Agriculture is an essential sector in Samoas economy, and the mainstay for Samoan peoples livelihoods, especially in rural areas. The traditional crops of taro, coconut, cocoa, taamu and banana are still the main ones grown as they suit local environmental conditions. However, farmers in the two study sites are facing problems such as a lack of planting materials (especially for taro), a lack of resources, and pests and diseases. These same problems also confront farmers in the four villages that took part in the PRA. However, advisory officers have not received sufficient agricultural training to enable them to solve the problems.
It is recommended that MAFFM review its training programmes for advisory officers, in order to ensure that they provide the officers with the skills needed to address farmers needs. MAFFM could request donor agencies to provide specialists in the problem areas of pests, diseases, crop husbandry, crop protection and chemical application, who could contribute to the training of advisory officers. Training should be followed up and reviewed regularly to check on its relevance and progress, in order to maintain and sustain quality in agriculture.
In order to ensure a continuing supply of professionally trained people in agriculture, Samoa and donor agencies should provide scholarship programmes for students of agriculture and related sciences.
MAFFMs advisory service is now using the PRA approach, which incorporates part of the focus group framework and works well at the village and community levels. Farmers who have participated in the PRA programme and follow-up training, understand the PRA concept and practices. They have a positive opinion of the approach as it allows them to take part in decision-making regarding challenges to agriculture, and ways of solving them. Farmers were happy to be involved in and have ownership of the mechanisms to sustain their agricultural practices despite the existing problems.
It is recommended that the PRA approach be used to facilitate the crucial link between farmers and MAFFM. The participatory nature of the approach makes it possible for advisory officers to address farmers needs and impart remedies. Advisory officers should be trained in:
cultural protocols, so that they can follow the right procedures when conducting PRAs in villages, as village support is crucial to the successful implementation of agricultural initiatives;
communication skills, so that they can facilitate discussions effectively during PRAs;
analytical skills, so that they can conduct in-depth analyses of farmers problems and needs in order to identify long-term solutions rather than the superficial, short-term measures that their current level of competence limits them to.
Advisory officers should also encourage farmers to use new pest- and disease-tolerant crop varieties, as well as technological mechanisms to increase agricultural production because indigenous knowledge is inadequate to cope with current agricultural problems.
It has been noted that MAFFMs research unit needs to take action to reduce the high mortality rate of crop resources for trials and on-farm demonstrations. Crop research and development is expensive.
It is recommended that any future projects be planned and structured to ensure that they use resources efficiently. Professional advice from abroad could contribute to agricultural development. The ministry should also establish a multiplication scheme to ensure an adequate supply of planting materials for farmers, as a lack of such materials is one of the major problems hindering agricultural production.
MAFFM has not addressed gender equity in its operations, and it is difficult to retain qualified female advisory officers. Female extension officers work well with female farmers, of whom there are increasing numbers. The use of female advisory officers will also encourage women to increase their contribution to the agriculture sector.
It is recommended that MAFFM address the issue of gender equity throughout all of its operations in order to encourage women to become advisory officers. In addition, women should be given more opportunities to pursue higher education in agriculture-related subject areas.
There may be a need to carry out a small-scale project or programme to assist MAFFM in upgrading its advisory services. This issue should be explored further after the outputs from any pest and disease risk analysis have become available.
Farmers attribute low agricultural productivity to the lengthy procedures required to obtain Gramoxone permits. MAFFM should review these procedures and find ways of increasing access to this much-needed farmers resource.
MAFFM needs to review its resources in order to allocate adequate transport facilities to its advisory officers, as lack of transport is a constraint to farm visits and essential contacts with farming communities.
Farmer fertilizing his crop, Dominica
FAO PHOTO/12357/F. Mattioli