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ICTs in Support of Revitalizing Extension and Advisory Services: Opportunities and Challenges
Monday, October 11, 2010

Global Consultation on
ICTs in Support of Revitalizing Extension and Advisory Services: Opportunities and Challenges
October 11, 2010
Memorial Union
Iowa State University
Ames, Iowa 50011, USA

The research-farmer linkages mediated by the extension system played a crucial role in the advancement of food security through the Green Revolution.1 Today, extension is in a state of decline in many countries. Grinding poverty and chronic hunger remain partially or substantially unmitigated in too many regions of our world while new challenges, including climate change, water scarcity, and soil quality reduction have emerged.2 The challenges to achieving food self sufficiency, accessibility and affordability dominate the development agenda. According to the recent reports, nearly one billion people suffer from chronic food insecurity, and 25,000 people die each day from malnutrition-related causes.3 Food security continues to pose a critical challenge for years to come, reminding us that innovative solutions will be needed if we are to achieve global food security.4

The solution must be innovative and knowledge intensive, along with robust process design, scalability and with built-in monitoring, evaluation and assessment mechanisms.

Many of us have come to believe extension has to escape from the narrow mindset of transferring technology packages while moving toward a constantly innovating knowledge transfer mode that supports decisions, innovation and personal growth among extension clients. The overarching point of view must be whole chains or even more broadly defined as value networks. These strategic statements offer a framework that with the help of innovative and knowledge intensive advisory services, extension will become more diversified, more demand driven. Thus, extension evolves to be more effective in meeting information needs of wide variety of clientele, including women farmers, agribusiness, rural youth, resource poor farmers and minority groups. A number of pilot experiments are in progress in using knowledge networks and contemporary Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs)- such as web and its new platforms (Web 2.0 and social networking), a new generation mobile telephony, and existence of telecenters for strengthening extension and rural advisory services in several parts of the world. These contemporary ICT tools have opened up new avenues and opportunities for re-positioning or revitalizing existing extension systems to engage in a wider range of issues beyond merely disseminating production-oriented technologies.

Recent studies have also recommended giving serious consideration to the opportunities presented by the contemporary ICTs in strengthening extension.5678 There is a felt need for understanding available novel approaches and practices, and also explore best ways and strategies to adopt these new opportunities into existing global, national, and regional level agricultural extension and rural advisory systems, thereby provide new ways of support to rural livelihoods, socio-economic change, and food security.

Develop a truly proactive approach to extension in economic development that will consider positioning issues in terms of strategies, extension configurations and continually innovative dynamics.

  • Identify and define concrete areas of action that address emerging challenges and exploit opportunities of ICTs in support of extension and rural advisory services.
  • Identify trends, and will seek to define options for future directions in investment, institutions, and innovation.
Key Questions for round table discussions:
  1. What needs to be done to make research knowledge/information available, accessible, applicable, and appropriated/used effectively by at all levels and among all actors in agricultural and rural development?
  2. How can we create incentives for the convergence of academic, research, and extension agendas toward achieving a common objective with complementary mandates/skill sets?
  3. How can we scale-up/replicate/integrate the best practices in agricultural extension globally to provide a credible alternative to traditional models?
  4. What new strategies or policies are needed to improve extension systems that contribute to value addition chains and food security?
  5. ICTs in support of extension and rural advisory services: Can we harness the promise of technology to enhance cost efficiency and effectiveness in delivery?
It is intended the outputs of this workshop will include a range of action agendas, identified either with existing (sectoral, thematic, and/or regional) initiatives, communities of practice and working groups or with groups that have yet to be created. These action agenda's will be further discussed with farmer groups (from different countries) through a meeting organized at the world food prize symposium. All these discussions will be documented and a report will be made available/present at the world food prize symposium.

This workshop will help to define direction and scope for both potential programming and consortia. Tangible outcomes may evolve to include:
  • A consortium of partners to execute action agendas either through a global program or project
  • Policy recommendations to bring a widespread systematic change in the existing global, regional and national extension systems,
  • Strategies to revitalize extension and advisory services to provide support to food security and socio-economic change in both developing and developed nations.

2Farrington, J., Christoplos, I., Kidd, D. A., and Beckman, M. 2002. Can Extension Contribute to Rural Poverty Reduction? Synthesis of a Six-Country Study.
5Holz-clause, M. and Dileepkumar, G. The Role of Information and Communication Technologies in Global Agricultural Development: Experiences from Global Academy for Extension practice. Third International Global Studies Conference, 21-23 June 2010. http://e10.cgpublisher.com/proposals/343/index_html
6Davis, K. 2008. Extension in Sub-Saharan Africa: Overview and Assessment of Past and Current Models and Future Prospects. Journal of International Agricultural and Extension Education
15(3): 15-28. http://www.neuchatelinitiative.net/english/documents/ExtensioninSub-SaharanAfrica.pdf
7Fairless, D. 2007. From Wheat to Web: Children of the revolution.
8Gelb, E., and Offer, A. 2005. "ICT Adoption in Agriculture: Perspectives of Technological Innovation".
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