Beyond Technology Packages: Towards a Farmer-Informed Paradigm for Ethiopian Extension

Kassgne, Abeje Berhanu (2004). Beyond Technology Packages: Towards a Farmer-Informed Paradigm for Ethiopian Extension PhD Thesis, Natural & Rural Systems Management, University of Queensland.

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Author Kassgne, Abeje Berhanu
Thesis Title Beyond Technology Packages: Towards a Farmer-Informed Paradigm for Ethiopian Extension
School, Centre or Institute Natural & Rural Systems Management
Institution University of Queensland
Publication date 2004
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Dr Donal C Cameron
Abstract/Summary This thesis uses a contextually grounded research methodology to examine effectiveness of agricultural extension programs in Ethiopia in addressing the food needs of rural households as seen in the eyes of the farmers. By employing both qualitative and quantitative research approaches and drawing data from multiple settings situated in a sub-region of north central Ethiopia, north Shewa, the study has emphasized key issues that need to be considered when planning agricultural extension programs. For extension programs to be useful, it is suggested that planners need to pay attention to the constraints farmers are facing in the areas of land, credit, education, markets, and of agro-physical conditions of plots. The thesis’ central themes revolve around treating five research questions. These are: perceptions of rural households toward extension programs; how farmers evaluate relevance of extension activities; socio-economic and agro-ecological factors associated with program effectiveness; perceptions of program planners toward farmers, and potential and limitations of indigenous farming methods. These questions are addressed throughout the thesis, comprising of 9 chapters. Having outlined in chapter 1 the background for the thesis, I proposed in chapter 2 a multi-context analytical framework focusing attention on the social and agro-physical parameters surrounding the implementation of agricultural extension programs. I have indicated that combining social and agro-physical context analysis is to be open to the multiple ways in which farmers try to manage their farms. I then applied the analytical tools of contextual analysis to highlight in chapter 3 major social and physical settings of the study area. This gave way to an examination of the five research questions, starting with chapter 4 through to chapter 8, with the results of both qualitative and quantitative data complementing each other. The main theme that runs throughout this thesis as emerged from the qualitative data is that the issues agricultural extension deals with are simultaneously social, economic, and agro-physical, and thus it is essential that the planning of extension programs take this dynamism into account. This is demonstrated in farmers’ assessment of extension programs based on a more holistic approach encompassing social, economic, and agro-ecological indicators. The thesis has documented that despite a promising increase in production resulting from increased use of chemical fertilizers, most farmers interviewed noted that the recent package driven extension program has been insensitive to households’ resource needs, indigenous farming knowledge, seasonal nature of rural markets, and uneven distribution of ecological resources (eg soils). The above qualitative findings of the study has found support from analysis of selected results of the survey data in which mean amounts of fertilizer purchased in a given year by fertilizer-using respondents was affected by literacy level, size and slope of plots. In other words, respondents who had primary schooling and access to reasonable size of flat land purchased more fertilizers than those who did not have these attributes. Although the effects of other socio-economic (eg age) and agro-physical (eg moisture level) factors on farmers’ decision to use extension inputs were not confirmed by tests of statistical significance, their importance was highlighted in face-to-face discussions held with individual farmers. Combining results of both qualitative and quantitative findings, this thesis challenges the myth that standard extension packages (mainly fertilizer recommendations) are always beneficial to farmers. There was no evidence in support of the view that subsistence farmers would improve household food supply if they followed uniform rates of fertilizer use. Farmers who adopted a strategy of combining organic and inorganic inputs judiciously might just be as productive as those who relied exclusively on chemical fertilizers. The implication of this is that extension needs to facilitate ways of producing, managing and using local inputs by farmers, rather than devoting limited resources to the current one-sided, fertilizer-dependent package approach. In trying to make a contribution to the ways of improving the Ethiopian extension service I have suggested, weighing carefully the available evidence presented throughout the thesis, that extension programs in Ethiopia need to base their activities on the socio-economic and agro-ecological profiles of rural households and their communities. It was also indicated that there is a need to assess extension programs’ achievements or failures in terms of their contribution to helping farmers achieve their farming objectives and supporting locally viable strategies of securing food for the household. This requires taking extension closer to farmers and their context – a task that can be achieved by understanding the complementary roles of local farming knowledge and extension science. This thesis’ contribution to understanding the Ethiopian extension is that the social and agro-ecological contexts were combined systematically and coherently to provide a holistic understanding of the views and perspectives of rural households on the status of extension service in Ethiopia. The methodology used in conducting the fieldwork and the methods employed in gathering and analyzing the data are all congruent with the multidimensional approach adopted by this thesis’ theoretical framework and thus all serve to validate the usefulness of the findings contained in this thesis.
Keyword Ethiopia
contextual analysis
farmer perspectives
indigenous farming knowledge

Document type: Thesis
Collection: UQ Theses Collection (RHD) - Open Access
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