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Report for the Needs Assessment and Participatory Evaluation Skills Training


Introduction

The workshop Needs Assessment and Participatory Evaluation Skills was conducted in Viqueque, Timor Leste on May 29, 2012 at the office of the District Administrator. A total of 23 Extension personnel participated in the training (22 officers and 1 district-level administrator), representing 61% of the officers from the five sub-districts of Viqueque. The training was scheduled to coincide with a district-wide Extension meeting, which forced sub-district coordinators to be absent for this workshop. The training itself included presentations and activities designed to build capacity in the areas of needs assessments and participatory evaluation strategies for Timorese agricultural Extension officers.

This workshop was conducted as a collaboration between the Department of Agricultural Education and Communications and the Tropical Conservation and Development program at the University of Florida (UF), the Modernizing Extension and Advisory Services (MEAS) project, and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Forestry of Timor Leste (MAP). In response to a request and invitation by MAP, this workshop was planned to help facilitate Timorese Extension’s transition to a more participatory system by increasing the capacity of officers to involve local communities and populations in program planning and implementation.

The training was also utilized to pilot-test the MEAS Needs Assessments: Developing and Utilizing Needs Assessments to Enhance Farmer-Driven Extension Systems training module created by Dr. Robert Strong of Texas A&M University. Feedback and evaluation of the materials is intended to inform future use and modification of the module. Originally designed as a 4-day training, the workshop was restricted to one day at the request of MAP. As a result, the trainer selected specific pieces of the MEAS training module that were then modified for the local context and language.


Agenda

    1. Introduction and Training Objectives 
    2. Icebreaker/Interest Approach Activity 
    3. Presentation 1.90: Needs Assessment 
    4. Case Study Activity 
    5. Presentation 1.91: Target Populations 
    6. Target Populations Activity 
    7. Energizer/Review Activity 
    8. Presentation 4.91: PRA to Gather Needs 
    9. Seasonal Calendar Activity 
    10. Transect Walk Activity 
    11. Discussion and Evaluation 




Methodology:

  • Teaching methods were varied to include PowerPoint presentations, large- and small-group activities and discussion, and individual worksheets and exercises. Due to the topic, efforts were made to incorporate participatory and experiential learning activities. Many of these were created by the trainer to supplement the module. 
  • PowerPoint Presentations 1.90, 1.91, and 4.91 were utilized from the training module. These were translated into the language of Tetum, and modified to increase their appropriateness for the local context/culture and audience. An additional presentation was created by the trainer to include the training objectives, agenda, and trainer’s contact information. 
  • Handout 1.11 was utilized and translated from the module. Handouts 1.12 were intended for use but deemed inappropriate for the audience, incompatible with the local context, and difficult to translate. The trainer used prior research in Timor Leste instead. Five additional handouts were created by the trainer to supplement the module material. 
  • Four activities were utilized from the module, although each was translated and supplemented by a handout created by the trainer. Four additional activities were created to increase audience participation, including Interest Approach, Energizer/Review, Seasonal Calendar, and Transect Walk exercises. The Transect Walk field activity was unfortunately canceled due to weather and time restrictions. 
  • Translated MEAS evaluation forms were provided to participants at the end of the training to solicit feedback from participants on the training and the module. 
  • The training room and facilities provided adequate seating and allowed for the trainer to work closely with participants throughout the workshop. A projector was provided for the presentations, and a laptop was supplied by the trainer. 

Evaluation Summary:

            The MEAS evaluation form was translated verbatim to include two sections. In Section 1, participants rated each item on a scale of 1 to 5 (1 being the minimum). The average ratings are presented in the table below. The results indicate that several participants struggled to comprehend the materials and felt that more time was required to properly learn the concepts presented. (Question, then mean rating).

Duration: Was time sufficient for the sessions? 4.26

Content: Were you able to understand the subjects presented? 4.21
Content: Did you find the subject matter sufficiently detailed and informative? 4.63
Content: Did you feel the graphics and photographs were appropriate to support the text? 4.63

Practice Sessions and Field Work: Did you find these useful for communicating the subject matter? 4.53

Presenter: Did you find the presenter was able to communicate effectively with the group? 4.63
Presenter: Did you find the presenter had sufficient grasp of the subject matter? 4.58

Objective: How would you rate the manual as a tool to assist field agents in working with communities to manage their resources? 4.58

In Section 2, the participants provided comments on the three presentations, two main activities, and the overall training. The comments are summarized as follows:

Lesson 1: Needs Assessments
· “We truly need this to be able to help farmers/communities with their problems.”
· “We truly need this because it is truly important for us to be able to increase our experience and capabilities.”
· “Please improve this a bit for future use because this is something Extension officers truly need.”
· “The time was insufficient because it was only one day.”
· “We need to continue these trainings to fully and deeply understand the material.”

Lesson 2: Target Populations
· “We learned how to better serve our clients and populations.”
· “This gives us a way for Extension to create plans for our communities.”
· “This provides an avenue for the population to share ideas.”
· “This material I feel is great, although I ask the trainer to allot more time to allow for more training.”
· “I understood the material but need this training to be continued.”

Lesson 3: Participatory Rural Assessments
· “Participatory evaluations give us a way to share ideas but also to hear ideas from farmers.”
· “This is good for us to more deeply understand farmers’ difficulties in their lives and work.”
· “This helps us form better relationships with farmers.”
· “This is about finding ideas and priorities that are more appropriate.”
· “This went well, although if the time is extended we will understand the material better.”
· “I feel this is difficult to understand.”

Activity 1: Seasonal Calendar
· “This community calendar is something very important for Extension officers to know.”
· “This activity will make our work easier.”
· “The calendar activity is important for us to use to understand our clients’ schedules.”
· “The training needs to be repeated so that we can better understand the concepts taught.”

Activity 2: Transect Walk
· “This is truly good for us to use to develop the agricultural sector.”
· “This activity is good for learning a lot about your community without wasting time and money.”
· “I will try this again in my work location.”
· “We need to practice this to better understand how Transect Walks work.”
· “We need to apply this in the field to better understand this (along with Focus Groups).”
· “We need more training on Transect Walks.”

General Feedback and Comments
· “This training helped us increase our capacity to work together with the community.”
· “In my opinion, this training is good for me to increase my capacity in the field. In the future we need more trainings so we can learn and understand more about Extension.”
· “We like trainers like this, although the training could have been longer.”
· “This activity (training) is truly important but the time was very limited. We need these trainings to be continued.”
· “If possible, please don’t stop with this training but continue to give these trainings in the future.”


Trainer Feedback:

The workshop Needs Assessment and Participatory Evaluation The MEAS module materials required considerable modifications and supplementation prior to the training to make them appropriate for the audience. Translation and incorporation of the local context was difficult but effective.

Participants struggled with the concepts and terminology presented in the modules. The material was perhaps too complex, academic, or novel to be used without supplementary explanation and examples. Low exposure to Extension concepts and formal education levels of participants was a factor in reducing comprehension.


Participants listen as the trainer conducts   
Presentation 1.90 at the opening of training.

Participatory, small-group activities were the most successful, while large-group activities were the least well-received. Socio-cultural factors may have been involved, and should be considered for future trainings using the module.

New activities created for the training increased the effectiveness of information transfer and improved participation.

Handouts helped reinforce learning, and copies of the PowerPoint presentations were repeatedly requested.

The use of a lesson plan and training agenda was very effective, and could assist future trainers.

Support from the district-level Extension office in Viqueque was excellent prior to and during the training. In contrast, the national office caused repeated renovation and near cancellation of the training.

Time restrictions lessened the effectiveness of the training, and lack of adequate time was the chief complaint voiced by participants.

Overall, feedback from participants was very positive. Requests for further training were virtually unanimous.




Picture Credits: Austen Moore
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