‘’Agricultural transformation is a priority in the policy agenda of African governments in their quest to meet the challenges of food and nutrition insecurity, climate change, youth unemployment and overall economic growth. With the right policies, innovation and investment, the continent’s agriculture could be transformed into a powerhouse not only to feed a growing population but to create decent employment for millions of young people’’.
AFAAS, as the Extension wing of the African Union (AU) is doing its best to align its strategy with AU by promoting digitalization of agriculture, mainly through the Development for Agricultural Extension Advisory Services (D4AEAS). Since 2019 with the COVID-19 pandemic, AFAAS has felt the urgent need to develop a digitalization strategy for Agricultural Extension Advisory Services (AEAS). Country fora are running different initiatives in that framework and AFAAS is fully supporting them i.e. the 2021 Hackathon challenge, small grants for mapping, Capacity building for extension workers, Researchers , use of innovation tools i.e. video production for farmers.
In the bid to deliver extension services to the small holder farmers amidst challenges like low number of extension agents in Africa, Climate change, Emergency of new pests and diseases, loss of biodiversity, unfavorable market prices, In adequate financial resources in Reaching the last mile, the AFAAS ICT-KM unit organized a video training for farmers to capacitate Agricultural stakeholders on creating impact videos for farmers and be able to share knowledge to a bigger number of farmers by using videos as a tool for extension service delivery in Malawi.
This was during the Malawi Forum for Agricultural Advisory Service Farming and Extension Conference that was held between 19th- 22nd of July 2022 in Lilongwe-Malawi under the theme, ‘Repositioning Delivery of Agricultural Advisory Services to better Contribute to Agriculture Development in Malawi within the context of Agenda 2030.”
Dr Masankho Bulilani, Director of Agriculture Services in the ministry of Agriculture Malawi, during the official opening of the MaFAAS conference stressed that a vibrant extension service tailored to the needs of farmers is key to achieving agriculture productivity and commercialization. “In relation to pandemics, COVID- 19 disrupted extension and advisory services hence the need to find innovative ways for E-extension platforms and move away from usual ways. The use of E-extension is a great way to reach out to the youth which form a large proportion of the population.” He said.
During the Video training, the stakeholders, were taken through the basics of shooting videos using mobile phones by Ms. Govati Natalie, a multimedia specialist as well as impacts of well documented videos for farmers, and steps taken before going to the field. the trainees were then later ushered to Horizon Farming Limited, one of Malawi’s anchor farms just outside the capital city of Lilongwe to implement the skills and knowledge gained during the training. The farm empowers over 10,000 farmers yearly with focus to thematic agricultural areas like value addition, Horticulture, Drip Irrigation, Innovation etc.
Mr. Blessing Flao, the Regional representative for Access Agriculture for southern Africa shared their experiences with the trainees on shooting videos and encouraged the stakeholders not to not give up since video production isn’t a one-day thing.
“We are glad AFAAS has taken the initiative to skill the extension workers and other stakeholders on using videos as a tool for extension service delivery. I urge all the extension workers here to put this in action and continue to create impact to a wide number of farmers through this approach” he said.
The trainees emphasized the need for financial resources to enable them access the right equipment and also capacitate other extension workers country wide in order to achieve a digitalized a agricultural economy in Malawi.Participants during the hands-on video shooting
Mr. Chisama Benjamin, a researcher as well as an Extensionist applauded AFAAS for giving them the opportunity to be trained. “We have been having a challenge reaching out to all the farmers due to the low number of Extensionist. With this approach, we shall be able to share knowledge to a large number by just a single video.”
Notably, Some of AFAAS country fora are working closely with the Ministries of Agriculture within their respective countries in re-skilling of agriculture staff inspiring national projects in the integration of digital tools in administration and public services.ie FCA Madagascar conveyed 30 Ministry and Public funded projects staff in a high-level workshop in December 2021. The workshop has triggered concrete actions towards the upscaling and democratization of the use of digital tools in the Agricultural Sector in Madagascar. Uganda Forum for Agricultural Advisory Services is working closely with the Ministry in building and populating an e-registration form for extension workers in Uganda as well as implementing projects on digitalization such as Strengthening Agricultural Knowledge and Innovation Ecosystem for Inclusive Rural Transformation and Livelihoods in Eastern Africa” (AIRTEA) whose overall objective is to contribute to achieving sustainable agrarian livelihoods and rural transformation by fostering an inclusive innovation environment.