Rapid advances in global knowledge economy are increasing the complexity of the challenge on least skilled workforce in Africa because the workforce requirements demand for innovativeness, flexibility and adaptiveness. In fact, the Fourth Industrial Revolution is creating unprecedented disruptions with the dramatic evolution of technological trends that are reshaping lives for millions of people around the world. Adapting to the demands and rapid transitions created by the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) requires adaptive workforce, multi-talented and skilled labor for the future.
It is against this background that as part of the capacity development of Agricultural Extension and Advisory Services (AEAS) initiative, the African Forum for Agricultural Advisory Services (AFAAS) is partnering with the Commonwealth of Learning (COL) in identifying training topics, design courses and organize marketing and delivery mechanism by utilizing the Agricultural Massive Open Online Courses (AgMOOCs) to equip extension workers with skills through online and e-learning tools. This is also responding, on how best AEAS can adapt in the wake of the COVID-19 global pandemic, which has negatively affected extension work globally and other emerging food systems demands.
The partnership seeks to implement capacity strengthening interventions for extension professionals in Africa and identify training topics using the AgMOOCs in a bid to raise awareness and enhance capacity about the importance of the AgMOOCS in building the capacity of extension personnel in Africa.
As part of the partnership, AFAAS and COL organized a webinar on Friday 28th May 2021. In this webinar, Dr Venkataraman Balaji the President of Commonwealth of learning, in his opening remarks, expressed gratitude about the partnership with AFAAS to boost the skills of extension workers. He said that Innovations like the Agricultural Massive Open Online Courses (AgMOOCS) are at the center of transforming opportunities into possible realities that are beneficial, considering that there is a gap in Agricultural extension that needs to be fulfilled.
Dr. Nahdy Silim, the Executive Director of AFAAS, was pleased to welcome the workshop participants and reiterate the importance of this partnership. He said that Agricultural extension and advisory services (AEAS) systems play an indispensable role at the frontline of the response to the COVID19 pandemic in rural areas, providing timely information to farmers.
Good Agricultural Extension and Advisory Services are essential to reduce the negative impacts on food security and rural livelihoods. But they need to rapidly speed up their change to a more pluralistic and participatory way of working, harnessing private, public and civil society to address needs along the full agricultural value chain. This partnership with COL presents an opportunity for building strong platforms of learning and engagement open to all stakeholders especially Agriculture Extension workers. He was mainly pleased with the fact that the courses can be tailored made to meet the needs of the extension workers.
Despite the challenge brought by the pandemic, COIVID-19 has had a silver lining presented in form of this partnership with the Commonwealth of Learning. An opportunity for online learning on Agricultural Massive Open Online Courses (AgMOOCS) for Agriculture Extension Advisory Services practitioners — Dr. Silim Nahdy, Executive Director AFAAS
The presenters, Dr Moses Tenywa, Dr. David Porter, Dr Cristina Petracchi all agreed that skills are a vital conduit for success and realising returns on investment on education (formal and informal) from individual, organizationsl to societal level. One’s productivity and adaptability to new and emerging technologies, as well as opportunities is determined by his/her skills base. Therefore, investing in fundamental skills affords a win-win for all as the potential for enhancing productivity, promoting greater inclusion, and ensuring the adaptability of the workforce to the markets in the present and future could be strengthened.
Among some of the advantages for e-learning cited during the breakout sessions were: Many African Countries had established Ministries focusing on Science, Technology and Innovation which can be leveraged on to influence policy. Also funding towards technology especially access to Internet is now a priority for many Governments. However, despite all these advantages, the cost of internet still remains high and access in rural areas where most extension workers are based in, remains a challenge. In addition, MOOCs seem not popular, hence, need massive awareness creation and engagement with stakeholders for wider use.
For African countries to achieve greater efficiency and better outcomes in skills-building that deliver both productivity growth and skills for today’s workforce and tomorrow’s labor market expectation, partnerships Such as there are a way to start achieving this continental goal.
Download the presentations here