In-depth assessment of the public agricultural extension system of Ethiopia and recommendations for improvement

Type Journal Article - International Food Policy Research Institute, Discussion Paper
Title In-depth assessment of the public agricultural extension system of Ethiopia and recommendations for improvement
Volume 1041
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2010
Eighty-three percent of the population of Ethiopia depends directly on agriculture for their livelihoods,
while many others depend on agriculture-related cottage industries such as textiles, leather, and food oil
processing. Agriculture contributes about 46.3 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) (World Bank
2008) and up to 90 percent of total export earnings. As part of the current five-year (2006–2011) Plan for
Accelerated and Sustained Development to End Poverty (PASDEP), the government is continuing to
invest heavily in agriculture. A core part of the government’s investment in agriculture is the public
agricultural extension system.
This study was conducted to assess the strengths and constraints of the public extension system
and to provide suggestions on “best fit” solutions and their scale-up opportunities. The review used a
variety of analytical tools to develop the overall findings, including extensive field visits to six of nine
regions in Ethiopia; interviews with farmer trainees at farmer training centers (FTCs), more than 100
extension personnel, extension experts, nongovernmental organization (NGO) groups, and government
representatives; and a literature review on Ethiopian extension. The study assessed strengths and
constraints in the field-level extension system, the ATVET system, and the extension institutional
environment. The researchers also considered the overall enabling environment within which extension
The field-level extension service has a strong foundation of FTCs and trained development agents
(DAs) already in place in the field. Roughly 8,489 FTCs have been created throughout Ethiopia, and
about 62,764 DAs have been trained in total, with a reported 45,812 staffed on location. Woreda (district)
and regional offices are adequately staffed. DAs and woreda staff have strong technical skills and
theoretical knowledge, and are generally trained as specialists. Pockets of entrepreneurialism and
innovation exist in specific FTCs and woredas.
While acknowledging these strengths, the researchers also identified several sets of constraints
within the field-level extension system that will require attention. Basic infrastructure and resources at the
FTC and woreda level remain a major constraint, particularly in relation to operating funds: the vast
majority of FTCs and kebeles do not have operating equipment or inputs to pursue typical extension
activities on the demonstration farm. There are major “soft” skill gaps for DAs and subject matter
specialists (SMSs) in the FTCs and woredas, and their ability to serve farmers is limited given a lack of
practical skills. Finally, the overall field-level system is often limited in its ability to meet farmer needs
and demands; mechanisms to make it more farmer-driven and market-oriented would yield greater results.
The authors employed a similar approach at the ATVET level to identify strengths and
constraints. Strengths at the ATVET level include a strong record of training broad groups of DAs, a
strong technical curriculum, and some pockets of innovation and practical training, including linkages to
markets and farmers. Constraints include limited success in enabling DAs to gain practical experience,
particularly related to their internships at the woreda level; limited linkages to the broader educational
system and research system in Ethiopia; and a general lack of resources to effectively transmit the
required skill set to DAs.
The countrywide enabling environment in which extension operates is critical to extension
efforts. Various aspects of the enabling environment were considered, including seed and other inputs,
water management, and credit systems, as well as producer groups. Constraints were also assessed,
leading to the conclusion that the enabling environment requires strengthening, particularly in the areas of
seed and credit, if extension is to achieve its full potential impact.

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