Feed the Future
This project is part of the U.S. Government's global hunger and food security initiative.

Extension & Advisory Services in Zambia: Understanding Structures, Services, Roles & Incentives for Reaching Farmer Households as a Basis for Discussing Potential for Scale

Executive Summary

One of the challenges of agricultural extension is how to reach remote, rural farmers with information in a form they can understand, apply with relative ease and by so doing reap benefits. Farming involves more than information; it requires inputs, credit, production practices, post-harvest management and markets. It is imperative that public, private, and non-governmental organizations working in extension and advisory services (EAS) consider the needs of farmers, then structure services to respond to them, providing farmers with information and skills necessary to make informed decisions and take actions that result in economic, nutritional and social benefits for all members of the household.

This paper reviews the extension approaches used by nine organizations operating in Zambia. The aim is to understand the many structures, services and mechanisms used to reach farmers with an eye towards building on strengths. We begin by defining the services, roles and incentives each model uses to provide relevant extension services to farmers. This analysis allowed us to group the different extension models into three categories, based on the most prominent focus of the services provided, namely:

Information-focused models: organizations use institutional or project funding to provide information at no cost to the farmer;

  1. Service-provider models: organizations provide some service (e.g., selling fertilizer) and in association with sales may provide information to the farmers; and
  2. Integrated-market models: farmers provide product to a buyer and receive various forms of support as part of the buyer-seller relationship.

The various programs in each of the three categories were differentiated by the package of five primary services they offered to farmers:

  1. Farming advice: access to information and skills to upgrade production systems
  2. Inputs: provision or sale of diverse seed, fertilizer and other crop products
  3. Credit: access to financial services through community savings groups or linkages to financial institutions and/or products
  4. Product aggregation: bulking and transport of products for sale at markets
  5. Markets: market advice and/or facilitated or guaranteed markets for sale of products

Because of the growing awareness of the benefits and need for approaches that better address gender and nutrition outcomes, we also look at how – and to what extent – the organizations involve nutrition-sensitive and gender-aware approaches in their models. What incentives exist to motivate extension providers to reach the most underserved groups, such as women and the ultra-poor, or for integrating topics such as gender and nutrition into their services? Read the full discussion paper here.