publications

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



[1] A Marab is a water harvesting technology that is constructed at the lowest point of a watershed to collect and spread excess runoff water in order to maximize the size of land that can be brought under cultivation

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