Writes; Relebohile mojaki,Makhala Phalatsi,Majoro Khoanyane and Tseliso Ncheke
The existing research-extension-farmer linkages are weak in Lesotho. Weak links between research and extension are the major factors limiting the flow of information, knowledge, useful new technologies, and resources among actors in the technology-delivery-utilization system. The extension and Department of Agricultural Research (DAR) operate in silos while they are serving one clientele. The extension, be it public or private entities package and disseminate information to farmers without research consultation. On the other hand, DAR with the Farming Systems Research and Extension (FSR/E) section transfer technologies directly to farmers bypassing extension. This could be due to competition over the same but scarce resources and that there are differences in statuses which are historical and related to the fact that research is complicated. Researchers consider themselves as professionals, and consequently enjoy higher status and benefits. In contrast, extension staff is in contact with low-status farmers. The perceived differences in status have led to many researchers to adopt a supercilious, patronizing attitude. With private entities, they go to farming communities with incentives that attract farmers hence creating farmers dependency syndrome.
Consequently, the poor inter-organizational relationship between research-extension-farmers almost guarantees that research results will not reach farmers and if by any chance they do, farmers will not be able to use research findings because they do not perceive relevance to their needs, since they were not involved in generation of technologies. Research stops early and extension begins too late while it is supposed to be a continuous process. Weak links also cause disruption in technology flow and low adoption rates, increased time lags between development and adoption of new technology, reduced efficiency in the use of resources, unnecessary competition and duplication of efforts, and increased cost of agricultural research and extension activities.
In order to improve agricultural production, an effective agricultural extension service which is well linked to research information relevant to farmers needs is a prerequisite. The following are recommended strategies that could be put in place to strengthen extension-research-linkages.
The Agricultural Knowledge and Information Systems (AKIS) should be developed.
The system integrates farmers, agricultural educators, researchers and extensionists to harness knowledge and information from various sources for better farming and improved livelihoods. It is in this system where people and institutions are linked together to promote and enable mutual learning and generate, share and use agriculture-related technology, knowledge, skills and information.
Extension Working Groups (EWG)
At the grassroots level, EWG should be adopted to make extension and research systems responsive and relevant to farmers needs in selection of research and extension priorities. This will promote and consolidate research-extension-farmer linkages that are client-oriented thereby develop informal collaborative-partnership-relationship which will enhance the impact of research and extension activities.
Develop a harmonizing policy that will restore the linkages between research and extension service providers which recognizes that farmers are actively engaged in their own experimentation to strengthen research-extension-farmers linkages.
These modifications may range from the formal merger of research and extension at national level. The most popular and best way to communicate between agricultural research and extension is union of the two bodies. Such integration of agricultural research and extension is justified so that communication and mutual understanding between research and agricultural extension staff increase due to their proximity. Other options that should be considered is a creation of coordinating position such as a research-extension liaison officer to explicitly assign coordination functions
In conclusion, it is imperative that policy makers and public authorities pay utmost attention to problems affecting effective research-extension-farmers linkages. In this respect, issues which need immediate attention include, among others, allocating adequate funding for linkage activities, ensuring farmers’ representation at all levels and creating platforms and real forums for consultation among different stakeholders.
The above article is a collective job of National University of Lesotho (NUL)
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