Konark Sikka is an intern with IFPRI- South Asia office
Investments in agricultural research are necessary, but not sufficient to translate that research into productivity gains in farmers’ fields. Instead, agricultural transformation requires all aspects of the agricultural sector to change in order to achieve better productivity.
Agricultural extension systems in South Asia have been undergoing several reforms over the last 10 years. However, it is not clear how these reforms have worked and what challenges they face in their implementation. Research on implementation of such reforms is needed to connect policy research to the final impact on human welfare.
In this context, and mindful of the challenges and issues faced by extension systems in South Asian countries, the International Food Policy Research Institute convened a workshop titled “Agricultural Extension Reforms in South Asia – Status, Challenges and Policy Options” at the National Agriculture Science Centre Complex in New Delhi on February 17 and 18.
In the Indian context, building up the current Agricultural Technology Management Agency (ATMA) system of extension was discussed, including how to make it more adaptable to different states and to climate smart agriculture. Dr. Rita Sharma, former Member of National Advisory Council, stated that the bureaucratic set-up is currently based ”in silos” and urged investigation in mega programs that governments have and re-direct energies in them toward agriculture.
Participants discussed the necessity of forming Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) to fill in the gaps that exist in extension systems. The concept of agri-tourism was highlighted, in which using local produce to establish food outlets was seen as a good way to attract the youth to the agricultural sector.
The importance of information and its use by farmers was also considered. Dr. Mruthyunjaya, former national Director National Agriculture Innovative Project (NAIP), focused on improving the efficiency of Krishi Vigyan Kendra(KVK). These include developing them using marketing, soft skills and packaging and processing skills, strengthening communication and cooperation with line ministries, and sharing positive developments between KVKs. He also emphasized that KVKs should specialize in one area in order to improve efficiency.
The participants took away from the workshop a sense that feasible, solid reforms are possible, including a focus on improving KVKs, decentralizing and making flexible the bureaucratic set-up, and developing and maintaining government and private sector partnerships. A belief in using ICT was also seen as something that could be used to increase coverage and, potentially, attract youth, which has increasingly turned away from the agricultural sector.
Dr. Suresh Babu, an IFPRI Senior Research Fellow, concluded the workshop by stating that the event intended to take stock of issues with the extension system and come up with policy briefs for relevant countries in the South Asia region. He added that promoting academic studies of extension reforms are necessary so that researchers can serve as a solid foundation for future work.