Effective processes of transferring new farming knowledge and skills are needed to strengthen the level of resilience among smallholder farmers. Jeremiah Ahizo from Nari explains.
EFFECTIVE processes of transferring new farming knowledge and skills (technologies) are needed to strengthen the level of resilience among smallholder farmers in Papua New Guinea.
This continues to be a major focus for the National Agriculture Research Institute (Nari) as it strives to ensure that technologies that it develops through its research programmes are easily accessible by farming communities who need them.
In order to do that, the institute has adopted the concept of farmer resource centres (FRCs) under various projects in recent years.
Initial use of FRCs has brought to light that proper processes need
to be integrated into the FRC model to analyse and improve the concept.
That was realised when an assessment component was added under the European Union funded second phase of the Rural Economic Development project, which ended last August.
The FRC concept was adopted as a strategy to at least make up for existing limitations in extension services and to complement rural development programmes across the target communities.
At the outset, Nari entered into partnerships with key stakeholders who have on-going farmer extension programmes such as Department of Primary Industry outposts in rural districts as well as community and non-government organisations.
This was achieved through the signing of memorandum of understandings which identified FRCs as platforms through which technologies developed by Nari and its partners can be transferred to farming communities.
A year after the roll out of resource centres across the Highlands, an assessment phase is set to be undertaken soon.
This will essentially help to ascertain the effectiveness of resource centres in facilitating the process of transferring appropriate agricultural technologies to the rural farming community.
Findings that emerge from the assessment will be particularly important in interpreting levels
of success of farmer resource centres’ against a number of key indicators.
This will help concerned stakeholders to understand how resource centres could be effectively:
- Located to provide ease of access and use for farmers within targeted sites;
- equipped to facilitate transfer of specific agricultural technologies; and,
- Modified so they could assess their own performances and recommend measures of improvement.
The outcomes would also help Nari and key partners like the Department of National Planning and Monitoring identify underlying factors that affect the effectiveness of resource centres and possibly what corrective measures to take.
These factors can be influenced by a combination of many political, social and economic situations.
For example, political motives have had and will continue to determine where these centres are established.
Presently, many resource centres enjoy very limited support and it could be a result of that.
However, for the centres to deliver to expected standards, concerned authorities at district and provincial administrative levels have to take ownership and honour the terms they had agreed to at the start.
Furthermore, the assessment process could drive interest among the farmers to learn more about the benefits of resource centres as platforms for technology transfer.
This would be a crucial development given the present challenges facing the quality of extension services in most parts of the country.
It may also generate wider support from stakeholders in other sectors whose involvement may lead to further dialogues and development of the FRC model.
At this juncture, it is worth posing questions like: What would happen after the planned assessment process was completed?
Would the findings made translate to desired levels of new technology uptake and impact among farming communities?
These queries are compelling and therefore worth considering with a look to the future.
For now, one could only hope that down the track the assessment process would be diversified to also capture aspects of technology uptake and impact.
Aspects of adoption studies may be integrated into assessment regimes to help provide a holistic understanding and improvement to the whole process – from transfer of technologies through to their uptake and impacts among targeted farming communities.
Much effort and resources have been invested in developing farmer resource centre facilities.
Therefore, it is essential that sound preparations are made to ensure the projected assessment phase is undertaken successfully.
This is very important as it will help to establish a clear picture about the present and future role of FRCs within the smallholder farming sector in PNG.
- Jeremiah Ahizo is a junior livestock scientist attached to Nari’s Tambul research station in Western Highlands.