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Under its current organizational reform, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forests, Fisheries and Meteorology (MAFFM) has renamed its Extension Section the Crops Advisory Section. As its name implies, this section provides specifically crop-related advisory services to farmers, and is separate from the other extension services offered by the ministry’s livestock, fisheries and other divisions.

As shown in the organizational plan in Annex 2, the Crops Advisory Section is headed by the Principal Crops Officer, under the umbrella of the Assistant Director of Crops Division, who reports directly to the Director of MAFFM. There are four senior crops officers: two for Upolu and two for Savai’i, with 21 advisory officers under their supervision - ten for Savai’i and 11 for Upolu. At present, not all these positions have been occupied and there are vacancies for two senior advisory officers (one each for Savai’i and Upolu), as well as for two crops advisory officers in Savai’i and two in Upolu.

Education levels of advisory officers

The level of education within the advisory section is below average in terms of the number of officers to have completed secondary tertiary education (see Table 1). According to information provided by MAFFM’s administration officer, there are only three degree holders within the advisory section.

Table 1. Level of education of crops advisory officers

M. Agr.

B. Agr.

Dip. Agr.

Cert. Agr.

Form 5

< Form 5*


















* < Form 5 indicates that respondents abandoned education before reaching Form 5.

Table 1 shows that most advisory officers (about 75 percent) reached at least Form 5 in their education, while 25 percent did not. Those advisory officers with degrees or diplomas completed their studies at the University of the South Pacific (USP) School of Agriculture, while those with Certificates in Agriculture studied at Samoa Polytechnic, majoring in crops husbandry.

The level of education within the advisory section clearly needs to be increased, especially regarding officers who have completed neither formal schooling nor agricultural training. MAFFM and agricultural donor agencies need to address the issue of underqualified personnel in the advisory section, because crops advisory officers are the only link between the ministry and farmers.

The success or failure of the Crops Division’s programmes to improve conditions for farmers depends to a large extent on the education level of advisory officers. Most farmers in Samoa are conservative and follow traditional methods of growing and maintaining crops. Advisory officers therefore have to learn and thoroughly understand all aspects of new technologies, such as those for crop propagation, preparation and maintenance, before they can confidently introduce them to farmers. Well-educated and trained advisory officers find it far easier to introduce new methods and technologies.


In the past, it was normally expected that all extension officers would be male. This goes back to the traditional Samoan perception of crop cultivation and propagation as being activities for men, because they involve hard physical work such as clearing, planting and harvesting. Women assist only with weeding. However, this view is no longer appropriate, because although men in Samoa still monopolize major farming activities, many women now also work the land.

Fisherman in shore fishing with a pirogue, Comoros

FAO PHOTO/17424/H. Wagner

As a result of these views, MAFFM preferred to employ only male extension officers, giving men preference over women applicants. This practice was also in line with the traditional Samoan view that it is much easier for officers to deal with their own than with the opposite sex. MAFFM records confirm that there were no women in the advisory services for the past two decades, despite the high number of female farmers in existence at the time. Another argument for not employing women extension officers was related to the low, “unfeminine” status of extension work.

Now, however, two women are employed in the advisory section, one as an advisory officer and the other as the Principal Advisory Officer (which is equivalent to the post of Chief Extension Officer and divisional head in the organizational structure prior to the current government reforms). This indicates that some attention is being paid to the issue of gender equity in employment and - more important - that women regard extension work as valuable. The female advisory officer works with both male and female farmers in the locality she works in, while the Principal Advisory Officer is in charge of the entire advisory section.


Each extension district in Samoa has an extension centre or station, which is a meeting place for demonstrations, agricultural training and consultations with the advisory officer. Extension centres also provide accommodation for extension officers and for the advisory officer with his or her family. In addition, each advisory officer in charge of an extension centre is provided with a vehicle (usually a Suzuki four-wheel-drive jeep) for farm visits and other activities pertaining to the job, while the other extension officers have motorcycles for the same purpose.

Most extension centres have not been used for some time, and although some are still in relatively good condition and need only minor repairs, most require major refurbishment before they can be used to accommodate advisory officers.

Currently, about 30 percent of the advisory officers are over 30 years of age. Most of the younger are unmarried, and prefer not to be stationed in the extension centres but to live with their families in nearby villages. MAFFM has not given this issue much consideration because, according to the Principal Advisory Officer, it is more important that advisory officers maintain quarterly targets and outputs to demonstrate that they are doing their jobs.

According to the Principal Advisory Officer, the section used to own more than ten jeeps and motorcycles, with each advisory officer having either a motorcycle or a Suzuki jeep. At present, however, the advisory section’s fleet has been reduced to only five Suzuki jeeps, one Hilux four-wheel-drive utility truck and one motorcycle, all of which are approximately eight years old. This is creating transport problems for advisory officers’ farm visits and deliveries of planting materials. Nevertheless, advisory officers are still achieving the quarterly targets set by MAFFM.

Participatory rural appraisal approach

The crops advisory section now utilizes the participatory rural appraisal (PRA) methodology in its work with Samoan farmers. MAFFM first introduced and adopted this methodology in 1996, according to the Principal Advisory Officer. In 1997, after crops advisory officers had undertaken numerous training sessions and PRA familiarization programmes with selected farmers, MAFFM introduced the PRA methodology to village farmers in Samoa. PRA’s main purpose is to identify the constraints, problems and objectives that face farm households in the village, as well as the resources that are available to them. Based on this information, it is possible to develop a framework for selecting and supplying technology to help households. MAFFM and the Samoan farming community in general agree that PRA is a more effective extension approach compared with those used in the past (training and visit, farm visits, farming systems, etc.) in terms of targeting and identifying farmers’ needs, constraints and problems. PRA is now the main route for improving technology and delivering extension advice and services to Samoa’s farming communities.

The following is a summary of the PRA methodology as it is applied by the Crops Advisory Section:

According to the advisory officers, the main advantage of the PRA approach compared with other extension methods is the major contribution made by the farmers themselves. Farmers are provided with pens and paper to write down the major problems that they face, and all are involved in each stage of the PRA, from start to finish. Every farmer is therefore able to participate, regardless of group dynamics or gender. Advisory officers also give equal consideration to the feedback received from each farmer. This is different from other approaches, in which only a few farmers dominate discussions, and the rest just observe.

In some villages, one of the problems encountered by advisory officers was that the so-called “established farmers” (i.e. those with far larger than average landholdings) did not want to be involved in farmers’ groups or to seek assistance from advisory officers. These farmers preferred to rely on their own experience and sought agricultural assistance directly from MAFFM’s main office in town and from the Nu’u Research Station.[5] In most villages, there are only a few such farmers, who focus primarily on growing crops for cash. These major growers are also the least likely to adopt new agricultural approaches, particularly those involving improved varieties and new technological methodologies. They prefer conventional methods of growing crops and consider agricultural extension officers to be too theoretical and lacking in practical agricultural experience.

Advisory officers’ other activities

Field trips

As well as the six PRAs and 15 training sessions mentioned in the previous section, advisory officers are also expected to undertake eight field trips per year. These involve farmers’ groups visiting Nu’u Research Station, Nafanua Nursery Station[6] and progressive farmers in major food crops (such as taro and cocoa) within the advisory officer’s district or in other districts. According to advisory officers, progressive farmers provide a model and a challenge to smaller growers.


One of the objectives of the advisory section is to train advisory officers in all technical aspects of their work, including crop production and pests and diseases. The Research Unit of the Crop Division holds extensive technical training sessions at the end of each month, which are designed for different levels. Other training is provided by the Research Unit and is based on the advice of the Principal Advisory Officer and the needs identified during PRA.

According to the Principal Advisory Officer, the level of understanding in training depends on the education level of the advisory officer concerned. This creates problems, because many advisory officers find it difficult to understand the technical language used, and this makes them uncomfortable about relaying training messages to farmers. The advisory section is looking for ways of solving this issue.

Farm visits

Advisory officers conduct regular farm visits to the individual farmers involved in farmers’ groups, giving encouragement, establishing close working relationship and identifying the problems faced. The distribution of planting materials to farmers is another major activity for advisory officers, but there have been problems in this area as a result of shortages and the poor transport facilities that are available for advisory officers for carrying planting materials to farmers.

An advisory officer can visit an individual farm only when that farmer has sought assistance from the advisory officer. Planting materials too can only be distributed when a farmer has specifically asked for them at the extension centre. Advisory officers advise individual farmers who are not already in farmers’ groups to become members of existing groups within the village, as these are the major contact points between MAFF and farmers.

Extension centre competition

MAFFM holds an annual competition for extension stations. The competition judges the management of the station and the crop demonstration activities undertaken within the station compound (e.g. taro nurseries, vegetable gardens, and the intercropping of banana, taro and other staple crops).

Issuing of Gramoxone permits

The Government of Samoa has placed restrictions on the buying of Gramoxone weed killer as a way of preventing people from using it to commit suicide. Pro-life groups claim that easy access to Gramoxone is the major cause of a large increase in Samoa’s suicide rate. Despite much campaigning and political lobbing, MAFFM was unable to prevent restrictions on its sale, even though Gramoxone is very important to agricultural production and is the preferred weed killer for Samoan farmers.

Farmers wishing to procure Gramoxone require permits. Before acquiring a permit, the farmer has to apply to the advisory officer for an identification card, which is granted on condition that the farmer has a safety box with a lock for storing the weed killer. The farmer has to pay $5 to the Quarantine Division for registration, and supply a passport photo for the identification card. A farmer can acquire Gramoxone only by showing the identification card at the agricultural store. Such restrictions on Gramoxone, along with its high price (which is another control mechanism), have had a negative impact on agricultural production, according to advisory officers.

Constraints and problems facing advisory officers

The following is a summary of the problems that are encountered by advisory officers in the field:

Woman farmer placing yams in a basket, Jamaica

FAO PHOTO/12481/F. Mattioli

[4] The objective of matrix scoring and ranking is to show participants and extensionists the diverse perceptions that different social or farming groups in a community have of the advantages and disadvantages of a particular issue, and to produce a scored and/or ranked list of criteria, qualities and problems regarding the topics of interest (PRAP, 1996).
[5] Nu’u Research Station is the MAFFM Crops Division research station where all crop research activities are conducted. The Crops Advisory Section is also located near this station, along with all other sections of the Crops Division.
[6] Nafanua Nursery Station is a vegetable and fruit nursery working with cabbage, tomato, cucumber, mango, orange, lime, papaya, pineapple, etc., as well as varieties of fruit trees from other tropical countries.

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