Developing Local Extension Capacity
Extract of a study by the The Feed the Future Developing Local Extension Capacity (DLEC) project led by Digital Green, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Care International and GFRAS.
In Honduras, agricultural policy is guided by two strategic frameworks: the 2004-2021 State Policy for the Agri-food Sector and Rural Areas and the 2014-2018 Government Strategic Plan El Plan de Todos para una Vida Mejor (Everyone’s Plan for a Better Life). These policies were designed to revitalize the agricultural sector and improve the livelihoods of those who work in the sector. In addition, trade policies were designed with a series of laws and decrees that streamline activities and give farmers access to broader markets. Policies and programs have been developed with strong rural extension and advisory services components; however, implementation has been challenging.
The challenges result in part from the Honduran pluralistic EAS system. For example, the innovation system consists of multiple private, institutional and public actors, including government agencies, educational and research institutions, farmers, and national and international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). While this diversity provides dynamism and richness in terms of learning and institutional innovations, it has led to fragmented EAS delivery system with little coordination among actors and weak leadership.
Changes in leadership and organization is a common theme in the country when it comes to EAS. Created in the 1950s, the national rural extension and advisory system of Honduras underwent a series of institutional transformations driven both by internal processes and external factors, such as national politics and the economy. In an effort to modernize the system, EAS were decentralized and the Agricultural Science and Technology Board (DICTA, for its Spanish acronym) was created to govern, monitor and develop capacities of actors in the system. Although laws to modernize and develop the agricultural sector and decentralize extension services were created, the necessary resources were not provided for implementation, and public and private institutions remain fragmented to this day. Efforts are currently underway to identify new decentralized delivery models, improve overall coordination, and close gaps, thus improving effectiveness of EAS in Honduras.
A majority of organizations engaged in EAS provide technical assistance and rural extension services that focus on developing the capacities of producers, in an effort to enable them to self-manage innovations and improve their own crops. The majority of activities involve income generation and increased food security through technological change and market access. The EAS providers implement approaches based on market demand and gender and youth participation. Some also consider risk management associated with climate change.
The organizations’ personnel are, for the most part, well trained. The majority of the staff providing these extension services have degrees in engineering, agronomy and veterinary medicine, and continuing education is provided through a government-sponsored program called the Reactivation of Agricultural Production in Schools (REPACE, for its Spanish acronym) and other programs. Many extension providers are incentivized by their employers to continue their training and keep pace with the latest technologies and methods.
The organizations themselves have quality control systems in place and do what they can with the resources they have. Fifty percent of the organizations surveyed have monitoring and evaluation systems that measure the progress and impact, helping them to design better projects and generate knowledge. Most providers have internet access and local facilities, but only the few organizations with national reach have the physical structures, such as laboratories, and other infrastructure that allow them to develop their work.
The EAS activities used by the organizations are project dependent. Farmer field schools are the most common approach. Providers also use demonstration plots, field days and individual or group visits, among others, to deliver knowledge. In addition, some organizations promote the use of technological validation processes, and others combine field schools with other processes to generate new technological innovations. The organizations primarily target small and medium producers dedicated to commercial production and staple foods. A few EAS providers focus on women, youth and marginalized populations. Most EAS services are provided in group settings, with some one-on-one interventions and limited network approaches.
Most organization do not use information and communications technologies (ICT) tools to deliver their services. While some providers are developing mobile phone applications, most providers do not value ICT as a service delivery platform. There is limited use of mass communication, such as radio and television, and short message services (SMS) texts are occasionally used.
Many EAS providers focus on increasing market access. There is a general lack of knowledge about the market among small and medium-sized farmers. The service providers aim to support producers and other actors to develop skills and knowledge to access markets, mainly accessing information to make decisions about what to produce. However, the content of services needs to be strengthened in demand identification, technical advice on market conditions, linkages with knowledge sharing networks, access to production, marketing and financial services, and training on market-related topics (e.g., tracking, food safety, packaging and post-harvest management).
In general, there are limited guidelines for content generation within the EAS system. Most organizations develop content based on grower demands and opportunities. Many have participatory processes that involve stakeholders to determine the type of content most needed, but this does not happen universally.
Overall, Honduras’ EAS system, like most, is a work in progress. The system has a framework in place, but lacks the resources and support to overcome the challenges it faces to deliver innovative, effective extension services in a systematic way. However, the information contained within this document provides a strong starting point to begin bolstering this system to support smallholder farmers in Honduras in their quest to generate more sustainable incomes to improve the lives of their families and communities.
List of Extension Providers
The following list shows an excerpt from the GFRAS Directory of Extension Providers for Honduras. Some of these entries may be specially marked for having more detailed information in the database of the Worldwide Extension Study WWES.