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Undoing the development army : a paradigm shift from transfer of technology to agricultural innovation system in Ethiopian extension

Authors
  • Gebremariam, Yemane Asmelash
  • Dessein, Joost
  • Wondimagegnhu, Beneberu Assefa
  • Breusers, Mark
  • Lenaerts, Lutgart
  • Adgo, Enyew
  • Van Passel, Steven
  • Minale, Amare Sewnet
  • Nyssen, Jan
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2024
Source
Ghent University Institutional Archive
Keywords
Language
English
License
Unknown
External links

Abstract

Appropriate use of agricultural technologies and diversifying the farming activities is critical to addressing food security problems in Africa, including Ethiopia. The country is experimenting with the new Agricultural Innovation System (AIS) approach alongside the well-established Transfer of Technology (ToT) approach. This paper analyzes the gaps between policy discourses (as reflected in policy documents and strategic orientation documents) and extension practices (as reflected in the daily exchanges between farmers and the frontline staff of the Ethiopian extension system). It provides insights into the challenges faced and emphasizes the need for better coordination between policy formulation and implementation to enhance extension services. Policymakers, practitioners, and researchers can benefit from the valuable perspectives the findings offer. The study contributes to understanding the relationship between policy discourses and extension practices, and its implications can inform policy design and implementation in similar contexts. A qualitative research approach was deployed to analyze policy discourse and practice. Data were collected in Fogera, a district in Northwest Ethiopia, between August 2018 and February 2019. The data for the paper were obtained from 23 Focus Group Discussions conducted with men and women. 13 Informant Interviews (KIIs) were also carried out with personnel at different levels of government agricultural services and departments. Transcripts of recordings of the Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) and Key Informant Interviews (KIIs) were analyzed using a deductive approach. The study focuses on rice crops in the Fogera district, which are crucial for food security and reducing poverty. Although the geographic area is limited, the results can be used to improve the extension system in other areas facing similar challenges. Specifically, the study suggests switching from the traditional transfer of technology approach to the agricultural innovation system approach. Furthermore, the study's techniques, such as qualitative interviews, may have limitations and not fully capture the intricacies of policy and extension practices. The findings demonstrate that, although the policy documents strongly adhere to agricultural innovation system principles, top-down transfer of technology approaches continues to dominate in practice. Moreover, we have found potential discrepancies between the training content delivered and the specific needs of smallholder farmers. Practically, prescriptive systems are still used because agricultural innovation system approaches are not well understood by the Extension Agents. To realize a genuine agricultural innovation system, Ethiopia's extension apparatus should move forward with building committed and robust relationships between farmers, extension agents, researchers, private sectors, and non-governmental organizations. To this end, more research, enhanced training, and improved institutions are needed on what genuine agricultural innovation system could look like at the grass-roots level. This also includes understanding the roles that different actors within Ethiopia's development army should assume how a multi-actor policy dialogue can be organized.

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