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6. Conclusion

From the survey it is concluded that some agricultural colleges offer very limited tree seed education while for most of them there is no tree seed education at all. It is also clear that foresters, who are well conversant with tree seed knowledge, are not directly involved with farmers and therefore there is no possibility that farmers can benefit from their knowledge. Although there are national tree seed centres in the three east African countries, it is apparent that there are limited linkages between these centres and farmers; hence tree seed information does not reach the farmers. A range of more locally centred options to tree seed supply is currently being considered (see curriculum proposal). Training of agricultural extension officers in tree seed will serve the needs of countries (tree planting) better than the current state of affairs.

The tree seed curriculum is based on needs identified by farmers and confirmed by students and lecturers at agricultural colleges. Providing tree seed education is expected to support intensification of tree farming which would lead to:

7. Tree seed curriculum modules

7.1 Curriculum synopsis

The tree seed curriculum will cover three main areas:

7.2 Justification and objectives of a tree seed curriculum

Farms and natural forests are shrinking while population and demand for food and tree products are increasing. This has resulted in speeding up planting of multipurpose trees on farmland. The demand for planting materials has increased without matching the supply. Agricultural technicians and extension officers are unable to support farmers with tree seed knowledge because their education excluded this kind of knowledge. Further intensification of tree planting requires that a strategic decision be made to incorporate tree seed education into the curricula of agricultural colleges. This will ensure that college graduates, who are often later employed as extension personnel (in all sectors: private, government, NGO), will be able to train and advise farmers on tree seed issues. Tree seed education can help to increase farm productivity and thereby improve natural resource conservation.

The overriding objective is to support the intensification of tree cultivation by farmers. At the end of the proposed modules students should be able to:

7.3 Choosing and sequencing topics

Staff, students and extension officers met during the survey identified the topics included in the proposed modules. Sequencing of topics is based on the knowledge that preceding modules are pre-requisites for the subsequent topics. In other words, modules with the content that is applied in other modules are covered first. Therefore, it would be best to follow the sequence of module (codes) in teaching even in the case of short courses.

7.4 Selection of materials and methods

Most of the agricultural colleges visited do not have basic resources needed for implementation of these modules. These include staff capacity (short courses of up to three months will be needed), literature availability1 and facilities especially for enhancing hands-on skills for students (laboratories, nurseries and transport to reach farmers and work with them). Teaching methods would be based on lectures, field and laboratory practicals and group discussions. However, at certificate level the modules should be more practical (40 percent theory and 60 percent practical) than at diploma level (50 percent theory and 50 percent practical). Use of slides, overhead projectors and videos is also recommended.

8. Implementation challenges

The major constraint facing tree seed teaching in the agricultural colleges visited is the fact that there is no policy for supporting tree seed education as a compulsory subject. This should be addressed by ministries responsible for agriculture and forestry. Affirmative decisions would have to be accompanied by funding commitments

FAO and ANAFE can play major roles in building up the capacity of lecturers, further elaboration of the curricula, development of educational materials and mentoring of colleges. Governments and funding agencies should give priority to funding all aspects of tree seed education if the dream of sustaining agricultural productivity and enhancing the environment is to be realised.

1 There are two aspects to this: References and extension manuals for tree seed biology, seed production, collection and handling (e.g. TS2, TS3, TS4) for both forest plantation and on-farm seed handling, are published. However, a combination of factors means that colleges often do not have access (cost), or have not received (are not on extension manual distribution lists) those publications that do exist. DFSC/FAO, recognizing this gap, have embarked on an effort to collate those existing tree seed materials that do exist on to a CD and web format for distribution to projects and colleges. The web site of this activity may be accessed on: Guide to forest reproductive material

The second aspect is that there are virtually no teaching or extension materials yet available on the social and economic aspects of tree seed handling, or that incorporate local knowledge (TS1, TS6). ICRAF's forthcoming: Tree seeds for farmers. A toolkit and reference source could be usefully consulted to support these aspects of the formal education curriculum.

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