There is now considerable interest among international development organizations and practitioners in agriculture programming and policy to improve nutrition. This discussion is an opportunity to review the substantial international dialogue on improving nutrition through food and agriculture, to identify the research gaps and to distil and prioritize the actions needed at country-level.
My name is Jean Balié, I am an Economist with the Agricultural Development Economics Division (ESA) in FAO and at present, I’m working on a new project, called Monitoring African Food and Agricultural Policies (MAFAP) jointly implemented by FAO and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The aim of the project is to facilitate policy dialogue based on a sound and analytical monitoring system to promote more informed decision-making at the national, regional and international levels.
Responses to food insecurity and malnutrition in emergencies have expanded dramatically in the past 5-10 years and improved needs assessment has increased willingness of donors to fund new alternatives to general food distribution and targeted feeding programs. However, the analytical process required to make intelligent choices among these new options has not always kept up. How can this process be improved?
Uganda has only 1600 extension workers mandated to serve 4,000, 000 million farmer households in Uganda giving a ratio of 1: 2500 farmer households.
The rural nature of most farms remains a challenge to graduate and fresh extension workers from college as these fresh professionals often prefer enjoying the trappings of peri-urban life.
How do we crack this state of affairs? Do we leave solutions to policy makers and technocrats? Do we call for reinstatement and restoration of regional district farm demonstrations and stock farms?
A solution may perhaps lie in a stronger role of the private sector such as engaging in public –private partnerships and embracing technology. There is a pool of Extension Link farmers that were in late 1990’s trained by Uganda National Farmers Federation all over Uganda. Mobile phones technology can be used to complement extension efforts. Could such a model bring down the current expansive farmer-extension worker ratio and abridge the current information gap at the farm level?