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									How can teaching / Learning processes
    be planned and implemented
                successfully?

                 Extensión LEAP
      (Laos Extensión for Agricultura Project)
                          Laos

             Wednesday, 13 August 2008




    26th International Course on vocational Training
               and Education in Agriculture
                                                                                  LEAP



Case Study:
LEAP and the Lao Extension Approach

About 2 million of the 5.6 million inhabitants of Lao PDR live in poverty, a large part of
them upland farmer of ethnic minorities in remote areas. Progress in agriculture and
forestry is an essential avenue out of poverty for rural people, while also being a key
to economic development of the country as a whole. The Ministry of Agriculture and
Forestry (MAF) is guided by 4 goals: enhanced food security, increased commodity
production, stabilization of shifting cultivation and sustainable forest management.
Within the Ministry, the National Agriculture and Forestry Extension Service (NAFES)
provides guidance to a network of service centers at provincial, district and cluster
levels.


1. What were the starting point and the goals of the individual
   education or extension measures?

1.1 Model Farmer Approach:

The origin of the current government extension system in Lao PDR dates back to
1992 with the establishment of the Agricultural Extension Agency (AEA). The ap-
proach used at that time focused on ‘model families’ who would provide examples to
others. District staffs were required to identify progressive farmers, request them to
use an intensive package of technology, and provide seed and fertilizer for the first
year of production. To assist the model farmers, staff from AEA and/or districts often
resided in the village to guide and supervise the model families.

A number of important changes were then taking place within the Ministry of Agricul-
ture and Forestry (MAF). In the past, the activities of MAF were characterized by cen-
tralized decisionmaking and a sectoral approach. Provincial staff used to wait for in-
structions from the central authorities rather than planning and managing their own
activities. The instructions, when they came, focused on targets and regulations relat-
ing to specific crops and commodities. Some of the consequences of this system
were:

•   contacts between government extension workers and farmers were only made on
    an irregular/sporadic basis

•   the technologies being promoted were not always appropriate to local conditions;

•   prioritization of activities was not always in accordance with the needs of farmers;

•   the advice given to farmers was highly generalized and not always useful;

•   there was a lack of ownership and poor motivation among Provincial and District
    staff of MAF;

•   there was weak coordination between different sectors (livestock, forestry, crops)
    and progress depended on the budget allocations for each sector.




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                                                                                       LEAP



1.2 Shift to decentralized and pluralistic measures:

Later in the 90’s a number of donor-funded projects demonstrated alternative a   p-
proaches to extension. An examination of these projects provided a number of impor-
tant lessons learnt, such as:

•   The need of a pluralistic system to meet the diverse requirements and potentials of
    rural farmers

•   The importance of decentralization as a key to development

•   The Importance of training

•   The benefits of a participatory technology development

•   Participatory methods ensure ownership, which consequently leads to
    sustainability

•   Farmers are motivated if they are included in planning and willing to participate
    without being paid

•   Capacity building for district and provincial staffs assures effective extension
    delivery

•   The need of clear directions and better coordination


1.3 Emerge of a national extension system

The creation of National Agriculture and Forestry Extension Service (NAFES), a d  e-
partment within the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) and the start of the
Extension for Agriculture Project (LEAP) in 2001 provided an opportunity to assess
what had be learned over the previous decade and combine the best practices.

The LEAP is funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC)
and implemented by NAFES with technical assistance from Helvetas, a Swiss NGO.

The project was established with the following objective, which remained the same
throughout all phases: "to contribute to the development of a decentralized, participa-
tory, pluralistic and sustainable agricultural extension system that is capable of bene-
fiting poorer households and communities, and reaches male and female farmers
equally".




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                                                                                 LEAP



2. What education or extension measures were concretely
   planned and put into action?

2.1 Development and testing:

The main purpose of LEAP I (end 2001 to 2004) was to develop and test the proce-
dures based on the lessons learnt from previous approaches. Pilot activities were
carried out in three provinces representing different agro-ecological zones:
•   Champassak (Mekong valley, commercial)
•   Salavane (plateau, subsistence)
•   Luang Prabang (uplands, subsistence)

These activities included capacity building for both the ‘Government Extension Ser-
vice’ (GES) which involves provincial and district staff, and the ‘Village Extension Sys-
tem’ (VES) which involves village leaders, farmers and volunteer extension workers
(VEWs).


2.2 Endorsement and expansion throughout the country:

At the start of Phase II (2005 to 2007), the practices tested by LEAP were endorsed
by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF), and given a new name: the 'Lao
Extension Approach' (LEA).

During this phase the LEA was introduced into the remaining 14 Provinces of the
country. LEAP also worked to improve links between extension and research, and
developed a range of extension materials. During this period, a number of other do-
nors and projects started to use the LEA.


2.3 Aligning to new government organizational set-up:

Between January and June 2008, an Alignment Phase LEAP III was implemented
with the aim of adjusting the project design to match new organizational strategies and
structures introduced by MAF in the later half of 2007. Emphasis was given to
strengthening newly created Technical Service Centres at the level of the Province
and Kumban (village cluster).


2.4 Improving quality and reach out to poorest areas:

LEAP Phase IV (mid 2008 to 2012) is expected to include activities across the coun-
try, especially focusing on the 47 poorest districts of the country. This phase will give
more attention to the quality of service delivery, in order to complement the attention
that was given to increasing geographical coverage in earlier phases.

The five components planned in Phase IV include:
a) Strengthening Management of Service Centers,
b) Delivery of Technical Services,
c) Strengthening Delivery of Training Services,
d) Strengthening Delivery of Information Services and
e) Capitalization of Experience in Extension Delivery.

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                                                                                   LEAP



3. What quantitative and qualitative results were achieved in the
   project?
The approach has also been adopted by a number of other projects, with the result
that approximately 20,000 farmers had been reached by the end of 2007.

Farmers trained using the Lao Extension Approach have been able to increase the
value of their rice production by an average of more than US$150 per hectare, while
the value of chicken production has increased in average by US$200 per trained
farmer. These benefits are achieved within one year of starting training, and should be
compared to an initial training cost of less than US$ 30 per person.

The major achievements to date were as follows:

•   Adoption of LEA by the government as the official extension strategy

•   Successful first steps have been made towards harmonization as other projects
    have also started to apply the LEA

•   The LEA has been introduced in at least one district in all 17 provinces close to
    20’000 farmers have been reached

•   Most participating farmers have achieved substantial production increases

•   Trained farmers are able to make plans, organize themselves and spread knowl-
    edge to other farmers in their area

•   Establishment and systematic strengthening of a pool of LEA trained extension
    staff in all provinces

•   Production and dissemination of different forms of extension and information
    materials.

•   Development of the concept “extension is for everyone” that integrates gender and
    social dimensions into the LEA

•   Establishment of the National Information Centre for Extension (NICE) within
    NAFES

•   Establishment of information links e.g. through the interagency working group on
    Agriculture Information Management, web platforms and informal alliances.




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                                                                                  LEAP



4. In what way did the measures taken contribute to successful
   learning and sustainable behaviour among the participants of
   the project or among other players?
The LEA can be understood in terms of one vision, two concepts and three features.

4.1 The inclusive vision of the LEA is summarized in the phrase ‘Extension for Eve-
ryone’. In other words, extension is for all farmers: rich and poor, men and women,
from all ethnic groups, and regardless of literacy and educational level.

4.2 In order to translate this vision into action, the LEA takes account of two concepts
that are highly relevant to the Lao context: decentralization and pluralism. Decen-
tralization means that Government assistance to farmers is planned and organized at
the lowest possible level, while pluralism means that different types of extension activi-
ties take place in different places and a number of different actors play a role in the
provision of services.

4.3 The three operational features of the LEA which distinguish it from other extension
approaches are that it is participatory, needs based and group based. Farming
men and women form groups to learn about topics which they have selected based on
an assessment of local problems and opportunities.


5. What recommendations from the project can be derived for
   other education and extension projects in the rural area?

5.1 Focus on human resource development:

Agriculture extension services especially in poor countries are characterized through
the need to broadly reach-out in an often constantly changing environment. In Laos
agriculture development workers are forming one of the largest networks, involving
4,000 Government staff addressing farmers living in about 10,000 villages. Benefits for
farmers rely on the methodological and technical knowledge and skills of those exten-
sion staffs. Projects need to contribute to their capacity building through training of
trainers, on-the-job coaching of extension staff, support for establishment of farmer
group and exchanges and the dissemination of information materials.


5.2 Focus on Extension for Everyone:

In the past, extension activities in Laos usually focused on a small number of ‘model
farmers’ who were better off. By contrast, the group-based approach supported by
LEAP encourages wider participation by including women, poorer households and
ethnic minorities. Their inclusion is essential to assure:
a) a development which is based on the right of all citizens,
b) participation based on the relevance of local needs,
c) greater efficiency and impact of support and
d) political stability.




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                                                                               LEAP



5.3 Focus on complementing potentials through harmonization:

The project is aligned to the Government goals of improving food security and increas-
ing commodity production, thus enhancing the contribution of the agriculture sector to
poverty reduction. The project fosters harmonization through collaboration with other
donors in the expansion and enhancement of the LEA. On one hand the methodology,
the trainers and the information materials developed can be used by a wide range of
development partners across the country. On the other hand good practices in exten-
sion of other projects are captured, examined and shared in a manner that supports
the further development of a pluralistic extension service.




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