Mongolia’s agricultural research and extension system, in review
Modern, efficient food and agricultural systems can boost productivity and competitiveness, helping to improve rural livelihoods and incomes.
Building such systems requires agricultural innovation, investment and well-informed and skilled farmers, workers, processors and other stakeholders along the value chain.
A new FAO study titled Mongolia: a review of the agricultural research and extension system takes an in-depth look at the country’s agricultural advisory services, past and present, and identifies key constraints as well as opportunities.
The study, commissioned by the World Bank through its cooperative programme with FAO, is part of a larger World Bank/FAO-supported review of Mongolia’s agriculture sector.
The review is designed to provide the Government with practical recommendations for increasing the sector’s contribution to Mongolia’s socio-economic development.
It is also expected “to enhance the Bank’s and other development partners’ understanding of Mongolia’s agriculture sector and policy environment in order to develop good programmes that support the country’s strategic priorities,” said Delgermaa Chuluunbaatar, an FAO agricultural extension officer and principle author of the research and extension study.
Sustainable agricultural development a national priority
More than any other sector, agriculture has the potential to reduce poverty and drive economic growth in rural areas.
In Mongolia, which saw its poverty rate drop from 38.8 percent in 2010 to 21.6 percent in 2014, agriculture is the third largest contributor to the country’s gross domestic product and employs roughly 29 percent of the population. Livestock activities, in particular, account for about 8.5 of every 10 jobs in rural areas.
Given this importance, sustainable agricultural development has become a national priority. But there are challenges.
When Mongolia transitioned from a centrally planned economy to a market economy in the 1990s, the old top-down agricultural technology transfer system collapsed. It was replaced by free competition for information and technology and a demand for better production systems.
The country’s existing agricultural research and extension system, however, struggles from a lack of governance, limited capacity and underinvestment. The number of inexperienced and less knowledgeable farmers has increased, and linkages between agricultural researchers and farmers have weakened.
According to the study, the Government can strengthen advisory services by increasing long-term public investment in research and extension, and by creating an enabling policy environment that promotes agricultural innovation and provides incentives for private sector investment.
One important step would be to develop a national strategic framework and investment plan for an agricultural innovation system (AIS), setting up AIS networks to strengthen collaboration among research institutes, extension agents, non-governmental organizations and the private sector.
Recognizing farmers as innovators is also crucial, as is involving them in decision-making processes to ensure that research and extension services respond to their actual needs and demands.
In a vast country like Mongolia, making sure farming communities, especially the poorest and most remote, can access and benefit from the latest agricultural information, technologies and innovations can be difficult.
But the study found that most rural producers in Mongolia get their information from television – a largely unused tool for getting regular agricultural extension messages out to a wider public.
“Herders around the country use solar-powered satellite TV with many channels and are often well-informed,” said Kevin Gallagher, FAO Representative in Mongolia.
“Outreach by experts is still required and we still face huge challenges, but this study makes a strong case for how media use should definitely be part of the solution for reaching out to large numbers of herder families in distant locations.”
Photo Credit: (c) FAO/S.Gallagher