Twenty-seventh FAO Regional Conference for the Near East

Doha, Qatar, 13 - 17 March 2004

Promoting Agricultural Research and Extension for Sustainable Development in the Near East: Framework for Action

Table of Contents




1. We, the participants of the FAO Regional Workshop on “Institutional Needs Assessment for Agricultural Research, Technology Development and Extension in the Near East Region”, hosted by the National Centre for Agricultural Research and Technology Transfer (NCARTT), held from 29 to 31 May 2002 in Amman, Jordan:

concerned that agriculture in the Region has not been able to meet increasing demand for food and agricultural products with the result that the Region continues to be the largest net food importer among developing regions;

alarmed that more than 60 percent of the population of the Region lives in rural areas and depends on agriculture for livelihood and that 29 percent of the Region’s population lives on less than two dollars a day;

aware that opportunities for expanding cultivated area in the Region are minimal and that much of the hope for achieving higher levels of food security is pinned on new technologies, better farm practices, favourable government policies, and more rational water and land use;

confident of the valuable contribution to agricultural production and food security in the Region that could be made through strengthened national agricultural research and extension systems;

present this Framework for Action for the consideration and action of governments, donors, regional and international development organizations and other stakeholders; and

strongly appeal for their renewed interest in and support for agricultural research and extension in the Region.


A. Background

2. This Framework for Action is based on four studies, commissioned during 2002 by FAO Regional Office and the Research, Extension and Training Division on the needs, constraints and opportunities, as related to areas of agricultural research, extension and technology development in the Near East Region. The findings of the four studies are consolidated into a Framework for Action that is intended as an interactive and collaborative undertaking for national, sub-regional and regional actions. It highlights global forces that are shaping-up political and institutional arrangements for research and extension world-wide; analyses specific constraints and challenges facing agricultural research and extension institutions in the Region; and describes measures for future action, in an effort to reform and develop research, extension and technology transfer for sustainable development and food security. It is hoped that this Framework would offer a concrete basis for actions to be undertaken by countries of the Region, by FAO and other international organisations, as well as interested donors and other stakeholders. The major part of the recommendations is referred to the FAO with the view of it assisting in mobilising support and extra-budgetary resources for their implementation.

B. General Considerations

3. The Framework is influenced by several factors, which together reinforce the need for renewed and concerted efforts in reviving support for agricultural research and extension in the Region at the national and regional levels. These factors include: The Region’s inability to feed itself; some 29% of the region’s population lives on less than two dollars a day; weak research and extension institutions; slow adoption of new technologies, and pressure of global forces on research and extension institutions world-wide, among them: privatisation, science and technology development and the concern for the environment.

C. Elements for Action

4. The role of governments, FAO and other relevant international and regional organizations in promoting agricultural research and extension in the region could best be seen in the context of the following main thrusts:

5. The Framework for Action deals with four interrelated areas namely, research, extension, technology and functional linkages among them and with policy makers and farmers. The Framework offers a wide range of analysis and elements for action in each of these four areas.

D. Agricultural Research

6. The framework noted that national agricultural institutions can no longer take continued support for granted and they need to improve their approaches and operations. Equally, governments and donors should double their efforts to promote agricultural research as a long-term measure for food security and sustainable use of natural resources. Furthermore, FAO and other international development organizations have a special responsibility to assist in this process. It further identifies the following areas of action:

E. Agricultural Technology

7. With Reference to agricultural technology, the framework noted that to fully enter the technology domain of the 21st century, a national research policy has to be adopted that refers specifically to new technological developments. Private sector participation is almost non-existent although marketing of agricultural inputs has been mostly transferred to private sector. Recently private sector consulting firms have been encouraged to provide services in agricultural development, often in partnership with foreign firms. The process for identification of national technology requirements needs to be streamlined including the determination of overall national priorities in the agricultural sector, resource utilisation in selected zones to optimise farmers’ net income, and identify technology requirements for each agro-ecological zone for selected commodities and crop rotations, and different categories of farmers.

8. Regional organizations dealing with agricultural development can play an important role in the technology identification and adoption process especially through sharing of experiences under similar conditions. Research oriented organizations can be especially effective by helping generate improved technology specific to the conditions prevailing in several countries of the region. FAO has the mandate and in-house capability to provide assistance to member countries to review and strengthen the process in their countries. Other relevant agencies already involved in the process are UNDP and the World Bank who identify and/or implement projects in various countries to stimulate technology identification and adoption for agricultural development. In addition, donor agencies from several developed countries have regular programs to assist the developing countries in promoting technology identification and adoption through various channels.

9. The Framework identified a number of areas for action including:

F. Agricultural Extension

10. Regarding agricultural extension, the frame work noted that a first step in making agricultural extension successful is developing by governments, a clear-cut mission for extension, stating what the scope is to be, whom it is to serve, what the expected outcomes are to be, and how it will be evaluated.

11. A number of strategies for agricultural extension reform have been implemented in a broad range of countries, in high-income, middle-income and low-income countries. The very variety of reform measures suggests that there is no blueprint for reform of extension. There are several options for reform, but in the “who pays, who delivers” category, it appears that pluralistic partnerships with the private sector to provide delivery of extension services with financial support from the public sector is a potentially positive path to explore.

12. Viable extension is crucial to the development of agriculture, rural poverty alleviation and enhanced food security. Therefore serious efforts should be made by countries in the region to strengthen their extension systems. Although the main responsibility to enable extension systems falls on governments in the Region, the role of donors and their contribution to extension reform and development should not be overlooked. There is no international agricultural extension organization comparable to the research network provided by CGIAR and its IARCs that serve National Agricultural Research Systems (NARS) in the developing countries. Some form of international extension clearinghouse and global networking entity is needed.

13. There is at present no regional study of agricultural extension services in the Near East region as a whole. A regional perspective is long overdue. There is not even a compendium, much less a compilation, of case studies indicating the problems and trends of extension in the 29 countries in the Near East region.

14. The framework identified a number of areas for action including:

G. Functional Linkages

15. In considering agricultural research and extension linkages, the framework noted that the functional linkages between agricultural research institutes and extension on one hand and policy makers and farmers on the other, are vital for the development and dissemination of technologies. There is no single formula for effective links between agricultural research and technology transfer institutions. To establish effective and sustainable linkages between the two, there is a need for careful analysis of the constraints and opportunities present in their particular situation.

16. There have been numerous attempts to strengthen links between research and extension including actual merger of the two in one institution or programme. The purpose of such merger is to introduce greater efficiency and facilitate better communication and collaboration between them. Successful linking of research and extension is highly dependent on research and technology transfer sharing a common, sharply focused area of concern, be it a specific commodity, region or problem.

17. In many Near East countries research results are either inadequate or do not reach the end-users at all or in a timely fashion, and more often than not, they involve inputs that are unavailable or unaffordable to the end-user. Technical backstopping of other specialised divisions of ministries of agriculture and other institutions (including national universities) relevant to agricultural extension work at the field level is weak and often lacking altogether.

18. Evidently, due to the complexity of linking research and extension, managers are more likely to use a combination of mechanisms to suit specific situations rather than relying on one single formula. Whatever the formal arrangement is, positive informal relationships between research and extension personnel are what make linkages effective. Additionally, linkages with universities need to be strengthened.

19. The framework has identified a number of areas for action including:

H. Recommended Actions

20. Member Countries are called upon to:

21. FAO and other relevant International Organizations are called upon to:

1 The Framework for Action is based on four studies commissioned by the FAO Regional Office for the Near East (RNE) and the FAO Research, Extension and Training Division (SDR). It was discussed and endorsed, as amended, by leaders of agricultural research and extension participating in the FAO Regional Workshop on Institutional Needs Assessment for Agricultural Research, Technology Development and Extension in the NE, held from 29 to 31 May 2002 in Amman, Jordan. This paper is a summarized version of the original document.