Strengthening Pluralistic Agricultural Extension in Ghana
At the request of the USAID Ghana Mission, the MEAS project (Modernizing Extension and Advisory Services – a USAID funded project) conducted a rapid scoping mission to examine the pluralistic extension system in Ghana and to develop recommendations for strengthening extension and advisory services in the country. The fieldwork for the assessment work was carried out from October 19 to November 7, 2012 and included in-depth interviews with Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) staff at all levels, international and national non-governmental organization (NGO) directors and staff, lead farmers, university faculty, agricultural researchers and private sector representatives. To the extent possible, interviews were carried out on the “shop floors” of the different respondents, allowing the MEAS team to visit farms, area and district extension and project offices, universities and training centers, and research facilities. The mission aimed to understand the institutional landscape, identify the principal actors, and ascertain respective resource levels, targets, operational modalities, inter-organizational relationships, areas of conflict and gaps. Based upon the information collected and observations made, the team identified a number of key issues within the pluralistic extension system in Ghana that will need to be addressed in order to develop a more sustainable, farmer-led and market driven system of extension and advisory services.
Overall, our rapid scoping assessment found very positive aspects of extension in Ghana, as well as some significant weaknesses and deficiencies. Extension assets we identified included some examples of good extension practice in a number of public sector and NGO run extension programs that employ key approaches like market-oriented extension and use of innovative ICT approaches. Additionally, Ghana is home to some promising private sector input marketing and market access approaches, which have the virtue of being financially sustainable. However, we also identified gaps in the current extension programming approaches in Ghana. Perhaps most importantly, we found a need for coordination at the national level because of the sheer number of actors and organizations operating in the agricultural extension area. Also, we heard many reports of the need for improved performance from the public sector extension services. Furthermore, the mindset of much of the extension work we observed focuses on production increases, without sufficient concern for farm-level profitability, which is necessary to induce further agricultural innovations and thereby boost productivity. At the same time, the riskiness of many proposed agricultural innovations deserves additional analysis and attention. The team also found many examples of extension programs that were not market oriented. There is a need for extension program structures that are explicitly and consciously farmer-led. In this vein, we also found gaps in the ability of some current extension programming efforts to reach women farmers. We also identified gaps in the training and capacity of MoFA Agricultural Extension Agents (AEAs) and other extension field agents as for many staff no regular in-service training programs have been available for several decades. Training in the area of ICT use and applications, as well as in extension process skills is also indicated. Furthermore, we identified numerous reports and examples of farmers and farmer groups not receiving extension services, in some cases because of lack of funds for transport for AEAs, but also due to poor staff motivation. Lastly, addressing the role and position of extension in the increasingly decentralized governmental structure of Ghana was identified as a critical need in northern Ghana.