PC 86/3(a)


PROGRAMME COMMITTEE

Eighty-sixth Session

Rome, 17 - 21 September 2001

Programme Evaluation -
Thematic Review of FAO's Training Activities for Development
During 1994-99


Table of Contents


EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

1. 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.

2. 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 FAO1. Covered by the review are training activities in support of member countries, implemented under FAO Regular and Field Programmes in the period 1994-99.

3. 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. Arrangements, of both 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.

4. 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. 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. Training for "empowerment" of the trainees, based more on holistic training approaches and aimed at enhancing the trainee's motivation and attitude, plays an increasingly important and successful role, especially in rural development oriented programmes. 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.

5. 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; more recently the FAO training programme on the WTO multilateral trade negotiations on agriculture has been received as useful and timely. Some of the empowerment-type training activities, such as those for Farmer Field School (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.

6. 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:

    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. Besides the above issue of staff skills, 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 programme planners in assessing when to apply 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.



7. The following recommendations are made:

    1. Towards a more systematic corporate approach to training. The role and function of training in 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.
    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 activities - including on-the-job counterpart training - to 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.
    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.
    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.
    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.
    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.

INTRODUCTION

BACKGROUND

8. As the UN specialized agency on food and agriculture, FAO has a mandate to collect, analyse, interpret and disseminate information relating to nutrition, food and agriculture. It 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 disseminate, communicate and transfer 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.

9. 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 the issue of definition will be addressed later, it is noteworthy that training occurs under most technical programmes as well as in field projects.

10. However, 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 centre of technical excellence, to communicate well its messages, and to make significant contributions to human resources development and capacity-building in member countries.

11. 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 seen as being too narrow, having failed to keep up with multi-disciplinary learning needs. A new paradigm places greater emphasis on a dynamic learning process, including trainees' motivation and participation on one hand, and more holistic approaches in addressing thematic concerns like rural development, poverty reduction and sustainable natural resource management, on the other.

12. The present review forms part of the regular schedule of evaluations and reviews, which are reported to the FAO Programme Committee and subsequently to the FAO Conference in the biennial Programme Evaluation Report. The review examines training activities implemented in direct support of member countries under FAO programmes and projects during the three biennia 1994-99. It 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.

METHODOLOGY

13. The review is essentially a desk study of a broad thematic subject, involving many programmes and units throughout FAO. It covers: (i) an internal survey through questionnaires and interviews in order to establish an inventory of FAO training activities under the Regular and Field Programmes for the three biennia period; (ii) identifying and reviewing more in-depth selected major training activities, including analysis of relevant project evaluation reports; (iii) conducting a questionnaire survey of the developing member countries and FAO country representatives on their opinions regarding priorities for training as well as on general relevance and quality of FAO training activities; and (iv) an assessment of the quality of training methods used and materials developed by FAO carried out by the International Agricultural Centre of Wageningen University.

14. A major constraint encountered in conducting the review was the lack of reliable information in a readily available form. For the Regular Programme, planned training outputs have been recorded in a centralized manner since the 1996-97 biennium, but without much detail (e.g. no information on training duration and number and type of participants). Furthermore, training outputs have often been listed in other output categories, such as "publications", "meetings", or "direct support"2. For the Field Programme, where many training activities take place within the framework of technical assistance projects, there is no centrally collected information, and to identify projects with significant training activities, the only basis was the amount of money earmarked under training budget lines. This has meant that all technical units had to be contacted to collect and verify basic information on training3.

15. Even greater problems were encountered regarding information on results and impact of specific training activities. As a rule, most training activities have not been subjected to any monitoring and evaluation (M&E) system, or where they have been, the documentation is more often than not unavailable. There are, however, some examples of post-course questionnaires to assess results in terms of skills acquired by trainees, and the application of those skills in the workplace. For training organized within the framework of a network, or within the context of a long-standing institutional relationship, some feedback is received through regular and continuous contacts with former trainees4.

16. 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. Similarly, other important aspects, such as complementarity between RP and Field Programme (FP) training activities, are addressed mainly in the context of reasonably well documented programmes and projects.

DEFINITION AND CATEGORIES OF TRAINING

17. While training is widely recognized as part of activities contributing to learning, it has no commonly accepted definition in FAO. One significant consequence of the lack of an organization-wide shared definition 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. It is recognized that it is sometimes difficult to draw a clear demarcation line between the three activities related to learning, i.e. training, education and extension. However, 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.

18. Training is thus understood as an organized and structured learning activity with the primary aim of improving job performance by transferring specific technology, knowledge or skills to the targeted persons or groups as individuals often in the context of institutional capacity-building. This refers to training in both technical and "non-technical" subject matters (such as planning methodologies, management, participatory needs assessment techniques and conflict resolution).

19. In view of the rich and diverse range of FAO training activities, the following categories have been used to capture their salient aspects:

  1. training objectives - (a) skill transfer (transfer of specific technical knowledge/skills); (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)5.
  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.
  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.

OVERVIEW OF MAIN FAO TRAINING ACTIVITIES

20. Training is widespread in FAO's work, covering virtually the entire range of technical subjects under FAO's mandate, both specific technical disciplines (e.g. irrigation water management and agricultural census) and thematic topics (e.g. participatory development and gender).

21. Table 1 provides an approximate quantitative overview of training activities under RP and FP, based on the RP outputs data related to training available for 1996-99 and selected field projects6 with a significant training component during 1994-99 period. For the RP7, 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 8. The data in Table 1 compensate to a degree this weakness by including those outputs clearly identifiable as outputs under other categories (e.g. methodologies and guidelines with explicit reference to their use in training). The number of field projects with significant training activities represents some 9-10% of the TCP and Trust Fund projects.

22. While Table 1 shows substantial levels of training activities under all technical Major Programmes (MPs) and virtually all programmes, some programmes had a large number of training activities under both RP and FP:

Table 1: Main FAO Training Activities (1996-99)

 

Major Programme/Programme

RP Outputs

Field Programme
1994-99

Materials/ Tools

Support to Countries

Direct Training

Total

No. of Projects
2.1 Agriculture Production and Support Systems

22

4

122

148

(42%)

168

(45%)

2.1.1 Natural Resources

3

1

26

30

 

28

 
2.1.2 Crops

4

1

29

34

 

76

 
2.1.3 Livestock

4

-

30

34

 

45

 
2.1.4 Agricultural Support System

9

2

19

30

 

15

 
2.1.5 Agriculture Applications of Isotopes and Biotechnology

2

-

18

20

 

4

 
2.2 Food and Agriculture Policy and Development

10

7

37

54

(16%)

31

(8%)

2.2.1 Nutrition

7

4

21

32

 

14

 
2.2.2 Food and Agriculture Information

3

1

13

17

 

12

 
2.2.3 Food and Agriculture Monitoring, Assessment and Outlook

-

1

2

3

 

4

 
2.2.4 Agriculture, Food Security and Trade Policy

-

1

1

2

 

1

 
2.3 Fisheries

11

1

9

21

(6%)

31

(8%)

2.3.1 Fisheries Information

1

 

2

3

 

7

 
2.3.2 Fisheries Resources and Aquaculture

3

1

3

7

 

13

 
2.3.3 Fisheries Exploitation and Utilization

7

 

4

11

 

10

 
2.3.4 Fisheries Policy

-

-

-

-

 

1

 
2.4 Forestry

7

4

7

18

(5%)

44

(12%)

2.4.1 Forest Resources

-

1

3

4

 

23

 
2.4.2 Forest Products

2

-

2

4

 

5

 
2.4.3 Forestry Policy and Planning

5

3

2

10

 

16

 
2.4.4 Forest Programmes Coordination and Information

-

-

-

-

 

-

 
2.5 Contribution to Sustainable Development and Special Programme Thrusts

26

5

46

77

(22%)

67

(18%)

2.5.1 Research, Natural Resources Management and Technology Transfer

18

3

16

37

 

51

 
2.5.2 Women and Population

8

2

27

37

 

7

 
2.5.3 Rural Development

-

-

2

2

 

7

 
2.5.4 Environmental Information Management

-

-

1

1

 

2

 
3.1 Policy Assistance

9

3

21

33

(9%)

32

(8%)

3.1.1 Coordination of Policy Assistance and Related Capacity Building

5

3

14

22

 

26

 
3.1.2 Policy Assistance to Various Regions

4

-

7

11

 

6

 
3.1.3 Legal Assistance to Member Nations

-

-

-

-

 

-

 
GRAND TOTAL

85

24

242

351

(100%)

373

(100%)

23. While the MPs 2.1 (Agriculture Production and Support Systems) and 2.5 (Sustainable Development) accounted for the largest shares, they had a contrasting pattern in terms of RP and FP training activities, with field projects most common in MP 2.1.

24. 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

25. Broadly, 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. The data in Table 1 do not disaggregate the last type of output, although the column headed "support to countries" includes such advisory activities; in fact, most of this country support was for direct training. The main features of RP training activities, as captured in Table 1, may be summarized as follows:

26. Within the general picture outlined above, 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 major training orientation - these have training as central part of their mandate, with particular emphasis on training approaches and methodologies, and include the Extension, Training and Communication Service (SDRE), the Agricultural Policy Support Service (TCAS), Women in Development Service (SDWW) and Community Forestry Development Unit (FONP). Also falling in this group are the IPM Global Facility (although largely extra-budgetary funded). Their staff have in-depth experience in training and familiarity with pedagogic approaches. Their main outputs include training guidelines and materials, and to a lesser extent, advice on training policies and approaches;
    2. Units making significant use of training as a means of action - these have attached priority to training in their programmes, with a systematic approach to training. They produce their own training materials and tools and engaged in direct training in varying degrees. There are broadly two groups:

    - those with focus on participatory and/or interactive training at community level, often with the objective of empowerment of the trainees. These include the Irrigation and Water Development Service (AGLW, especially on water users groups), Farming System Development Service (AGSP), the Nutrition Programme Service (ESNP), and the Rural Institutions and Participation Service (SDAR). Most of the units mentioned in a) above also share a training orientation towards empowerment; and

     
    - those with 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. This group includes the Animal Health Service (AGAH), the Land and Water Development Division (AGL), the Agro-Industries and Post-Harvest Management Service (AGSI), the Marketing and Rural Finance Service (AGSM), the Joint FAO/IAEA Division (AGE), the Food Quality and Standards Service (ESNS), the Statistics Division (ESS), the Fish Utilization and Marketing Service (FIIU) and the Land Tenure Service (SDAA).
    1. Units engaged in training as a subsidiary activity - these cover the remainder of FAO units, which use training primarily as a vehicle to extend their normative products (technical guidelines, manuals and reference materials) to their audience in member countries, usually through regional or sub-regional peer meetings, workshops and seminars. Typically, they do not have a systematic training approach, and often it is not clear whether or not their activities fall into the definition of training adopted in this review.

 

Text Box 1: Training Material Development in the Community Forestry Unit, FONP

The Community Forestry Unit (CFU) of the Forestry Policy and Planning Division has worked and reflected on the training materials development process for several years. A number of elements of such a process have been tried, with varying degrees of emphasis, in varying order and in various combinations. The training materials development process includes all or some of the following steps, not necessarily exactly in this order:

  1. Needs assessment among potential users, usually through e-mail questionnaires and telephone interviews, as well as in-country investigation by partner institutions.
  2. Situational analysis (check to see if others have done it before, and if so, what they have done, to identify important gaps or needs).
  3. Assessment of current state-of-the-art of the chosen topic, both internationally and at country and regional levels.
  4. Concept/overview paper on the focus of the initiative, usually by an external expert internationally recognized in this field.
  5. Selections of module/case study authors.
  6. Orientation/methodological workshop for authors.
  7. Preparation of first drafts of different components.
  8. Workshops (or mailouts) to review and comment first drafts, usually including a sample of targeted end-users as well as recognized experts in the field, from outside and/or inside FAO.
  9. Preparation of 2nd draft.
  10. Field testing, involving either an interview format with potential users or a full-scale application of the tools with evaluation of results.
  11. Finalization of the manual/materials including supporting materials such as slides or videos.
  12. Publication (editing, layout, artwork, printing).
  13. Proactive targeted distribution. In addition to distribution from established FAO offices, the materials are sent to distribution centres which are part of the FTPP network in the regions. This leads to greater penetration of the publications in the target countries.
  14. Preparation of guidelines for process of adaptation/contextualization (rather than just simple translation) of the materials to local conditions and culture through a more limited repetition of the process above on a national/sub-regional basis, preparing new examples and case studies drawn on local experience, modifying elements of the training methodology to better suit local conditions, adjusting illustrations where necessary to reflect local imagery and sensibilities, often including an implementation plan/programme.
  15. Finally, translation and adaptation of the materials by partner institutions at regional or national level.

Possibly the most important element of this process is the adaptation and contextualization step at the end. In order for training materials for local processes (such as the ones promoted by the CFU) to be genuinely useful, they need to go through this step. Building this step into the process has proven critical to ensuring the success of and demand for the training packages.
Another often-overlooked critical aspect is targeted, proactive distribution. In general, new publications are sent to the CFU "Key List" of recipients (over 400 of them) organized by area of interest, people who can be expected not only to use the materials but also to make other potential users aware of them.

Costs of this process are rather high (probably in the $100,000-300,000 range per training package), though they vary widely and are hard to estimate as they include significant portions of staff time at the CFU, inputs from the regional components of the Forests, Trees and People Programme, expenditures by partners involved in the process, and many other elements. However, the expense is considered cost-effective by the CFU because of the quality of and demand for the end result. An external large-scale readership survey carried out for the CFU in 1998-99 indicated that the quality of publications which have gone through such a long process of consultation and stakeholder involvement is highly appreciated.

27. For the purpose of this review, the units with a more systematic approach to training are of particular interest, and Table 2 summarizes key features of training activities of 18 units and sub-programmes selected from these.

Table 2 - Selected RP-based Training Activities (1994-99)

Training
Objectives

Type of Support

Direct Training

Materials/Tools in RP

Training Policy/ Programme Advice

FAO Units Subjects

Methods

Trainees

Funding

Extent

Types

SKILL
TRANSFER
AGAH (2.1.3.6) EMPRES/PANVAC (Pan African Veterinary Vaccine Centre)

C

S, F

EB, RP

Min

N

 
AGSM (2.1.4.5, 2.1.4.6) Marketing, finance/credit

C, D

S, F

EB, RP

Maj

T,N

 
AGE (2.1.5) Nuclear isotope technology

C

S, F

EB

Min

N

 
ESNA (2.2.1.1) Food tables

C

S, T

RP, EB

Maj

N

 
ESNP (2.2.1.2) Nutrition education

C, P

T, S, F

EB, RP

Maj

N,T

 
ESNS (2.2.1.3) Food quality

C

T, S

EB, RP

Maj

N

 
ESSS (2.2.1.2) Statistical methods

C

T, S

EB, RP

Maj

N

 
SDRE (2.5.1.1) Training methodologies

P

T, S

RP, EB

Maj

N, T

Maj
FIRM (2.3.2.1) Marine resource assessment

C

T, S, F

EB

Maj

N

 
FIIU (2.3.3.2) Fish quality

C

T, S, F

EB

Maj

N

 
EMPOWERMENT AGLW (2.1.1.4) Irrigation users

C, P

F, P, T

EB, RP

Maj

N,T

 
AGPP (2.1.2.4) IPM (Integrated Pest Management)

P

T, F, P

EB,EB

Maj

T

Maj
ESNP (2.2.1.2) Household food security

P

T, F, P

EB

Maj

T

 
FONP (2.4.3.3) Community forestry

P

S, T, F

EB

Maj

T,N

Min
SDAR (2.5.3.2) Farmer participation/rural organisation

P

T, F, P

EB

Maj

T

 
SDRE (2.5.1.3) Development communication

P, D

T, F, P

EB

Maj

T

Min
SDRE (2.5.1.2) Participatory curriculum dev

P

T,S

RP

Maj

T,N

Maj
SDWW (2.5.2.1) SEAGA (Socio-Economic and Gender Analysis Programme)

P, D

T, F, P

EB

Maj

T

Maj
INSTITUTIONAL CAPACITY SDRE Extension, Education, Rural Youth and Communication

C, P, D

T, F

EB

Maj

T

Maj
TCAS Policy and Planning

P, C

T, S, F

EB

Maj

T

Maj

RP = Regular Programme C = classroom T = trainers Maj = major N = normative information products
EB = Extra-budgetary P = participatory S = specialists/administrators Min = minor T = training-oriented
D = distance learning F = field staff
P = producers

28. The following may be noted:

29. Training under the skill transfer category emphasizes the correct application of new technology, quality standards, and practical know-how on priority subjects under the respective technical programmes. Although the assistance given is not centred on institutions, often the training is expected to contribute to enhanced institutional capacity of the trainees' home organizations. The subjects covered are thus diverse, ranging from fields such as laboratory training on veterinary vaccines against transboundary diseases (2.1.3) and nuclear isotope technology (2.1.5), instructions on the use of micro-banking software (2.1.4) as well as food composition analysis and food quality standards (2.2.1) and statistical methods (2.2.2), to the application of resource assessment models for specific marine fishery resources (2.3.2).

Skill Transfer Training

30. Skill-transfer training is mostly geared towards government staff, decision-makers, planners and particularly technical specialists who are the "natural" partners for FAO in its work with Member Countries. Training is often given a priority as a key RP activity, particularly for development of materials for use in training. Good examples include AGSM (marketing and rural finance), ESN units (food composition, nutrition education and food quality standards), FIRM (fishery resources survey) and FIIU (fish quality assurance). While their training content are essentially technology-oriented, some units, such as AGSM and ESNP, have made efforts to incorporate didactic principles in their materials. The delivery of training itself is typically based on RP-funded programmes of annual or biannual training seminars and workshops (often regional, lasting for up to two weeks), but all rely heavily on field projects (including TCP) and other extra-budgetary resource arrangements for more amplified outreach. Examples of the latter include collaborative courses with universities as part of their curriculum (ESNA) and training programmes with IAEA (AGE). In the cases of FIRM and FIIU, actual training was carried out through the respective trust fund projects.

Text Box 2: Nutrition Training

In all three services of the Nutrition Division (ESN), training is as an important tool, covering four broad topics:

  • Food composition
  • Nutrition education for improving nutrition and for promoting an adequate utilization of available food
  • Household food security and nutrition planning
  • Food control and consumer protection

The training activities carried out, approaches developed and promoted, and target audiences differ among the units concerned.

Under the Nutrition Planning, Assessment and Evaluation Service (ESNA), the type of training conducted is skill transfer to specialists (nutritionists) and university students through formalised classroom courses conducted in partnership arrangements with universities. Training activities centred on guidelines for the preparation of food nomenclature, training courses on food composition tables and training materials on nutrient requirements.

The training is carried out as national workshops to create ownership of National Plans of Action, and regional and subregional follow-up workshops, usually in collaboration with WHO, to work out solutions to major impediments for successful implementation. This process has included the development and field-testing of guidelines on targeting, on implementation of plans of action and on policy guidance.

Under the Nutrition Programme Service (ESNP), the sub-group on Nutrition Education and Training has been very active in developing training materials and conducting training. Training is viewed as part of empowerment programmes targeting field level staff and communities. Training activities concentrate increasingly on the preparation of manuals, guidelines and other training materials. A major training activity conducted by the sub-group since 1996 is the preparation and use of Food Based Dietary Guidelines which have been presented through five regional and sub-regional workshops.
In the same unit, household food security and nutrition planning is another major area of training where most of the training activities are carried out through the Field Programme, which often provides the inputs for preparing guidelines and other training materials. In the field, hands-on training at local level with non-experts is the main type of training activity carried out and is generally part of a broader local level capacity building intervention. The approach to training can be described as "problem solving" in the sense that the identification of areas for training is carried out on the basis of people's perception of their problems using participatory methods. Because of the subject-matter area (nutrition in its broad sense), joint training, involving a variety of institutions, is promoted.

Under the Food Control and Consumer Protection Service (ESNS), training activities are an important part of both the Regular and Field Programmes. The target audience of these training activities is essentially food inspectors and food industry personnel. The training activities under the Field Programme mainly relate to capacity building in the area of food control. Under the Regular Programme, main outputs include workshops on food control procedures, a food quality control manual, courses in food inspection techniques, guidelines on workshops on risk analysis and assessment, workshops on mycotoxins and training courses on pesticide residues analysis.

Empowerment Training

31. Empowerment-type training activities have a strong focus on attitude development, self-management and group dynamics. Methodologically, this type of training incorporates many of the principles of non-formal or adult education, with the accent on learning for self-reliance and stakeholder participation, including in the identification of training needs and often also in the development of the training methods and curriculum. The main target trainees are trainers for training local producers, community leaders as well as professional and technical personnel (both public and non-public) working at the community level. The training aims at establishing or reinforcing technical competence at community level in specific areas (natural resource management and conservation, crop production and protection, fisheries resources management, etc.), including farmer's organizations to enhance their own organizational and technical capacities to participate in government development initiatives. Some training (SDAR) includes not only production or processing-oriented skills, but also budgeting and accounting practices, marketing schemes and basic principles of group organization and communication.

Institutional Capacity Building

32. Institutional capacity building is mentioned as an objective in many RP-based training activities. 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. In the context of this study, perhaps only two of the units engaged in training, SDRE and TCAS, can be considered to have given specific priority to supporting institutional capacity development of training institutions. Both units provide short-term support for this purpose by means of advice and training of specialists through regional seminars and workshops, while longer-term support to national training institutions is given primarily through field projects. In particular, SDRE has considerable experience in institutional support to institutions engaged in agricultural education, extension training and development communication. SDRE has also published several materials for systematic design and development of training programmes and curricula. The external assessment of training materials under this study found that they reflected the principles of non-formal education and learning approaches, suitable to serve as general reference sources. Similarly, TCAS has produced some training materials with didactic methods that are useful for training in general10.

Text Box 3:Partnerships

Collaboration with international organizations and institutes has been fairly common in FAO training activities, including both institutions engaged in human resource development and, more frequently, technical institutions. Institutions engaged in human resource development, in curricula development and preparation of training materials, as well as in direct training, include:

- AGSM (GTZ - also developing an internet-based knowledge bank/data base)
- SDW/SEAGA (ILO/World Bank/UNDP)
- ESNP (International Life Science Institute)
- FONP (Pan-African Institute for Development and Regional Community Forestry Training Centre - RECOFT)
- IPM (University of Wageningen, IRRI, and Centre for Agricultural and Biosciences Institute - CABI)

Collaboration with "technical" institutions:

- AGE (IAEA, CGIAR centres, OAU)
- ESN (University of Wageningen, Asian Vegetable Research Development Centre, WHO, PAHO)
- SDRE (UNDP, UNESCO, UNFPA, UNICEF).

Another type of partnership has been with national institutions of developing countries, especially through regional or inter-regional networks:

- AGPP (IPM in Asia)
- AGSM (rural finance/microbanker and food marketing)
- FIIU (fish inspection and quality assurance)
- SDWW (SEAGA)

TRAINING ACTIVITIES UNDER THE FIELD PROGRAMME

33. During the period under review, some 350 projects, including 173 TCP projects, are estimated to have had a significant training component (see paragraph 14 above for definition). These projects represent approximately 10 % of the total projects operated by FAO during this period. Table 3 shows their distribution by types of funding, geographical regions and FAO's main technical disciplines. 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 the Pacific region than in Africa, and there tend to be relatively more projects in areas falling under the Major Programme on Sustainable Development than under the MP on Forestry.

Table 3: Field Projects with Major Training Component (number of ongoing projects in 1994-99)

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%

 

34. In these projects, training was a major component, designed specifically to achieve the project's 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 national and decentralized levels. In these cases, the training component also included the advancement of management-related skills, attitudes and values at local level in order to support the active participation of the communities in the development processes.

35. 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.

36. 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. The training methods also varied, from classroom lectures to tutoring and learning by doing and farmer-to-farmer extension methods. Participatory approaches were also quite prevalent, particularly among projects that focused on a broad thematic agenda (sustainable community development, gender, natural resource management, etc.).

37. 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%). The major destinations were institutions in Europe (30) and North America (22%), although significant groups also went to institutions in Asia and the Pacific countries (18%) and African countries (13%). The fellows from European countries were most likely to be trained within the region (89%) while this was least likely for fellows from the Asian and the Pacific countries (27%). In terms of technical fields, the largest numbers were in sub-sectors of crop (20%) and forestry (19%). There are no systematic data on the results of fellowship training.

38. 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.

39. A desk review of 32 evaluations of projects (14 funded by UNDP, 18 by TF donors) with a significant training component11 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.

40. 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. Sometimes, training also included community leaders and producers, but as a secondary priority in establishing improved service or outreach systems. Many were inter-regional (5) or regional (5) projects with particular emphasis on training the trainers, and often also including the aim of promoting cooperation among the participating national institutions;
  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-to-farmer extension. Many of these projects had a general aim of introducing participatory approaches to community and rural development actions;
  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.

SUMMARY ASSESSMENTS

A. REGULAR PROGRAMME AND HEADQUARTERS-BASED ACTIVITIES

41. 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.

42. Skill-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.

43. 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 potentials of particular target trainees. For example, the IPM's Farmer Field School 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.

44. Some of the training activities under this category have left a visible influence. The Farmer Field School (FFS) approach, for example, has influenced training approaches used in FAO, such as AGLW's approach for training water users associations, 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.

45. While training for capacity building has been pursued mainly through field projects, under the RP, the Multilateral Trade Negotiations Resource Manual (whose production by eight Divisions was managed by TCAS as background material for 14 workshops covering 160 countries world-wide) has been quoted by several countries as having strengthened their country's capacity to deal with international trade issues, particularly vis--vis WTO negotiations.

B. FIELD PROJECTS

46. The following assessments are based upon the desk review of the 32 evaluations of projects with a significant training component referred to in paragraph 39 above.

47. 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 projects12, especially when trying to cover simultaneously the training of government service agents and farmers and producers. In some cases, the training tools and materials used for different categories of trainees were found not appropriate for the needs of different types of trainees: for example, in one project there was a contradiction between a participatory extension approach being newly promoted and the top-down research-extension-farmer approach continued within the government agencies concerned. Another difficulty, often experienced by these projects was how to ensure appropriate balance between participatory methods and technology transfer aspects in training.

48. 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: instead, the content and structure of training programmes and curricula were determined by the project experts' judgement as to what it required to achieve the project's objective. 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 the course were made in some cases.

49. Evaluations gauged favourably the outputs of on-the-job training of the staff of counterpart national institutions, 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 projects13 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 fellows' 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 training 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.

50. 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 (such as through more participatory methods for field agents and local producers). As such, training under such projects tended to be more multi-faceted and challenging, including training of farmer trainers for farmer-to-farmer extension. An assessment of the results of farmer training tended to be less optimistic than counterpart training under type A projects - some 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).

51. Type C projects14 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 the existing institutions (secondary agricultural technical schools - CPR/91/112) on one hand, and establishing a new one (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.

52. 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 efforts in FAO. Some 60% of the sample projects produced a substantial amount of training materials, although their quality varied significantly. However, 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. Examples include several under the marketing and agri-business management series (published by AGS) and two guides on nutrition training (ESN).

C. SURVEY ON PRIORITIES, RELEVANCE AND QUALITY OF TRAINING

53. 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.

54. 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.

55. The results indicate a generally positive appreciation of FAO training activities.

Table 4: Sources of training assistance - Are other organizations better or worse sources of training assistance than FAO for the following subject matter areas?

  Number of Responses Percentage share
  Other best sources Others and FAO the same FAO best source Total No. of assessed cases Other best sources Others and FAO the same FAO best source
Food and nutrition

3

12

48

63

55

19%

76%

Plant pests

7

15

31

53

13%

28%

58%

Statistics and farming systems

3

23

32

58

5%

40%

55%

Inland fisheries

8

22

22

52

15%

42%

42%

Forestry

6

28

23

57

11%

49%

40%

Land and water

12

20

21

53

23%

38%

40%

Marine fisheries

7

24

20

51

14%

47%

39%

Crops

8

23

18

49

16%

47%

37%

Genetic resources

5

30

19

54

9%

56%

35%

Rural development

13

25

20

58

22%

43%

34%

International agricultural trade

13

22

17

52

25%

42%

33%

Livestock

8

27

16

51

16%

53%

31%

Animal health

10

25

14

49

20%

51%

29%

Institutions (education/extension)

13

36

15

64

20%

56%

23%

Marketing and rural finance

15

27

10

52

29%

52%

19%

56. FAO was rated by more than two-thirds of responses 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 subject 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 was scored as best source only by about 20% of the countries.

Table 5: Source of training assistance - Are other organizations better or worse sources of training assistance than FAO for the following areas?

 

Number of Responses

Percentage share

Other best sources

Others and FAO the same

FAO best source

Total number of assessed cases

Other best sources

Others and FAO the same

FAO best source

Advice of training approaches and issues at national and regional levels

10

42

31

83

12%

51%

37%

Technical/skill training

16

43

27

86

19%

50%

31%

Information and publications on training methodologies and approaches

3

37

43

83

4%

45%

52%

Assistance in strengthening institutional capacity of particular organization/programme

17

36

32

85

20%

42%

38%

57. For all four training 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".

Table 6: Features of FAO Training Support - What are the strongest and weakest features of FAO training support to your country?

 

Number of Responses

Percentage share

Very Satisfactory

Satisfactory

Less Satisfactory

Number of assessed cases

Very Satisfactory

Satisfactory

Less Satisfactory

Degree to which training is focused on topics and problems assigned priority in country 34 48 4 86 40% 56% 5%
Relevance of actual training topics to country's needs 29 52 3 84 35% 62% 4%
Responsiveness and efficiency of FAO's provision of training activities 29 44 13 86 34% 51% 15%
Extent to which FAO is able to draw on its particular technical competence and multidisciplinary strengths 30 44 11 85 35% 52% 13%
Quality of training outputs in terms of technical soundness and practical relevance to the trainees' situation 31 47 4 82 38% 57% 5%
Comprehensiveness, in particular, the extent to which key concerns including gender, environmental and poverty implications are included 30 44 8 82 37% 54% 10%
Other 1 2 0 3 33% 67% 0%

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

C. QUALITY OF SELECTED TRAINING MATERIALS

59. A sample of 83 training materials produced in FAO since 1994 was assessed by the International Agricultural Centre at the University of Wageningen 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.

Table 7 : Assessment of Selected Training Materials

Categories Training documents Audience Training Methodology Presentation
% of total No audience identified various options specific approach novel approach good lay-out consistency
Didactic

28%

23

18

11

8

13

20

18

Reference

39%

32

20

5

18

9

17

23

Background

33%

28

18

1

16

7

2

17

Total  

83

56

17

42

29

39

58

as % of sample

n.a.

67%

21%

52%

35%

47%

70%

60. 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 of the subject matter. 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) were focusing on a relatively novel approach or provided various methodological options (11) for the learning progress.

61. 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). 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.

62. 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 were not included in close to half of the cases (14). Of greater concern however were the poor lay-outs (26), routine presentations (21) and the lack of consistency (11) found in the majority of these texts.

63. 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 according to some interviewees such collaboration seems stronger in the field.

CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

CONCLUSIONS

A.1 Institutional Framework for Training in FAO

64. Training is a means of action 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, given the prevalence of this means of action, the review found that the institutional framework to support it 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.

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

Pedagogy: The review concluded that pedagogy was not given sufficient importance by the Organization and that this was evidenced by 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 which have education and extension as their mandate, most technical staff have little or no training and didactic expertise.

Institutional Focal Point: The absence of a designated focal point with an information and feedback function on training has also contributed to the relative neglect of pedagogical issues in the design of training courses and materials. While exchange of training experiences takes places through informal networks, inter-unit cooperation and exchange on training activities is not strongly developed, and many training events are developed in relative isolation. Although the Extension, Education and Communication Service (SDRE) has been fostering interdisciplinarity and partnerships on training, this has been of an informal nature and much limited by staff and resource constraints. Many staff involved in training felt a need for having 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 as a Means of Action: 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 can risk to be 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 the field of training.

A.2 Relevance and Adequacy of Training

65. 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.

66. 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.

67. 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 (professional and technical staff under RP training, and coverage of government staff, NGOs, community leaders and producers) appears appropriate in the context of their training activities. However, trainees nominated by collaborating institutions do not always possess the right qualifications and some of the trainees, once trained, are promoted and move to another job. Follow-up support is necessary but seldom organized by national governments and/or the institutions.

68. 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.

69. 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 underlined in the external assessment of the sample of training materials, which showed that while their technical content was often found sound, only one-third was 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.

70. 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 education15. In many cases, technical staff are hesitant to go beyond the preparation of technical outputs because of their insufficient command of training methodologies.

71. 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 RP, where material development was the key focus. At the same time, the FP also provided opportunities for testing and refining the content and manner of training initiated under the RP. 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.

A.3 Overall Effectiveness

72. Despite some methodological, mainly pedagogical, shortcomings, FAO training activities have proven their effectiveness on a number of occasions. Many skill-transfer training activities, such as on fish quality assurance, micro-banker software and agricultural statistics, 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 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.

73. In this regard, it was noted that funding constraints often hamper planning and organization of training in a systematic fashion, resulting in many training activities being on an ad-hoc basis, 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 (for example, the SADC Forest Industries Training Centre had no adequate provisions in this respect).

74. 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.

RECOMMENDATIONS

75. 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 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, which have tended to use training for a range of communication and extension purposes (some being marginal to the definition of training used in this study), 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 the key publications.

76. The publication of such guiding principles would need to be accompanied by the designation of a support unit (or focal point) to assist the staff in the application of training principles and methodologies in their own training activities. Similarly, there would be a need for staff training on training principles and methods (see paragraph 79 below).

77. 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 Organization's programming process, and greater consideration be given to a coordinated approach for planning and implementation of training through inter-departmental mechanisms.

78. Establishing a System of Monitoring and Follow-up on Training - Learning and Accountability. FAO needs to (re-)establish an operational and up-to-date database on its own training activities - including on-the-job counterpart training - in order to facilitable accountability, and also to build its institutional memory on training. 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 which 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 on-going 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 System - FPMIS) being developed by TCOM .

79. 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.

80. FAO should also strengthen the efforts to make best use of distance learning (DL) approaches and build on partnerships with other institutions on this subject. A good deal of knowledge resources already exists 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.

81. Institutional Reinforcement for Training Expertise and Learning. The key recommendations here cover:

82. It would be desirable that, if the recommendation on the preparation of a "guiding principles for training" is accepted, the lead for this work and support for its use in the House be also 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 role - in consultation with the proposed FAO trainers network - because 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.

83. Improving the Design and Management of Training Activities. This is a broad area where need for improvements is most apparent. The following includes general suggestions:


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

2 A questionnaire-based reporting system on FAO training activities (Regular and Field Programmes) used to be managed by the then Agricultural Education and Extension Service (ESHE), but was discontinued in the early 1990s.

3 However, it should be noted that the new Field Programme Management Information System (FPMIS) developed by TCOM has been designed with a means of capturing such data for field projects.

4 In the literature, a four-tiered model of training evaluation is widely accepted. The first level of training evaluation is based on assessing the participants' feelings and opinions following the training. This can be measured by administering an instrument to assess the trainees' satisfaction with the training. The second level of training evaluation assesses whether the participants gained knowledge or skills from the training. This is a more objective measure ranging from simple knowledge tests to complex skill demonstration exercises. The third level of evaluation is based on assessing whether new skills and knowledge are applied on the job, while the fourth level of evaluation is the outcome evaluation, intended to determine whether the training is affecting desired outcomes, such as organizational performance. Within FAO, even where M&E has been applied to training activities, evaluations mostly remain at the first level.

5 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.

6 Field projects were identified as containing substantial training component by two criteria: TCP projects are routinely classified by TCOT into several functional categories, including training, while other projects (UNDP/GCP/UTF funded) have been classified on the basis of training budget size (50% or more of the total project budget).

7 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.

8 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.

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

10 It should be mentioned that other technical units, such as AGSM, have given specific technical assistance to selected institutions over a long period, often within the framework of networks, and have thus achieved a certain amount of institutional strengthening.

11 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.

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

13 Type A: Training with focus on government orpublic institutions and staff.

14 Type C: Training to support training institutions.

15 There are only eight officers in FAO technical units with a formal training designation. Four of them are field officers (three in the IPM programme), while four are in HQ (two in SDRE, one in SDWW, one in AGPS). FORC is in the process of recruiting a Training Officer, and some units have technical officers designated training focal points.