Strengthened extension service to farmers in Central Asia
FAO Subregional Office for Central Asia in cooperation with the Ministry of Agriculture in Uzbekistan organized a regional training of trainers (ToT) on agricultural extension and advisory services for Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
Agriculture in Central Asia is in transition from a centrally administrated and planned economy to a private sector driven and market economy. This has created a new challenge, when many rural famers do not have agricultural background and lack access to the latest knowledge and information in the agriculture sector.
Back then in the Soviet area, agricultural research institutes provided agricultural extension services, through research institutes and experimental farms to demonstrate the latest research findings to the farmers.
Currently this system of knowledge and information sharing is not working well in Central Asian countries after the transition from large-scale kolkhozes and sovkhozes to small-scale private farms.
Former farm members included school teachers and doctors, etc., have now obtained their land share and established family farms. However, most rural inhabitants currently involved in farming lack farming experience, especially in sustainable crop production. In addition, agricultural extension services systems are very weak or non-existent in Central Asian countries.
Although, in most Central Asian countries non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have been established and supported by development organizations to provide extension services, however, technical knowledge and capacity those NGOs require scaling up for better provision of services to the farmers, so that the farmers can improve their crop production and increase yields.
“Not all specialists working for these NGOs have agricultural backgrounds or capacity to work with farmers, they are mainly former school- teachers or technicians. Therefore, FAO is supporting public and private extension service providers to improve technical capacities and enhance knowledge of modern crop management,” said Mr. Hafiz Muminjanov, FAO Agriculture Officer.
The ToT has focused on learning and participatory approaches, including technical areas of crop management and plant protection, and provided guidance on participatory approaches for evidence based national agricultural extension strategy. The workshop is part of the TCP funded project; Strengthening the Capacity of Agricultural Extension Services in Central Asia.
The project`s outcome is strengthened national extension services that will be able to provide timely and effective support to farmers and rural communities to mitigate climate change and to adopt and promote improved crop, land and water management and pest control practices. Capacity building of national extension staff will be key component in the project. Another component will be to facilitate countries to formulate a strategy for more effective agricultural extension.
“Producers and managers of natural resources will also benefit by strengthening extension services, by improving and increasing their provision of goods and services in the agricultural sector production systems in a more sustainable manner,” said Muminjanov.
Research conducted in Tajikistan on sustainable farming practices to mitigate climate related shock, found that knowledge about such practices is low among all famers, but there are also gender differences. Women and men in agriculture face different situations in general, and, in relation to extension services.
Farmers mainly obtain information about sustainable practices from other farmers, but within villages, female-headed households do not seem to benefit from the knowledge sharing networks that male farm heads enjoy. This lack of knowledge is crucial factor in reducing opportunities for woman farmers to adopt sustainable practices.
“In this regard, the project will focus on training woman extension specialist who can in turn provide support to improving the capacities of woman farmers,” said Ms. Nevena Alexandrova-Stefanova, FAO Agricultural Extension Officer.
Technical knowledge and capacity of technical specialist working for the NGOs require scaling up to provide better services to woman and men farmers, not only to improve productivity, but also to reduce poverty and vulnerability of those most in need and increase food security in the framework of sustainable development goals and the core principle of the 2030 Agenda.