The Agricultural Knowledge and Service Gap
The village economy, even in remote areas, has made a transition to the cash economy all over the world. There is a communication revolution which also facilitates linkages between producers and technical service providers. In the remote areas, pastoral communities are becoming more settled. These trends create potential for developing market based agricultural services. Yet millions of small scale farmers and pastoralists do not have access to appropriate services and advice that could improve their productivity. There are two distinct scenarios
- In areas of fertile soils and abundant rainfall - population is very high, farm sizes are very small - even through public and private service providers are present their coverage is very limited, and advice/technology/training are not geared towards the majority section of the farming community who work the smallest landholdings. In Bangladesh, for example, it is possible to travel 30 to 45 minutes from a main district town and find that households with 1 acre of land or less have virtually no linkages with external service providers.
- Less favoured areas are those where a relatively low level of income is realised due to difficult physical conditions and/or a lack of infrastructure services and support, and where private decision makers would not start to invest under present and expected future conditions. These area tend to be remote and arid, where the population density is low, and infrastructure is extremely poor. The public sector is marked by absenteeism due to low morale and lack of capacity for supervision.
Community Based Extension aims to reach communities that live in both of these environments. Has this potential been realised? With Practical Action, Stuart was involved in a survey of areas where community extensionists were trained 5 to 10 years ago. Evidence is now available from the Peruvian Andes, North Darfur, Samburu District of Kenya and Faridpur District of Bangladesh.