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Chapter Five: Thematic Review of FAO's Training Activities for Development During 1994-99


i. Part of FAO's basic mandate is to collect, analyse, interpret and disseminate information relating to nutrition, food and agriculture, including fisheries and forestry. Information dissemination depends not only on the quality of the Organization's intellectual products, but also on the ability of users to utilize the information. Training plays an important role by facilitating the transfer of knowledge and skills to selected audiences. Training occurs under most of FAO's technical programmes, as well as in field projects (paras. 159-161).

ii. The present thematic review is a desk study undertaken by FAO's Evaluation Service with external inputs from the International Agricultural Centre of Wageningen University, particularly in assessing the quality of training approaches and materials developed in FAO. Covered by the review are training activities in support of member countries, implemented under FAO Regular and Field Programmes in the period 1994-99 (para. 162).

iii. The review found that while training clearly has an important function in FAO's total work, there was no common understanding of “training” throughout the Organization, resulting in diverse interpretations and uses of the term (para. 165). Arrangements, of both a technical and administrative nature, for supporting training are less than optimal. This, together with insufficiently systematic monitoring and assessment of training activities and their results, makes it difficult to assess their relevance and performance, thereby limiting the opportunity for FAO to learn from practical experience and strengthen its capacity in the field of training (para. 203).

iv. FAO's training activities are numerous and highly diverse in terms of subject areas, their primary purpose, training approaches and target trainees. The Organization's traditional focus, especially under the Regular Programme (RP), has been on the transfer of skills in key technical disciplines falling under its mandate, primarily for government specialists and technical staff (para. 174). Positive results have indeed been most apparent where training centered on the acquisition of specific technical skills, such as fish stock assessment methodologies and statistical methods (para. 184). Training for “empowerment” of the trainees, based more on holistic training approaches and aimed at enhancing the trainees motivation and attitude, plays an increasingly important and successful role, especially in rural development oriented programmes (paras. 174, 186 and 211). Institutional capacity-building through training achieved lasting effects mostly where arrangements existed for follow-up activities. This type of training was mainly supported through field projects, although RP-based “skill transfer” training also contributed to this aim by multiplying the impact of more limited training activities through networking arrangements (paras. 174 and 211).

v. On the whole, FAO's training activities appear relevant to developing countries' needs. In an opinion survey conducted for this review, countries indicated their satisfaction with FAO training support in most of their priority areas, with particular appreciation of its technical quality and relevance. FAO training in many traditional areas, such as nutrition, statistics, plant protection and marketing and rural finance has been much in demand (paras. 195 and 204); more recently the FAO training programme on the WTO multilateral trade negotiations on agriculture has been received as useful and timely (para. 187). Some of the empowerment-type training activities, such as those for Farmer Field Schools (FFS) under the IPM programme, the Socio-economic and Gender Analysis (SEAGA) and community forestry, have gained international recognition and their approaches have been taken up by international as well as national development agencies (para. 186).

vi. The review concludes that although FAO training activities have been broadly satisfactory in quality and utility in the circumstances under which they have evolved, there are several important issues requiring attention across the house in order to preserve and enhance their relevance and quality (para. 203):

    1. Absence of clearly defined and commonly understood concepts of training . This has resulted in a wide range of interpretations of training, and perhaps contributed to fragmentation and isolation of training initiatives.
    2. Insufficient data . There is a general lack of reliable information on training planned and undertaken.
    3. Inadequate attention to methodological aspects of training as a learning process. Methodological inadequacies were underscored by the external assessment of a sample of training materials. The potential to convert FAO's technical products into effective training materials, including distance learning resources, has been under-exploited so far.
    4. Limited training expertise. Most technical staff involved in training, at least in the production of materials intended for training, have limited training and didactic expertise, and many staff interviewed in this review saw a need for staff skills enhancement in this area.
    5. Lack of an institutional framework for training. Further, there is no clear institutional framework for guidance and support on training matters, including a recognized focal point. This has affected the ability to collect and exchange information on training activities inside and outside FAO.
    6. Guidelines on training as a means of action : There are no comprehensive and widely accessible guidelines on the definition of training needs and objectives, or on the formulation of content and selection of methodologies. Similarly, there are no guidelines to assist in optimal use of training as a suitable means of action in developing the Programme of Work.
    7. Monitoring and evaluation : There has been little systematic monitoring and assessment of training activities, the use of training materials and the results of such activities. Such monitoring would be particularly important to assess the relevance and performance of FAO training activities.

vii The following recommendations are made:

    1. Towards a more systematic corporate approach to training. The role and function of training in the FAO context should be better defined towards a clear and common understanding of the concept of training, including methodological considerations. For this purpose, guiding principles should be prepared, together with an FAO website on training. Similarly, to promote a more coordinated approach in the house, information exchange on training should be treated as a priority (paras. 214-216).
    2. Establishing a system of monitoring and follow-up on training for learning of lessons and accountability. FAO needs to (re-) establish an operational up-to-date database on its own training activitiesincluding on-the-job counterpart trainingto facilitate accountability and institutional learning. Plans for replacing the programme planning and implementation monitoring system for the Regular Programme, and for an enhanced Field Programme Management Information System should provide an opportunity to do that (para. 217).
    3. Learning in the light of adult education principles. More weight should be placed on training in organizational skills, pro-active learning methodologies and empowerment issues, particularly in training-of-trainers activities, where strengthening of training facilitation skills is at least as important as the technical subject-matter of a particular training event (para. 218).
    4. Distance learning approaches. A good deal of knowledge resources already exists within FAO that could be made accessible for distance learners. Technical units should be encouraged to review those training materials that are most in demand for a possible transformation into distance learning resources (para. 219).
    5. Institutional reinforcement for training expertise and learning. This could be achieved through an in-house network of trainers, enhancement of staff skills in training techniques and the establishment of a support function in SDRE (paras. 220-221).
    6. Improving the design and management of training activities. Measures suggested cover, in particular:
      1. a better definition of training needs and objectives;
      2. the clear formulation of training contents and methods;
      3. greater attention to sustainability of results; and
      4. the incorporation of monitoring and evaluation aspects in the design of training activities (para. 222).


159 . As the UN specialized agency on food and agriculture, FAO generates analytical products, such as technical syntheses, best practices, decision support tools and norms and standards on a broad range of topics. It also disseminates and shares them widely for use by government counterparts in its Member Nations, its partner organizations and the public at large. The Organization's effectiveness depends, in the final analysis, not only on the quality of its knowledge-based products but also on its capacity to communicate these products to the users. In this context, training and other means of promoting learning by the users, especially those in developing countries, play a critical role. Promoting and supporting such learning in cost-effective ways, especially through training, is an important way of optimizing FAO's contribution to human resources development and capacity building among its developing member countries.

160 . FAO is engaged in many types of outreach activities related to the transfer of technologies and knowledge, such as information dissemination, communication, extension, education and training. The last three activities are of direct significance in terms of learning. While training represents a significant component of total activity, FAO is not an institution specialized in this field. Given its wide use in diverse contexts, it would be important to have a clear definition of training as a distinct activity, including its usefulness and expected benefits to member countries. Similarly, the FAO Strategic Framework 2000-2015 presents challenges in the way training activities are conceived, planned and executed as it expects the Organization to sharpen its relevance and effectiveness as a centre of technical excellence, to communicate optimally its messages, and to make significant contributions to human resources development and capacity-building in member countries.

161 . More broadly, in the context of the rapid growth of scientific knowledge and technologies as well as advances in information communication technologies (ICT), the concept of agricultural education and training is being re-examined. The traditional approach of top-down teaching with a focus on specific technical disciplines or technologies is too narrow, having failed to keep up with multi-disciplinary learning needs. There is now greater emphasis on a dynamic learning process, including traineesmotivation and participation, and more holistic approaches in addressing thematic concerns like rural development, poverty reduction and sustainable natural resource management.

162 . The review is a desk study undertaken by FAO's Evaluation Service with external inputs from the International Agricultural Centre of Wageningen University, particularly in assessing the quality of training approaches and materials developed in FAO 21 . The review examines training activities implemented in direct support of member countries under FAO programmes and projects during the three biennia 1994-99 but does not cover training of FAO staff. The primary focus is on formal training activities, although the importance of informal training (such as on-the-job counterpart training under field projects) is recognized. The purpose of the review is: (a) to ascertain the nature and scope of FAO training activities; (b) to assess their overall relevance, effectiveness and adequacy with particular reference to selected major training activities; (c) to identify strengths and weaknesses, lessons and issues; and (d) to make recommendations to improve the overall usefulness of FAO's work in this area to member countries.

163 . A major constraint encountered in conducting the review was the lack of reliable information in a readily available form (e.g. no information on training duration and number and type of participants). Even greater problems were encountered regarding information on results and impact of specific training activities. As a rule, most training activities havenot been subjected to any monitoring and evaluation (ME) system, or where they have been, the documentation is more often than not unavailable.

164 . In view of the broad scope of training and the paucity of reliable and systematic information, the original study design had to be modified considerably. For an assessment of relevance and effectiveness, the review had to rely mostly on case studies of selected training activities with a focus on their main results as well as on key factors contributing to success or failure of the training.

Definition and Categories of Training

165 . While training is widely recognized as part of the activities contributing to learning, it has no commonly accepted definition in FAO. One significant consequence is that the term “training” has been applied to a variety of activities, including, for example, technical consultations where the primary purpose is familiarization and review, rather than learning by the participants. The following distinction is made in this review: education refers to a systematic programme of institutionalized learning with pedagogic objectives over a medium to long-term, while training and extension take place within a shorter time frame. The latter categories are primarily aimed at influencing decision-making by individuals and groups on the use of particular technologies or innovations. Training in particular can be seen as learning over a short period, targeted at specific performance improvement, while extension refers to learning activities mostly with primary producers.

166 . T he following categories have been used to capture the salient aspects of the rich and diverse range of FAO training activities:

      1. training objectives(a) skills transfer; (b) empowerment (promoting knowledge, attitudes, values and basic skills required for people to participate actively in the development process); and (c) institutional capacity-building (focusing not only on individuals, but also on learning needs of institutions and groups of people in them) 22 ;
      2. training methods(a) “class-room” teaching (training courses and seminars, including"practical"training); (b) participatory and other inter-active methods (including those based on experiential learning); and (c) distance learning (often in connection with software packages);
      3. type of training support by FAO(a) direct conduct of training; (b) provision of specific training materials and tools; and (c) advice and support on training policy, strategy and approach; and
      4. target group(a) trainers; (b) trainees at different levels (decision-makers; senior administrators, technical specialists, field-level staff); (c) farmers/producers, particular segments of community, such as youth, the landless, etc.; and (d) gender-focus groups.


167 . For the Regular Programme (RP) 23 , training accounted for 7-8% of the total outputs: this was considerably less than for other major outputs like publications, methodologies and guidelines, and meetings. However, the RP output data underestimate training activities because: (a) they exclude many training-related outputs, especially training materials which are reported under other categories (mostly “methodologies and guidelines” and “information products”); and (b) individual outputs on direct training often refer to several training events, although reported as single outputs 24 . The number of field projects with significant training activities represents some 9-10% of the TCP and Trust Fund projects.

168 . While training is widespread through FAO's work, some programmes had a large number of training activities under both the Regular Programme and Field Programme. In particular, Major Programme 2.1 (Agricultural Production and Support Systems) exhibited substantial attention to training under associated field activities, whereas much of the RP activities was for direct training. Under Major Programme 2.2 (Food and Agriculture Policy and Development), the two key areas are the Nutrition Programme and the Food and Agriculture Information Programme where training was largely funded through the RP. Under Fisheries and Forestry, training is relatively limited, except for the Fisheries Exploitation and Utilization Programme and the Forestry Policy and Planning Programme (particularly community forestry development) which were active in training under both RP and FP, including training materials. Under Major Programme 2.5 (Sustainable Development) 25 the programmes for Research, Natural Resources Management and Technology Transfer and Women and Population, both had a high RP training component, including training materials; as has MP 3.1 (Policy Assistance) where the Capacity-Building programme had by essence a high RP training component.

169 . In geographical terms, the RP training tended to be widely distributed over the developing regions (for example, in 1998-99, Africa accounted for 30%, Latin America and the Caribbean for 25%, Asia and the Pacific for 20%, and the Near East and Europe for some 12-13%). In contrast, training projects tended to concentrate in Asia and the Pacific (38%) and Africa (27%).

Training under the Regular Programme

170 . Broadly, the main RP outputs related to training comprised three types: direct conduct of training; production of training materials and tools; and advice on training policies/programmes. A large majority of outputs (70%) was in the category of direct training through courses, workshops and seminars; 76%, if direct support to countries is also added. Training materials and tools (including guidelines and manuals) accounted for 24%. . The latter figure is likely to be an under-estimation as many such materials may have been reported under information products. The technical staff of the Regional Offices played an active role in training, often in collaboration with the HQ staff, both in the preparation of training materials and particularly in conducting regional/sub-regional training sessions.

171 . The nature of direct training varied significantly in terms of the definition of training used in this review, ranging from information exchange and dissemination of normative standards, including for awareness-raising, to more specifically designed learning-oriented activities for transferring technical knowledge/skills or empowerment-oriented training. The majority was of the type where training was centred on technical information products.

172 . Training was mostly targeted at selected groups of public sector specialists at middle to senior level, especially those in a position to serve as trainers in their national institutions. Typical direct training activities were relatively short in duration (mostly about one to two weeks), involving small groups, and often comprising officials from several countries.

173 . Within this general picture, some units have been engaged in training more intensively and in a more structured manner than others. They can be classified into separate groups according to the nature and scope of their training activities:

    1. Units with a major training orientationthese have training as a central part of their mandate, with particular emphasis on training approaches and methodologies, and include the Extension, Education and Communication Service (SDRE), the Agricultural Policy Support Service (TCAS), Women in Development Service (SDWW) and Community Forestry Development Unit (FONP);
    2. Units making significant use of training as a means of actionthese have attached priority to training in their programmes, with a systematic approach to training. They produce their own training materials and tools and engage in direct training in varying degrees. There are broadly two groups:
    3. those with a focus on participatory and/or interactive training at the community level, often with the objective of empowerment of the trainees; and
    4. those with a primary focus on transferring specific technical knowledge and skills to selected national counterparts (mainly professional or technical staff). Thus, they generate their technical training materials under the RP and conduct direct training to varying degrees, often with extra-budgetary resources;
    5. Units engaged in training as a subsidiary activity and which use training primarily as a vehicle to extend their technical guidelines, manuals and reference materials to their audience in member countries, usually through regional or sub-regional meetings, workshops and seminars. Typically, they do not have a systematic training approach. Often it is not clear whether or not their activities fall into the definition of training adopted in this review.

174 . For the purpose of this review, the units with a more systematic approach to training are of particular interest. The following may be noted:

  • Skills transfer was the most common objective. Features included classroom training methods, targeting technical specialists, field level technical staff and trainers, and the use of their regular technical information products for training. Training is often given priority as a key RP activity, particularly for development of materials for use in training. Training emphasizes the correct application of new technology, quality standards, and practical know-how on priority subjects under the respective technical programmes. Units seldom engage in providing advice on training. For direct training, RP resources are supplemented to varying degrees with extra-budgetary resources from partner institutions and/or field projects;
  • Empowerment was a less common objective but is becoming more widespread. Characteristics included the emphasis on non-traditional methods (such as participatory, inter-active methods or distance learning), sharper focus on field and community level target trainees, including training of trainers, and on the specific production and adaptation of training materials for individual training needs. RP activities focused on development and provision of training materials, with less emphasis on direct training which was carried out through field projects and/or extra-budgetary arrangements; and
  • Institutional capacity-building is mentioned as an objective in many RP-based training activities but in most cases, it represents a long-term contribution through a combination of limited RP support sustained over years, requiring more substantial support through field projects. Only a few units were engaged in institutional strengthening as the major objective. Their characteristics included the use of non-traditional training methods, targeting training of trainers (technical specialists and field staff), development of materials specifically catered to their training, and provision of advice on training policies and programmes.

Training Activities under the Field Programme

175 . During the period under review, some 350 projects (10% of total FAO projects), including 173 TCP projects, are estimated to have had a significant training component. The distribution patterns are broadly similar to the total of FP projects with a few notable exceptions: in comparison with the total projects, training projects tend to have a larger share in the Asia and Pacific Region than in Africa, and there tend to be relatively more projects in areas falling under the Major Programme on Sustainable Development.

176 . In the selected projects, training was a major component, designed specifically to achieve the projects immediate objectives, primarily to support the transfer of skills and knowledge to national counterpart staff, field agents and community leaders in the specific technical areas covered by the project. In many cases, training was also a means to strengthen institutional capacity both at the national and decentralized levels. In these cases, the training component also included the advancement of management-related skills, attitudes and values at the local level in order to support the active participation of the communities in the development processes.

Table 5.1: Field Projects with Major Training Component (number of ongoing projects in 199499)

By Region Africa Asia Europe Latin America Near East Global/Inter-Reg Total
TCP 51 60 7 25 30 0 173
TF/UNDP 43 73 18 10 11 19 174
Total 94 133 25 35 41 19 347
% share 27% 38% 7% 10% 12% 6% 100%
By Major Prog. Agriculture 2.1 Soc.Econ 2.2 Fisheries 2.3 Forestry 2.4 Sust Devel 2.5 Policy 3.1 Total
TCP 99 24 18 8 23 1 173
TF/UNDP 70 7 13 36 44 4 174
Total 169 31 31 44 67 5 347
% share 49% 9% 9% 13% 19% 1% 100%

177 . The target groups varied extensively. They included government staff, especially technical officers of line ministries and parastatals as well as NGO staff, community leaders and producers, and sometimes the private sector. In some projects, the focus was on the rural poor and women.

178 . Training approaches and methods employed varied significantly, ranging from on-the-job training to field days of experimental and hands-on training as well as direct training through workshops, seminars, study tours, fellowships, etc. In some cases, training support also included the supply of equipment and the development of didactic materials. Participatory approaches were also prevalent, particularly among projects that focused on a broad thematic agenda (sustainable community development, gender, natural resource management, etc.).

179 . Fellowship training has been a major component of many field projects, with a total of 2,760 fellowships provided through 425 projects during the period 1994-99. Two-thirds were for training duration of 1-3 months, with some 12 % for one year or longer. The largest number of fellows were from countries in Asia and the Pacific (53%), followed by Africa (27%) and the Near East (16%). In terms of technical fields, the largest numbers were in sub-sectors of crops (20%) and forestry (19%).

180 . In general, training activities were seldom designed with specific indicators to monitor and assess the quality and impact. Similarly, monitoring and evaluation of the results of training, including the quality, was generally poor. Although training activities were covered in regular progress reports (e.g. types of training, number of trainees/participants and sessions), the information was generally partial and the absence of common definitions and criteria for classification rendered it impossible to make comparisons between projects.

181 . A desk review of 32 evaluations of projects (14 funded by UNDP, 18 by TF donors) with a significant training component 26 selected from the Evaluation Service's database can be used to complement the above picture. A common thrust was on training of trainers for greater catalytic effects, and a majority of the projects (19) also aimed to develop training as well as reference materials.

182 . In terms of training thrusts, the projects can be grouped broadly into three categories:

    1. Type A with focus on government or public institutions and staff (16 projects)the general aim was to enhance technical and institutional capacity to perform specific tasks, including provision of extension and other services to the producers. In many respects, these represent traditional FAO support to national institution building. Training was targeted at the professional, and more often at technical staff, combining a range of key subjects, with training on the core technical subjects supplemented by improved or new management and service delivery approaches, the latter often involving more participatory methods;
    2. Type B in support of broad-based capacity for field action (14)this training was intended to strengthen simultaneously the capacity of both the lead government agencies (generally extension or other field services) and community groups, including local NGOs and producers, for the implementation of specific local development actions. Training for government staff stressed both upgrading their technical expertise and developing capacity for more effective extension and communication with community groups. For community groups and producers, the emphasis was on technical aspects, although some projects also covered training on participatory action through groups, including farmer-tofarmer extension. Many of these projects had a general aim of introducing participatory approaches to community and rural development actions; and
    3. Type C to support training institutions a few projects supported the establishment or strengthening of a training or educational institution in a comprehensive way. These projects provided strong international expertise input for introducing new training approaches and methods, curricula development, institutional management and for training of the core trainers, including fellowships. They tended to have a longer implementation period and a larger budget, covering the pilot running of the new courses and institutional functionality.


Regular Programme and Headquarters-based Activities

183 . As mentioned in the Introduction, a major constraint to this review has been the lack of reliable information on the training carried out and on the results of such training. The assessment which follows is therefore based upon a desk review of those experiences which were better documented.

184 . Skills transfer type of training often represents an outreach function for normative activities, providing an important testing and feedback opportunity for technical FAO units. For example, manuals, models and guidelines produced by the Marine Resources Service (FIRM) were the basis for teaching materials employed by a Headquarters-based fishery resources survey project (GCP/INT/575/DEN). The project gave 36 courses during 1993 and 1997, with a total of 736 stock assessment specialists and resource planners (28% being female) from some 50 countries. A terminal evaluation mission of the project concluded that in many countries, the training helped to raise stock assessment skills, including institutionalization of the core courses into national training institutions, with a positive impact on the ability of the trained scientists to define and support their national fishery management policies.

185 . Empowerment-oriented training has to involve directly the stakeholders at the local community levels in their respective areas. Such interaction, primarily through field projects, has been a key factor in the development of both the content and the methods of HQ-based training activities, including their adaptation to the needs and potential of particular target trainees. For example, the IPM's FarmersField School (FFS) approach has evolved through intensive experience in Asia over a period of some 15 years. Both the IPM programme (AGPP) and community forestry (FONP) have had substantial extra-budgetary resources for developing training materials, often in cooperation with major training or educational institutions.

186 . Some of the training activities under this category have left a visible influence. The FFS approach, for example, has influenced training approaches used in FAO, such as AGLW's approach for training water usersassociations, and has also influenced many international agencies engaged in agricultural training and extension, as reflected in the broad based sponsorship for the IPM Global Facility. In Asia, more than 2 million farmers have been trained as part of the inter-country programme. Similarly, the SEAGA programme has been used by a number of international partner organizations, and to date some 1 400 international and national specialists have been trained, and some 100 institutions from 38 countries are involved in the programme.

187 . While training for capacity-building has been pursued mainly through field projects, under the RP, the Multilateral Trade Negotiations Resource Manual (the production of which by eight divisions was managed by TCAS as background material for 14 workshops covering 160 countries) has been quoted by several countries as having strengthened their countrys capacity to deal with international trade issues, particularly vis-à-vis WTO negotiations.

Field Projects

188 . The following assessments are based upon the desk review of the 32 evaluations of projects with a significant training component.

189 . While evaluations considered the priority given to training appropriate within the projects, they underlined the detrimental effects of time and resource constraints for training, especially when working with the farmers and other local participants. There seemed to be more difficulties with type B projects 27 , especially when trying to cover simultaneously the training of government service agents and farmers. Another difficulty, often experienced by these projects was how to ensure an appropriate balance between participatory methods and technology transfer aspects in training.

190 . Evaluations also pointed to some significant common shortcomings on the planning and management of training activities. While the target trainees were generally well identified, systematic needs assessment was seldom carried out. Similarly, although projects often produced training materials and tools, these activities were not always planned as a significant component with adequate resources. Another weakness was the universal lack of systematic monitoring and review of training, although assessments at the end of courses were made in some cases.

191 . Evaluations gauged favourably the outputs of on-the-job training of counterpart national institution staff, rating both the quantity and quality of training results good or excellent for about two-thirds of the sample projects. On the whole, counterpart staff training had better results under type A projects 28 where training was more narrowly focused on the technical subjects and on the technical staff. However, such positive rating declined to about 50% with respect to the effective use of trainees and sustainability of institutional improvements. This reflected concerns expressed by the evaluators about the weaknesses in the national institutions, especially insufficient manpower and financial resources available. While most projects included fellowship training, evaluations rated the fellowship results less satisfactory, with less than 30% found good or better both in quantity and quality: the fellow's potential contribution to the projects was assessed good or better for less than 20% of cases. This seemed to arise from a mix of factors, including selection of fellows, difficulty of ensuring the right match between the training needs and opportunities identified, and loss of some fellows from the projects. In some cases, the timing of fellowships was such that the returning trainees had no opportunity to contribute to the projects during their implementation period.

192 . Farmer training was a major element of type B projects, and for some it was the primary focus. In general, these projects tended to be more complex to implement and manage, including the training component, because they often involved the introduction of innovations, both in technical areas (such as in natural resource management and in production technologies) and in broader development approaches (participatory methods for field agents and local producers). Training under such projects tended to be more multi-faceted and challenging, including training of farmers as trainers for farmer-to-farmer extension. An assessment of the results tended to be less optimistic than counterpart training under type A projectssome 40% of projects were found to have been good or excellent in quality. The positive effects on farmers were rated even lower, including the prospects for their sustaining the benefits of training (30% gauged good or better).

193 . Type C projects 29 may be seen as a special category of type A projects with training focused primarily on institutional capacity-building. The two in the sample represent typical cases of improving existing institutions (secondary agricultural technical schools - CPR/91/112) on the one hand, and establishing a new school (regional SADC training centre - GCP/RAF/283/ITA) on the other. The former assisted in re-orienting and upgrading the teaching capacity of the 6 schools targeted to serve as a model through introduction of new teaching methods and academic administration (with international expertise), upgrading the technical content of courses (by national experts) and training of trainers for multiplier effects. The SADC project helped to establish a forest industries training centre, contributed to upgrading of the teaching staff, and developed training courses, including completion of teaching materials. In both cases, the result of training was considered high, leading to competent teaching and administrative staff. The Chinese project was considered successful, not only because of the training results (e.g. some 750 senior staff trained in teaching methods and academic administration and over 3000 teachers trained, including 30-40 % women) and related institutional capacity enhanced, but also because the government accepted the lines of reform for similar secondary schools in Northwest China. However, the financial sustainability of the SADC Forest Industries Training Centre quickly became an issue after termination of external support (which also covered tuition fees of trainees), and led to a drastic reduction in the intake of regional trainees and an intensive search for identifying alternative financing sources.

194 . One significant result of these projects has been the development of innovative teaching materials and improved approaches which represent an important feedback to RP-based training. Some 60% of the sample projects produced a substantial amount of training materials, although their quality was variable. A review under this study of selected training materials and tools produced in FAO during the period shows that some of the best outputs have roots in field work, e.g. the marketing and agri-business management series (AGS) and guides on nutrition training (ESN).

Survey of Priorities, Relevance and Quality of Training

195 . A questionnaire survey of developing countries and FAO Representatives was carried out to gauge their opinions on their priorities for training as well as on the general relevance and quality of FAO training. 30 The results indicate a generally positive appreciation of FAO training activities. FAO was rated by more than two-thirds as an “equal or better” source of external training assistance in all subject matter areas. In particular, the rating on FAO as the best source of support was high for food and nutrition (76%), plant protection (58%) and statistics and farming systems (55%), all three subjects being also among the top priority subjects for external training assistance. In some of the subjects considered as priority for external assistance, such as “institutions - education and extension” as well as “marketing and rural finance”, FAO scored as the best source by about 20% of the countries.

196 . The survey also covered assessment of FAO as a source for four categories of training assistance: (a) advice on training approaches and issues; (b) technical/skill training; (c) information and publications on training methods and approaches; and (d) strengthening institutional capacity of particular organizations/programmes. For all categories, FAO scored 80% or higher as an “equal or better” source of external training assistance, with a 97% score for “information and publications on training methodologies and approaches”.

197 . Within this generally positive assessment, some criticisms were evident regarding the responsiveness and efficiency with which FAO training support was provided.

Quality of Selected Training Materials

198 . A sample of 83 training materials produced in FAO since 1994 were assessed in terms of the quality of their contents, methodology and presentation. The sample provides a substantial overview of major practices and trends in FAO and covers all in-house technical areas. However, of the 83 documents labelled as training documents, only 28% were immediately applicable as training materials of a didactic nature. The other documents were almost evenly grouped in two other categories: reference and background materials.

199 . The didactic publications reviewed (23) included guidelines, guides and self-learning materials and contained specific information on either the training strategy or its approach. The majority of the publications (20) under this category were found to be well designed in terms of lay-out and logical sequencing. They were also found to address a specific audience, the learning process and practical exercises including tools to facilitate group dynamics and for course assessment. Over half (13) focused on a relatively novel approach or provided various methodological options (11) for the learning process.

200 . Reference materials (32) comprised close to 40% of the sample. These were texts, syllabi and case studies most often addressing a specific target group (20) and an explicit training approach (18). The overall quality of the materials was considered good in 27 cases, and the comprehensiveness and logic in the content matter presentation was judged consistent in the majority (23) of the cases.

201 . Background materials in the sample (28) were produced to illustrate general features of the concerned subject matter. Most background materials (18) presented the information in a neutral way and were written, for example, to stimulate policy debate by presenting different perspectives on a specific issue and targeting a particular audience. Targeting a specific audience or following a particular training methodology was not included in close to half of the cases (14). Of greater concern, however, were poor layout (26), routine presentations (21) and the lack of consistency (11) found in the majority of these texts.

202 . Thus, training materials produced by FAO technical units tend to be of good technical quality, but frequently under-developed from an adult education point of view. This would tie in with the fact that most FAO training support tends to fall into the skills-transfer type with the emphasis more on the technical subject matter than on the process of knowledge transfer, including didactic issues involved. Further, evidence suggests that relatively few technical officers involved in training have had more than a cursory exposure to theories of adult education, or their practical application. Likewise, informal cooperation and exchange on training activities among different FAO HQ technical units does not appear to be so strong, while such collaboration seems stronger in the field.



Institutional Framework for Training in FAO

203 . Training is commonly employed in FAO's Regular and Field Programme activities and has an important function in extending FAO's normative work through operational activities. However, the review found that the institutional framework to support training was not adequate in the following ways:

Definition : There is no common understanding of what “training” encompasses throughout the Organization. This has resulted in diverse interpretations of the term and has probably contributed to the inadequacy of the institutional framework needed to support it.

: The review found that the lack of reliable information on training planned or undertaken and the absence of detail were a major constraint in conducting this review. It pointed to a general deficiency in corporate data about this significant means of action.

: The review concluded that pedagogy was not given sufficient importance by the Organization and that this was evidenced by the absence of guidelines and training for staff in the advantages and disadvantages of the various methodologies and approaches available.

Institutional expertise and capacity : With the exception of certain key units that have education and extension as their mandate, most technical staff has little or no training and didactic expertise.

Institutional focal point : The absence of a designated focal point with an information and feedback function has also contributed to the relative neglect of pedagogical issues in the design of training courses and materials. Many staff involved in training felt the need to have access to a pool of expertise on training methodology, didactics, group dynamics, training management, training strategies and/or production of materials, but were neither aware of in-house sources, nor of institutions and persons outside FAO that could provide the necessary expertise.

Guidelines on training : Conventional training is a relatively expensive means of action and yet there are no guidelines to assist programme planners in assessing when and where to apply it in developing the Programme of Work. Unless training activities are planned and anchored in a solid conceptual framework, training risks being applied on the basis of ad hoc decisions rather than informed choice.

Monitoring and evaluation : There has been little systematic monitoring and assessment of training activities, the use of training materials and the results of such activities. Such monitoring would be particularly important to allow the systematic assessment of the relevance and performance of FAO training activities and open up the opportunity for FAO staff to learn from the Organization's experience in this field.

Relevance and Adequacy of Training

204 . The results of the opinion survey of developing member countries indicate a generally positive appreciation of FAO training activities. Two-thirds of respondents rated FAO as equal or better sources of external training assistance, with better ratings in some of the key high-priority areas.

205 . Most FAO training activities are clearly relevant to the Organization's mandate in support of human resource development and institutional capacity-building. In particular, training has served as a useful means for communicating and extending the Organization's technical and normative outputs to the member countries and its international partners. In so doing, training activities have contributed to the development of networks with institutions and individuals around the world.

206 . In terms of general training approaches, FAO's strengths include a sound technical basis on a wide range of subjects. The choice of target trainees appears appropriate in the context of their training activities. However, trainees nominated by collaborating institutions do not always possess the right qualifications.

207 . In some training programmes, there is an encouraging trend for: (a) greater attention to approaches and methods based on adult education and learning principles; (b) incorporation of thematic priority concerns (environment and sustainable natural resource management, participation and gender); and (c) concentration on training-of-trainers which would contribute to improving the cost-effectiveness of training. However, regarding point (b) progress made to address gender and poverty concerns is uneven, with the greatest advances made in empowerment-oriented training.

208 . Some units with a substantial involvement in training, such as SDW, the Community Forestry Unit and AGP (IPM), address training needs assessment and incorporate adult education and learning principles. However, there is also clear evidence that not enough attention is given to methodological aspects of the learning process, including a relative neglect of pedagogical issues, such as training needs assessment and course design based on didactic criteria. This was under-lined in the external assessment of the sample of training materials, which showed that only a third were found satisfactory or better in terms of employing up-to-date didactic criteria. The presentation of just over 50% of the training materials tended to be below current standards used in agricultural education and training.

209 . Similarly, most FAO staff involved in training activities do not have formal education, regular exposure, and/or professional experience in training methodologies, pedagogy or adult education 31 . In many cases, technical staff are hesitant to go beyond the preparation of technical outputs because of their insufficient command of training methodologies.

210 . There was a close link between RP and FP components in training. Most frequently, extra-budgetary sources served to extend the training messages to a wider audience than possible under the Regular Programme, where material development was the key focus. At the same time, the Field Programme also provided opportunities for testingand refining the content and manner of training initiated under the Regular Programme. Generally, however, there was widespread concern about the negative effects of the declining trend of the FP and reduced levels of contact with the field for the HQ officers.

Overall Effectiveness

211 . Despite some methodological, mainly pedagogical, shortcomings, FAO training activities have proven their effectiveness on a number of occasions. Many skills-transfer training activities achieved very positive results in training a large number of trainers and in disseminating the normative standards and best practices identified by FAO. Training in subject areas such as statistics and nutrition analysis, has, in addition to improving professional expertise, also resulted in improving the quality of data and information that FAO receives from member countries. Similarly, in empowerment-oriented training programmes, such as the Farmer's Field School developed under the IPM programme, the SEAGA gender training, and methodological approaches in training developed by SDRE, have contributed to the creation of pools of trained individuals as well as groups and associations, and have also had an impact on training approaches both within and outside FAO. Training for capacity-building has been pursued mainly through field projects. Although they often suffer from the lack of adequate time horizon to carry an institution-building effort to its conclusion, there are examples of successful initiatives.

212 . At the same time, it was noted that funding constraints often hamper planning and organization of training in a systematic fashion, resulting in many training activities being ad hoc , depending on the availability of funding, often through extra-budgetary contributions. This is a particular concern for those RP-based training activities supported by extra-budgetary resources for a limited period of time and for which no sustainable substitute is found. It is also important for field projects to have a clear understanding with the donor and host institution on the follow-up after project termination to ensure sustainability of the results achieved.

213 . Other factors that have limited the effectiveness of training relate to an under-estimation of the manpower and the time needed to prepare for, conduct, and follow-up on training courses. Also, weaknesses in national institutions can account for unsatisfactory results: for example, if trainees were not given an opportunity and/or resources to apply their new skills in the workplace.


214 . Towards a more systematic corporate approach to training . The role and function of training should be better defined in FAO. The goal should be the creation throughout the Organization of a clear and common understanding of: (a) the concept of training in an FAO context, including its principles and main typologies; (b) the main roles of training; and (c) methodological considerations in application and use. These aspects may be set out in a document “Guiding Principles for Training Activities in FAO”. Such guiding principles should aim to facilitate the cost-effective use of training in varying situations of extending normative products as well as in promoting learning for human resource development and capacity-building. In particular, for the interest of many technical units, it would be important to address the main types of FAO training activities, providing suggested methods and approaches as well as hints on advantages and disadvantages of alternatives applicable. The guiding principles could form part of a website on training, which may contain FAO's vision on training and learning, as well as a gateway to information on what FAO offers in this field, including key publications.

215 . The publication of such guiding principles would need to be accompanied by the designation of a support unit (or focal point) to assist staff in the application of training principles and methodologies in their own training activities. Similarly, there would be a need for staff training on principles and methods.

216 . Whether training is seen as a learning-oriented activity or as a means of extending normative products, the specific role of training should be clearly identified, with a strategy for achieving the desired results effectively in conjunction with other programme activities. Training should be justified in terms of the immediate results and longer-term expectations. Further, given its thematic importance across the Organization, training outputs should be clearly identified in the Organizations programming process, and greater consideration be given to a coordinated approach for planning and implementation of training through inter-departmental mechanisms.

217 . Establishing a system of monitoring and follow-up on traininglearning and accountability: FAO needs to (re-) establish an operational and up-to-date database of its own training activitiesincluding on-the-job counterpart trainingin order to facilitate accountability, and also to build up an institutional memory. This would entail the introduction of reporting routines on training activities as well as the designation of a unit (or focal point) that could serve as a repository of what training has been offered, the quality of the training, and good trainers and materials. Such reporting should be supplemented by more systematic monitoring and assessment of the results and impact of training activities, something that should be addressed as part of the auto-evaluation process. Such data collection requirements should, in the case of the Regular Programme, be considered in the ongoing work to replace the Organization's programme planning and implementation monitoring system. In the case of field projects, it should take advantage of the comprehensive database on the Field Programme (Field Programme Management Information SystemFPMIS) being developed by TCOM .

218 . Learning in the light of adult education principles: Generally, training intended to transfer technical know-how and information is a legitimate as well as useful function. However, many technical training activities could be improved in their effectiveness and sustainability by paying more attention to didactics. Thus, throughout the Organization, more weight should be placed on training in organizational skills, pro-active learning methodologies and empowerment issues. This is particularly so, in the case of training-of-trainers, where strengthening of training facilitation skills is at least as important as the technical subject matter of a particular training event.

219 . FAO should also optimize distance learning (DL) approaches and build on partnerships with other institutions. Many knowledge resources already exist within FAO through SDRE, WAICENT and other units that are currently applying DL approaches. Technical units should be encouraged to review their training and resource materials which are most in demand, and to consider their translation into distance learning resources.

220 . Institutional reinforcement for training expertise and learning: The key recommendations cover:

  • A network should be created of in-house trainers or professionals working on training activities in order to promote and encourage the cross-fertilization of ideas, enhance interaction on training issues, and disseminate information about upcoming events, etc.;
  • FAO staff active in training activities should enhance their understanding of, and familiarity with, training concepts and issues. As many staff in the decentralized units play an important role in training activities, they would form a priority target for staff training. Training of staff may be at two levels: one for broader appreciation of the issues related to principles of adult learning (“basic course”) and another for developing skills in the application of various techniques (“advanced course”). The Staff Development Group of AFPO should play the lead role in developing and implementing such a staff training programme in collaboration with SDRE and other units; and
  • A support function should be established for the implementation of the approach outlined above. This would entail the designation of a focal point on training. Its functions could cover: (i) providing a home for a corporate database on training; (ii) source of advice and help desk on training methodologies (including needs'assessments, curriculum development and related matters); and (iii) serving as the secretariat for the network of FAO training peers (this is already performed by SDRE for the internal informal task force on education).

221 . If the recommendation on the preparation of a “guiding principles for training” is accepted, the lead for this work and support for its use should be performed by the same focal point. The unit assuming this focal point role would need to allocate some funds for this role, including professional and support staff time, for which additional resources are likely to be required. It is suggested that SDRE assume this rolein consultation with the proposed FAO trainers networkbecause of: (a) its mandate covering education, extension and communication for development; (b) its expertise and experience in these areas related to training; and (c) its current role as convenor of the informal task force on education.

222 . Improving the design and management of training activities: This is a broad area where need for improvements is most apparent. General suggestions include:

  • Defining training needs and objectivesthe target group's training needs should be established as explicitly and systematically as possible, taking into account institutional possibilities and constraints. The definition of more realistic and targeted training objectives should also include the expected role of the trainees in the post training period. Training needs assessment and analyses of organizational constraints should be made an integral part of the identification and formulation of training strategies and programme elaboration;
  • Formulating training content and methods in many cases, this analysis could benefit from more thorough consideration of didactic and related methodologies so as to select the most effective approach; and
  • Sustainability considerations evidence suggests that funding needs and ensuring an enabling environment for trainees are the most problematic areas, requiring particular attention. Partners to share the planning, implementation follow-up responsibility may be found in the country or countries, in other agencies active or interested in the subject area and also within FAO. Similarly, the formation of some form of a network of trainees, which may be linked to ongoing projects or FAO sponsored regional network or commissions, should be explored and built into training arrangements from the beginning.


i. The SMM appreciated the report addressing broad issues of training which represented an important area of FAO activities. It considered that the recommendations were relevant and provided a good basis for discussion. The SMM noted that the overall assessment of training was favourable. A survey involving developing countries and FAO Representatives found that FAOs training activities were generally well regarded. On the other hand, the SMM recognized that the didactic quality of much of the training materials left something to be desired and agreed that the recommendations in this respect deserved serious attention. However, it questioned the cost-benefits of developing and maintaining a significant corporate database on such activities.

ii. As an initial response to the thematic review, the SMM decided that the existing Informal Task Force on Education and Food for All should serve as the appropriate mechanism for leading the follow-up actions. SDRE, which convenes the Task Force, was requested to ensure that the membership of the Task Force covered all the key units involved in training, including AFPO. The participation of Regional Offices in the Task Force should be arranged in an appropriate manner, to the extent feasible.

iii. The Task Force was charged with the following tasks: (i) preparing draft guiding principles as a basis for developing common concepts, definitions, approaches and improved designs for FAO training activities; (ii) establishing a suitable in-house network of trainers and initiation of a FAO website on training; (iii) providing recommendations on actions regarding (a) cost-effective application of adult education and learning principles, including distance learning methods, and (b) the training of staff in training methods and approaches; and (iv) identifying options, including their costs and benefits, for improving the reporting and monitoring of FAO training activities.

iv. It was agreed that the Informal Task Force should report to the SMM within six months on the progress made. Decisions could be taken at that stage on the specific actions that might be necessary in relevant areas, including appropriate arrangements for reporting, monitoring and evaluation of training activities. In the meantime, the ongoing efforts to improve the effectiveness of training activities would continue to be pursued through the existing programme-planning and monitoring mechanisms.


(Report of the 86 th Session, September 2001 33 )

v. The Committee found the review report informative and useful, providing an overview analysis and identifying salient issues on FAO training activities. The Committee underlined the importance of training as a major vehicle for extending the Organization's technical and normative outputs as well as for contributing to human resources development and capacity building in developing member countries. It recognized that such training activities also provided feedback to FAO in developing and improving its technical products. While noting with satisfaction that FAO's training activities are assessed broadly as relevant and useful in meeting the needs of member countries, the Committee expressed considerable concern about the various weaknesses identified in the review, many of which indicated institutional shortcomings in ensuring that training activities are planned and implemented in a well coordinated manner and their achievements monitored and assessed.

vi. The Committee was advised that management had also found that the recommendations provided a useful basis for developing an improved corporate approach, but it considered that some of the recommendations, such as establishing a house-wide reporting and monitoring system on training activities, could be costly and thus needed careful review of their practicality and cost-effectiveness. As a first step, management decided that the existing “Informal Task Force on Education and Food for All”, chaired by the Extension, Education and Communication Service (SDRE), should serve as the appropriate inter-departmental mechanism for leading the follow-up action. The Task Force was charged with the tasks of: (a) preparing draft guiding principles; (b) establishing a suitable in-house network of trainers as well as a FAO Website on training; (c) providing recommendations for management action regarding application of adult education approaches and on staff training programme; and (d) providing options for the implementation of the proposed reporting and monitoring arrangements with a view to identifying a cost-effective approach. The Task Force would reportback to management in about six months'time. The Committee noted that the management response would be incorporated into the Programme Evaluation Report 2001 to be submitted to the Conference through the Council.

vii. The Committee appreciated the lines of the management response as indicated and requested that a progress report on managements follow-up action of the recommendations be submitted to the Committee at its next session in May 2002.

21. The review also used a questionnaire survey to developing member countries.

22. While the main classification criterion is the training objective, the three categories (skill transfer, empowerment and institutional capacity building) are not mutually exclusive. These objectives often co-exist, with the institutional capacity building being often common to other two. Hence, the classification is made in terms of the relative emphasis.

23. The RP categories encompass both training organized by HQ units as well as by Regional Offices. The latter training outputs have not been recorded separately, but they are significant in some programmes and sub-programmes.

24. This seems to explain the significant difference between the data used here and the number of training activities reported in the PIR, which were 260 and 359 for biennia 1992-93 and 1994-95, respectively.

25. Although not reported here, several training materials were produced under the Rural Development programmes, including some during the 1993-94 biennium.

26. This group of projects differed from the 350 projects in that they had a greater concentration in Africa (52%) and inter-regional coverage as well as greater shares in topics related to sustainable development and forestry sectors.

27. Type B: Training in support of broad-based capacity for field activities.

28. Type A: Training with focus on government or public institutions and staff.

29. Type C: Training to support training institutions.

30. A total of 50 countries responded out of the 97 developing member countries contacted, comprising 20 in Africa, 12 in Asia and the Pacific, 13 in Latin America and the Caribbean, 3 in the Near East and 2 in Europe.

31. There are only eight officers in FAO technical units with a formal training designation.

32. On behalf of Management, the Senior Management Meeting (SMM) was convened to decide on the management response to the recommendations contained in the “Thematic Review of FAO's Training Activities for Development during 1994-99”.

33. PC/86/REP paras 28-30.

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