One of the major priorities identified during the first meeting of the AESA (Agricultural Extension in South Asia) network was capacity development of EAS providers. The participants agreed that much more needs to be done to strengthen the capacities and deal with the rapidly evolving challenges in agriculture. The first step in this direction was to assess the capacity gaps among the EAS through undertaking a capacity needs assessment at the national level in select countries in the region.
A process was developed that included an e-discussion a literature review, several interactions with extension stakeholders, and finally a series of national workshops in India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal to identify capacity gaps in extension and to find a methodology for a capacity needs assessment.
Capacities Required by Field Level EAS Functionaries
The field level EAS functionaries have the most direct engagement/contact with farmers/ rural communities. They need to have sound technical knowledge relevant to crops and enterprises in the specific context and functional skills related to communication (oral and written), mobilization, facilitation and use of ICTs including social media. Capacities for assessing farmers’ needs and planning based on these needs and capacities to support farmers in marketing are other priority needs identified during the workshops.
Capacities Required by Middle Level EAS Functionaries
EAS personnel at the middle management level should have more skills related to networking, coordination and partnering. Capacities to build teams, coach and mentor their subordinate staff are also important. They also need to have sound technical knowledge and should possess skills to use ICTs and capacities to plan and design need based programmes.
Capacities Required by Senior Level EAS Functionaries
EAS functionaries at the senior management level should have capacities for effective engagement with policy makers and should have leadership and managerial capacities. They also need capacities for visioning to design strategic plans for the varied scenarios that might emerge. Human and Financial resources are the major assets of an organisation and so efficient mobilization of these resources is critical for the success of EAS.
Capacities required at the organizational level
Every EAS should have a clear vision, mission and goals, a system for managing its human resources and an organisational culture that supports collaboration, networking and learning. It should have a system of good governance, a system for knowledge management, resources to achieve its goals and a result based management system in place.
Those findings and the ways to address these gaps are described in a synthesis report. An additional guide for facilitating capacity assessements in RAS was developed, complemented by a policy brief.