education into agricultural extension
and training programmes: best practices and lessons learned
Dr Ronny Adhikarya*
Senior Training Officer
Washington, DC, USA
1. LESSONS LEARNED FOR POLICY AND STRATEGY DEVELOPMENT
As demonstrated in the previous chapters, several generic conclusions can be made based on the results and experiences of integrating environment education into agricultural extension and training programmes. All eight institutions in the six countries which participated in the EET programmes supported by FAO reported that they have now been considered as pioneers in their respective countries in mainstreaming environment education into agricultural training and/or extension activities. Their approaches and experiences have also been shared with interested AET institutions in the Near East and Africa, where similar EET programmes have been replicated (and some have been combined with population education programmes supported by FAO and UNFPA). Using proper methods of peer learning, participatory training, information networking and institutional partnership, local training institutions, with only limited support from donor/external agencies, are able to launch innovative programmes and collaborate with other institutions within and outside their own countries to replicate similar activities as demonstrated in the EET programmes.
- The EET experiences also showed that innovative programmes do not have to be initiated from the top. A "bottom-up" initiative as evidenced in the EET activities, if properly communicated and shared with appropriate policy- and decision-makers, can be recognized and adopted as a national strategy or model for replications and scaling-up. As the EET experiences in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Thailand, China, etc. demonstrated, relevant high-level policy-makers, such as ministers, director generals, university rectors/presidents, etc. provided their strong support after they saw the tangible results of the EET programmes. Thus, some innovative activities need to be piloted and demonstrated before they can gain policy approval and support. In such a case, catalytic support from donor/external agencies, such as FAO, can be instrumental and very useful.
Peer and collaborative learning, especially in EET which require a multisectoral and interdisciplinary approach, is essential. It can facilitate consensus building, partnerships, programme legitimization and "buy-in" by relevant agencies which are necessary for EET implementation, sustainability and institutionalization. As shown in the cases of Indonesia, Bangladesh, Malaysia, the Philippines, and China, it was due to the "buy-in" by relevant organizations/institutions that EET programmes obtained credibility and mobilized the necessary resources (i.e., funding was obtained from various sources).
It is estimated that funding from FAO covered less than 30 percent of the total expenditures of EET programmes (including staff costs).
To facilitate cost-effective and efficient multiplier effects for replicating (with necessary adaptations or reinventions) and "rolling-out" EET methods wider and faster, a regional or international collaborative approach by involving strategic training institutions from a number of countries in a participatory and peer learning programme would be needed. In such a programme, the focus should be on providing opportunities for sharing of ideas, problems and experiences, as well as peer collaboration, competition and evaluation in planning and implementing EET programmes based on an agreed upon conceptual and operational framework with structured and guided activities. As demonstrated by FAO in supporting the EET programme, external or donor agencies should limit their role to that of a catalyst, and provide only basic conceptual framework/guidelines and limited seed funding to undertake important proof of concept activities.
The EET activities clearly showed that in undertaking complex and integrated development programmes, such as environment education through agricultural extension and training, they required the collaboration of other relevant and interested organizations or agencies. The key to such successful partnerships is through leveraging one's resources and ideas and forging strategic alliances in implementing specific activities which can produce mutual benefits. In each of the six participating countries, EET programmes have been planned and implemented not by a single institution but by several agencies, both government and NGOs, which contributed ideas, technical information, training contents, funding, facilities and/or personnel. The active involvement of various, but appropriate, stakeholders also greatly facilitated the success, sustainability and institutionalization of EET programmes.
The EET programme is implemented not only as a regional collaborative undertaking whereby participating institutions and their staff work with, and learn from, each other. It is also managed as an information network through which members have continued to develop and strengthen their professional contacts and personal friendships. By providing its network members with an opportunity to meet regularly for EET peer review and experience sharing, which now includes Internet/Web-based virtual networking, the EET programme has thus also offered a healthy competitive environment and a market place for new and innovative ideas.
2. BEST PRACTICES: SOME SUGGESTIONS FOR APPLYING EET METHODS
Based on lessons learned and experiences from the eight institutions which undertook the EET programmes in six countries, the following are some of the important best practices:
2.1 Mainstreaming environment into AET
2.1.1 Build strategic alliances with appropriate partner institutions
- Identify and select strategic partner institutions
which undertake relevant training or outreach programmes for the majority of
- Ascertain compatibility of an institution's mission
or mandate with environment education and communication goals, and the added
value resulting from such a synergy.
- Encourage "buy-in" by relevant agencies or institutions, and capitalize on inter-agency/multisectoral contributions and participation of a multidisciplinary team of specialists or resource persons.
2.1.2 Strategic positioning of environment education messages for rural populations
- Identify and analyse critical interplay among:
- sustainable agricultural development/food security
- rapid population growth issues;
- environment deterioration issues;
- other relevant poverty alleviation issues (i.e. health, etc.);
- Identify priority contents integration entry points by matching relevant critical messages of:
- population education
- environment education
- Incorporate relevant environment and population concerns/issues into appropriate and core contents of AET.
2.1.3 Communicating environment issues with rural population
- "Piggy-back" relevant messages through:
- existing communication channelswhich have large and
regular clientele in an institutionalized and sustainable manner;
- Suggested target beneficiaries:
- master trainers of the concerned training
- trainers of extension and outreach workers;
- field workers of public extension service and NGOs;
- selected farmers/community leaders.
- Potential partner institutions:
- agricultural extension and training agencies;
- environment management institutions/agencies;
- rural development training and adult education
- rural development oriented NGOs;
- community-based development centres/agencies;
- multi-media development, production and training
- Other suggested communication support activities:
- strategic multi-media extension campaigns (SEC);
- social marketing programmes;
- use of voluntary workers or intermediaries (e.g.,
school teachers, religious leaders, village chiefs, health workers, etc.) as
"barefoot" environment education champions;
- use of popular culture for shaping public opinion;
- use of pressure groups, and sharing of best practices, for policy advocacy;
- facilitate and catalyse policy and technical interchange through conventional and virtual networking.
2.2 Increasing stakeholdership and facilitating sustainability
2.2.1 Use participatory-oriented approach to encourage local ownership
- Participatory training needs assessment and problem identification methods facilitate strategic planning process for designing relevant and demand-driven environment education programmes.
- Participation of key stakeholders at all stages of EET planning, development, implementation and monitoring process is critical for transferring technical and management skills and programme responsibilities.
- PCD activities through a series of training module
writing workshops and content packaging workshops by a team of local trainers
and a pool of multidisciplinary resource persons can produce more relevant
contents for training and outreach.
- Use of local trainers and a team of resource persons
in developing and testing learner-centred, client-focused and needs-based EET
modules or materials would facilitate local ownership, proper utilization of
such modules and sustainability of EET activities.
- Avoid the use of expert-driven and top-down oriented
training packages/modules and the common but often unsuccessful and
unsustainable practice of imposing on local trainers to use imported training
materials developed by internationally known and highly qualified experts
which may not be relevant to trainees' needs and the specific environment
education learning objectives.
- Ownership of EET product lines, such as training modules, reports, announcement publicity, marketing materials, etc. should be explicitly accorded to local participating institutions and staff members who were responsible for development of such products and should be widely publicized.
2.3 Sharing EET responsibilities through partnerships and institution building
2.3.1 "Franchising" and "wholesaling" of EET
- Instead of "retailing" EET activities by organizing
and conducting such training on an ad hoc, sporadic basis, make "franchising"
arrangements by collaborating with interested partner training institutions in
developing its staff capabilities in planning, developing, and conducting EET
activities on a sustainable and institutionalized manner.
- Focus efforts on integrating relevant environment
education concerns/topics into existing curriculum or regular
extension/outreach activities of appropriate training or extension agencies.
- Assist in training curriculum reforms and in
improving staff capabilities in developing and testing EETM.
- Facilitate training of master trainers in the process
and methods of EETM development and utilization.
- Support pilot trials of EET activities for extension
and outreach workers by trained master trainers.
- Provide support for reproduction and utilization of
pretested EETM materials as a standardized, generic, "must-know" training
- Seek validation and legitimization from appropriate authorities for institutionalization of a given EET course/module as an integral part of an existing or core training curriculum.
2.3.2 Inducing quality assurance and standards
- Obtain consensus on EET conceptual framework,
operational process and implementation guidelines.
- Determine, and agree on, specific EET objectives,
measurable outcome indicators, implementation time frame and resource
- Provide opportunity for participatory peer review and
monitoring of progress and accomplishments at critical stages/phases in the
- Create constructive competition and consultation
features in the design of EET programme development and implementation,
through rewards and recognition (e.g. participation in international/regional
meetings, appointment as regional resource person or consultant, use as
pilot/model activity, increased funding, etc.).
- Involve a panel of internationally recognized scholars and practitioners in education and communication to provide independent quality assessment of EET programmes, identify best practices and give advice for further improvement expansion or replications.
2.3.3 Advocating multidisciplinary partnerships
· Environment education requires multidisciplinary, cross-sectoral, and inter-agency team approach.
- Policy advisory committees and implementation task
groups need to be established based on such a multidisciplinary approach.
- Coordination and collaborative mechanisms must be
specified by concerned line agencies/institutions, such as environment,
agriculture, health, education, population, rural development, etc.
- Identify and enlist active involvement of environment champions and local development stakeholders.
2.4 Developing global knowledge partnership on EET
2.4.1 Facilitating institutional and professional networking activities
- Provide opportunities for planned and regular
discussions to develop methods, review progress, demonstrate results and share
experiences of EET collaborative activities through:
- workshops, writing workshops, technical
- at the regional, national, and/or institutional
- by means of conventional and/or electronic/virtual
(through Internet or e-mail) networking
- Provide opportunities for outstanding EET team members to serve as consultants to assist EET activities in other institutions/countries, or as resource persons in international/regional EET workshops.
2.5 Facilitating EET replications
2.5.1 Preparing process documentation of EET
- Document in detail the complete EET process and
critical decision-making steps as well as the implementation procedures and
its contextual background.
- Develop standardized performance, outcome and impact indicators for comparative analysis of EET activities in various institutions and countries.
2.5.2 Completing the "last-mile" tasks
- Prepare and commit adequate resources to complete the "last-mile" tasks in consolidating, summarizing and disseminating the process, methods, results and lessons learned from EET activities. Approach these "last-mile" tasks in a user-friendly, attractive manner, especially aimed at relevant policy and decision-makers, for further improvements, expansion and replications of EET activities worldwide.
2.5.3 Lessons from EETM replications in four countries in the Near East
Gaaya (1999) reported a similar effort in integrating environment education into the training programmes of agricultural extension workers, using the model and approaches tried in the six Asian countries, which was successfully replicated and implemented in four countries in the Near East: Lebanon, the Syrian Arab Republic, Egypt and Jordan. As mentioned in Chapter 1, during the period June 1997 to May 1998, EETMs were developed and pretested by AET institutions in these four countries and, starting in 1998, a total of 85 extension trainers in those countries were trained in the use of the specially developed training modules.
During the multi-country EETM experience-sharing workshop which was held in the Syrian Arab Republic (Damascus, 24-26 May 1998), the participants identified the major results and benefits acquired from this EETM development activity and summarized the following lessons learned from such experience (Gaaya, 1999):
- This activity contributed to strengthening
coordination and exchange of information and experience among representatives
of participating countries throughout the vari- ous steps of the EETM
- EETM technical content is considered as a reference
- The participatory approach and innovative methodology
introduced through EETM improved the capacity of the various participants
(trainers and trainees) in the different phases of training activities
(planning, implementation and evaluation).
- TNA surveys are critical tools for establishing
priorities, selection of contents, design, production and use of training
multimedia supporting materials.
- The activity initiated quality training for extension
trainers and subject-matter specialists who could serve, in the future, as
resource persons for similar programmes related to environmental education at
the national and/or regional levels.
- Arabic terminology was unified among participating
countries throughout the various stages of the EETM development process.
- EETM approach and methodology have also been applied
in training programmes other than environmental education.
- This activity created a conducive environment for
further and closer collaboration among participating countries.
- Testing EETM confirmed the importance of using
different types of evaluation tools and techniques according to the stage of
the training activity development;
- Multi-disciplinary team work strengthened
collaboration among departments of the Ministry of Agriculture and between the
latter and other institutions and organizations within the same country;
- Increased awareness about environmental concepts and skills gained in training courses contributed to widening the scope of agricultural extension field programme;