TECHNICAL COOPERATION PROGRAMME
FARMING SYSTEMS TRAINING FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
ASIA AND THE PACIFIC REGION:
Cook Islands, Fiji, Papua New Guinea,
Terminal Statement prepared for the participating governments
the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
2. RESULTS AND CONCLUSIONS
The economic development settings and the farming systems of the South Pacific Sub-Region are very diverse and complex. The economies of most of the countries in the region performed poorly during the 1980s, in spite of relatively favourable prospects - the so-called "Pacific Paradox". Agriculture continues to be an important sector in most of the economies. The farming systems vary from those typical of atolls to those that are multi-layered agroforestry systems. However, many of these ecosystems are very fragile, with deforestation occurring very rapidly and unsuitable land increasingly being used for the cultivation of food and cash crops. Consequently, the loss of soil and fertility is becoming increasingly common.
The Farming Systems Approach to Development (FSD) is potentially useful in improving the planning and analytical capacity in identifying, developing and implementing strategies to improve the productivity - and therefore the welfare - of those involved in agriculture in a manner that is equitable and sustainable. The Board of the Institute for Research and Extension Training (IRETA), University of South Pacific (USP), Western Samoa, identified farming systems training for rural development as a priority area for action during a meeting held in November 1993.
FAO agreed to carry out a combined regional-national programme of hands-on training and pilot application in FSD methods under the Technical Cooperation Programme, and made $US 278 000 available to fund the project, TCP/RAS/4452, Farming Systems Training for Sustainable Development. The Project Agreement was signed on 16 December 1994 and the project was declared operational from January 1995 for a total duration of 18 months. The project began work in May 1995 with a contract signed by FAO and the Institute for Research and Extension Training in Agriculture, which was designated the government agency responsible for project execution. Field activities came to an end with the South Pacific workshop held from 5 to 8 August 1997 in Suva, Fiji. The project covered seven countries in the South Pacific, namely Cook Islands, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, and Western Samoa.
The project aimed to strengthen the capacity of agricultural and rural development professionals to identify and promote sustainable farming systems for farmers in the South Pacific Sub-Region. Specifically, the focus was on the following areas:
- strengthened capacity for farming systems participatory analyses in the agriculture and natural resources sector;
- improved availability of integrated natural resources and farming systems information for extension, planning and policies.
The initial advanced training workshop in FSD was held from 11 to 27 July 1995 at IRETA in Apia, Western Samoa. It was opened by the Minister of Agriculture and was conducted mainly by the international FSD consultant and the FAO technical officer. Two participants attended from each of five of the participating countries (i.e., Cook Islands, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Tonga and Western Samoa). Although two each were budgeted, only one each attended from the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. The participants, who were nominated by their governments, were middle-level government staff, mainly from extension, but also from research and planning. The training course consisted of both classroom and field activities. Following the training these in effect became the national FSD trainers as far as the project was concerned.
From 25 to 27 November 1995, the international FSD consultant and the FAO staff member held a workshop for seven Agricultural Liaison Officers (ALOs) who were professionally linked with IRETA. Three members of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forests, Fisheries and Meteorology of Western Samoa attended as observers. On 15 November 1995, a short presentation was given on the principles and value of FSD to the Regional Board of Management (RBM) of IRETA during its Board Meeting. At the end of the Board Meeting a motion was passed that the Pacific Island countries (PICs) should accept the FSD approach and work out ways in which it could be institutionalized within their own countries.
As a result of the three-week workshop, an FSD manual, An Introduction to the Farming Systems Approach to Development (FSD) for the South Pacific, was produced as reference material for the national workshops and for wider use. The manual contains opinions and examples given by the participants at the workshop. Before publication it was reviewed by a few individuals not associated with the project, but involved with FSD-type activities in the sub-region. Originally, according to the contract, it was planned to print only 100 copies of the 119-page manual, but thanks to supplemental funding by the technical division concerned at FAO Headquarters, a total of 600 copies was printed by IRETA in December 1995 and distributed in the region. The manual and copies of overheads relating to FSD were, with the exception of the Cook Islands, produced in time for distribution at the national FSD training workshops.
Two FSD videos relevant to the South Pacific, which were also available for most of the national FSD training workshops, were produced by IRETA from FSD-type experiences in Sri Lanka and South America, together with footage from the July FSD workshop. The second version was made after comments on the first were received by reviewers from both within and outside the region and from FAO. The videos were distributed to interested parties in the South Pacific.
The two FAO-funded regional consultants and the national FSD trainers conducted six one-week national training workshops in Cook Islands, Fiji, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Vanuatu, and Western Samoa. The total number of participants at the workshops amounted to 116, with the numbers at specific workshops varying from 15 to 25. The participants were mainly extension workers, but some also came from research and planning and, on occasion, from non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The training consisted of two parts: an introduction of the FSD approach and the use of FSD tools (usually about one week), and the follow-up part where field exercises were carried out in the villages. Sometimes these training workshops were held with the help of EU-PRAP staff and representatives from NGOs using farmer participatory type techniques. In most cases, the Agricultural Liaison Officers helped in facilitating the training programmes. No funds were allocated under the project for a national training workshop in Papua New Guinea, but such training did take place under other auspices and also under alternative FAO funding. Apart from the Cook Islands, where the training workshop was held in October 1995, all the workshops and follow-up field exercises were held between February and May 1996. In some cases the training workshop and field or follow-up exercises were implemented as one activity. Reports were produced from the training and follow-up exercises.
A workshop held in Nuklu'alofa, Tonga, from 29 July to 2 August 1996 was attended by one national FSD trainer from each country (except Papua New Guinea) and the four FSD consultants sponsored by FAO. The workshop, which was opened by the Director of Agriculture, was devoted to planning the Fiji workshop, reporting on the national FSD training exercises, and discussing sustainable agricultural technologies.
The final major activity under the project was a workshop held on the main campus of USP in Suva, Fiji, from 5 to 8 August 1996, which was opened by the Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forests on behalf of the Minister. The aims of the workshop were to look at the current status of FSD in the South Pacific and the role it could play in facilitating sustainable agricultural development. Time was also devoted to what should be done in encouraging the expansion, acceptance and adoption of the FSD approach. These were formulated in terms of recommendations. The total number of people who attended one or more sessions was about 40. Those present included 9 of the 12 national FSD trainers, the four FAO-sponsored consultants, IRETA staff who helped provide logistical support for the workshop, representatives from other FSD-related projects, other government representatives, and some participants from the private sector, particularly NGOs. The workshop consisted of some papers and substantial interaction via discussion groups. In accordance with the terms of the contract, the proceedings (The Farming Systems Approach to Sustainable Agriculture Development in the South Pacific: Proceedings of an FAO/IRETA Sponsored Project; 103 pages) have been edited by the international FSD consultant and are in the process of being published by IRETA.
The July 1995 workshop was well received and helped in preparing the participants for the national FSD training workshops. However, there is still a critically small number of persons trained in depth on FSD techniques under the project. In fact, of the initial 14 persons who were supposed to be trained under the project, only 12 were actually trained. Also, it appears that one of these, and possibly another two, are not available for conducting further FSD training courses.
The interaction during the July 1995 workshop helped in providing information for the FSD manual that was more relevant to the realities of the South Pacific. There was a substantial demand for the manual, which was the first of its kind to be produced for the South Pacific. However, some frontline extension workers implied that production of a simpler manual for them should be considered.
The two FSD videos were seen and discussed at the Suva workshop. The general consensus was that, given the time and resources available under the project, IRETA had done a credible job. It was recognized that making a video of a "process" is much more complicated than making one of a "product". The existing videos are probably most suited to being shown in conjunction with FSD courses. In retrospect, however, a more effective and flexible approach to developing visual materials for FSD would have been to produce slide sets with an accompanying script. This would also have been much cheaper and could have incorporated slides from the national FSD training workshops.
Although all the planned national FSD training workshops and follow-up exercises were implemented, some of them were, for various reasons, conducted later than originally planned, thus delaying the finalization of the reports. Much was learned by the trainers and participants as a result of the national FSD training workshops and the follow-up field exercises. There was a general feeling that they had been very useful, but the time periods allotted were too short for the subject matter to be presented adequately. It appears that a great deal was accomplished and the national FSD trainers worked very hard to make the workshop and field exercise activities a success. However, one problem that emerged was that the link between problem identification/design and recommended action was often not very clearly defined. It appears that this was a generally perceived weakness in the national FSD training workshops. Consequently, in future training workshops it would be very desirable to strengthen the link between description/diagnosis and evaluation/dissemination. Other areas that would benefit from greater attention are the correct application/use of PRA techniques (particularly matrix ranking and scoring), ranking of problems/needs, and apportionment of responsibilities for follow-up actions.
A list of sustainable agricultural technologies did not emerge directly from the Tonga workshop. There was enthusiasm for the subject, but most of the techniques mentioned by the participants reflected traditional practices rather than the activities of formal research institutions. The Director of IRETA requested that each of the Tonga participants send him at least two examples of sustainable agricultural technologies in their country. This would give the participants an opportunity to discuss them with colleagues before forwarding them. The format agreed for presenting the material was that used in the FARM publication1
Delays in drawing up the specific agenda for the Fiji workshop gave the speakers very little time to produce papers. In spite of this, the workshop was a moderate success, although representation from other organizations and projects/programmes applying FSD-type approaches was somewhat limited. Nevertheless, useful discussions were held and, as indicated earlier, some recommendations were endorsed at the end of the meeting.
The Director of IRETA considered the project to be very productive owing to the commitment, goodwill and interaction among the institutions, i.e., the participating governments, FAO, IRETA and staff and individuals who implemented and participated in the project.
A good start has been made to popularizing the FSD approach in the South Pacific, but the momentum needs to be maintained.
In order to facilitate the development of strategies enhancing the productivity and sustainability of agriculture in the South Pacific, the PICs should seek ways of institutionalizing the FSD approach within their own national systems.
Given the small sizes of the PICs, it will not be practical for many staff members to be engaged in full-time FSD activities. However, given the increased importance of participatory approaches to development, all agricultural research, extension and planning staff should be trained in the principles of FSD and, on occasion, be prepared to participate in explicit FSD-type activities (e.g., in a team format).
To implement the above, ways need to be sought to ensure that FSD institutionalization is supported by the leadership in the agricultural ministries/departments and that there is some form of coordination among those responsible for agricultural development within national programmes; these should work together and avoid duplication in their activities. This coordination should be established not only among the public (research, extension, planning), but also among the private sector (commercial firms, NGOs) and donors.
Regional initiatives can help in supporting the above endeavours by creating awareness of the importance of FSD, networking, increasing the pool of national FSD trainers, and providing relevant teaching/sensitization materials. The publication of materials should be initiated from a small brochure focusing on the value of the FSD approach to the economies of the South Pacific, a practical/simplified FSD manual for extension workers, and better documentation of sustainable agricultural technologies relevant to the PICs. One possibility with reference to the last two is to produce a manual analogous to the one prepared under the FARM programme referred to above. Another possibility would be the production of two revised FSD videos, one for extension staff and the other for policy-makers. The production of slide show presentation (hard copy + powerpoint) materials for training extension staff would require cooperation/collaboration among those organizations/programmes that operate in the sub-region and FSD-type techniques should be employed in the drafting of a concept by an audio/communication visual professional jointly with farming systems experts and a selection from the vast video material available at the IRETA video unit.
It is recommended that donor funding be sought for the following four regionally based initiatives:
- Further development of awareness of FSD and its role in the promotion of SAD and issues relating to its institutionalization among top policy-makers in the Ministries of Agriculture (e.g., Permanent Secretary, Under Secretary, Director of Agriculture). Possible strategies for doing this are preparation of a small FSD brochure directed to such issues, holding a regional meeting of such personnel to discuss these issues, and a familiarization visit to a country where the FSD approach has already been implemented and institutionalized.
- Training of national trainers to increase core FSD personnel within countries, and production of a practical extension FSD manual for frontline extension personnel.
- Networking (preferably through existing networks) of national FSD practitioners within the region to share information and experiences and discuss methodologies.
- Encouraging the modification of curricula in regional and national tertiary agricultural educational institutions to include FSD concepts, principles and practices.
The FAO sub-regional office in Apia may be of assistance in identifying funding sources, facilitating cooperation/collaboration, and providing technical expertise in FSD.
1 / (i.e., description, advantages, limitations and factors affecting adoption (biophysical and socioeconomic)). IRETA would then be able to produce the loose-leaf Extension Kit of Sustainable Agricultural Technologies as required under the contract.