Extension in Ethiopia has gone through radical policy shift in the past 50 years, from feudalism to Marxism to a free market system (Kassa 2005). Currently, extension is mostly provided by the public sector, operating in a decentralized manner where extension is implemented at the woreda (district) level. The public sector is the single most important player, especially in terms of inputs, at the local level for smallholders. The private sector and NGOs (known to have many innovative and participatory approaches), while becoming increasingly important, are often left out of extension initiatives. In Ethiopia, limited extension is conducted by NGOs and the private sector, usually working through the woreda-level BOARDs (Davis et al. 2009).
A Brief History of Public Extension Policies, Resources and Advisory Activities in Ethiopia
Recognizing the agriculture sector and institutions that support it such as extension, as key to poverty reduction, the government of Ethiopia began an unprecedented public investment in the agriculture sector in 1992 (Maputo Declaration). To channel government efforts towards achieving its goal of poverty reduction, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MOARD) has developed a document outlining rural development policies, strategies, and instruments. The basic direction of the agricultural development includes the proper use of all available resources such as land, other physical resources and human labor, and the establishment of linkages with other ministries and institutions relevant for extension. A core part of the government’s investment in agriculture is the public agricultural extension system, and the MOARD has aligned donor support with plans to scale activities in the sector to meet the resource gaps identified. The decentralized extension system comprises the MOARD as key institution responsible for developing and refining the overall national agricultural and rural development strategies and policies for the country; major government ministries concerned with or affecting agricultural and rural development; several agencies beneath the MOARD; and regional, woreda (district level), and kebele (lowest administrative level) institutions.
The government commitment to developing the largest agricultural extension system in Sub-Saharan Africa starts with the development of human capital to deliver agricultural extension advices and services to farmers. It is estimated that 8,500 Farmers Training Centers (FTCs) have been established at the kebele level with roughly 2,500 of them reported fully functional (MOARD 2009A). In addition, it was reported that about 45,000 Development Agents (DAs) currently on duty at kebele level include about 12 to 22 percent women depending on the region. The number of frontline extension personnel is expected to increase to roughly 60,000 when all FTCs have been established and are fully functional. As of 2008, about 63,000 DAs have graduated from the ATVETs with 12 percent of them being female (MOARD 2009).