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4 Capacity Building and Training D uring the final session of the workshop, participants divided into three groups to discuss (1) capacity building and training for exten- sion personnel, (2) organizational change and institution building, and (3) the technological infrastructure needed to support extension activi- ties directed at both agriculture and peacebuilding. This chapter summarizes the discussions of the first topic, and Chapters 5 and 6 present the other two. The summaries in these three chapters should not be seen as conclusions of the workshop or of the subgroups. Rather, they report issues raised in discus- sion to provoke further thinking about and exploration of the connection between agricultural extension and peacebuilding. Discussions of capacity building and training focused on skills, legiti- macy, and processes. SKILLS Participants agreed that the essential skill that extension personnel need is technical knowledge of agriculture--they need to be good agriculturalists. In addition, participants identified a range of other skills and attributes that extension agents need to do their jobs well, including cross-culture com- munication, project management, and knowledge of the local community. Not all extension agents would be expected to have all of these skills. But these qualifications could form the basis for a curriculum, and individuals 29
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30 ADAPTING AGRICULTURAL EXTENSION TO PEACEBUILDING could choose from that curriculum based on their background and the situ- ation in which they will be working. The subgroup members also discussed the skills needed to reduce conflict, such as mediating or facilitating between parties or, at a greater level of involvement, negotiating settlements or resolving conflict. They acknowledged that acting in such roles requires an astute awareness of the conflict situation and how extension services could fit into it, and that such engagement could augment an extension agent's agricultural mission or detract from it. Peacebuilding can require not just additional skills but additional time, and if an extension agent does not have enough time for it, the activity will not be sustainable. Rather than being responsible for peacebuilding activities as part of their formal job responsibilities, extension personnel may need conceptual models that further peace in the course of their extension activities. They also may need the skills and knowledge to work cooperatively within customary institutions and processes for managing disputes at the village level. The acquisition of skills that will enable agents to address problems in both agriculture and peacebuilding requires training, which, among other things, should enable agents to understand how their technical work helps resolve conflict. Subgroup members emphasized the importance of experi- ential training, so that extension personnel are applying useful skills even as they are learning them. Trainees also need opportunities to reflect on their experiences with others to build their skills. The discussants made a distinction between skills required by local extension personnel and those required by donor organizations (e.g., central governments, international entities, NGOs) to make decisions about invest- ment decisions (Table 4-1). The skills required by local extension person- nel and managers in donor organizations often overlap but are sometimes distinct. For example, both local extension agents and donors need to be able to identify local partners, but extension agents need particular skills to interact with these partners effectively. The group agreed that distinction applies across all three areas related to capacity building: skills, legitimacy, and processes. LEGITIMACY To be effective, extension personnel need to build legitimacy by foster- ing high levels of trust and credibility in their local communities, subgroup
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TABLE 4-1 The Capabilities Needed of Local Extension Agents and Donor Organizations Skills and Attributes Factors Contributing to Legitimacy Process-Related Factors Extension Agents Donors Extension Agents Donors Extension Agents Donors Facilitation Analytic skills Commitment Knowledge of Involvement of Donor coordination Mediation/ local conflict stakeholders Ability to teach/ Peacebuilding Support for Negotiation management train using many knowledge Identification of knowledge building methodology Brokering media champions (local Ability to access Identification of Support for engagement) Project management Mentoring relevant knowledge champions links to relevant Leadership Nonpartisanship information Partnering Communication/ Good Awareness of what Patience Cross-cultural agriculturalists partisanship is Awareness of impact communication on sustainability Commitment Organizational skills Analytic skills Training-the-trainer skills Methodological skills Experience-based (field) skills 31
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32 ADAPTING AGRICULTURAL EXTENSION TO PEACEBUILDING members emphasized. And to maintain this trust and credibility, their advice needs to be objective, useful, and nonpartisan. There are numerous compo- nents to the establishment of an agent's legitimacy; participants cited techni- cal knowledge, credible and trusted local partners, motivation, and vision. To improve agricultural yields in a particular region, extension person- nel need technical knowledge of what will work in that region. This in turn may require new research on crop varieties and practices for the region. Such research is more easily conducted in countries where a strong linkage exists between extension and research institutions, as is the case in the United States, but may be more difficult in countries where such linkages are weak or do not exist (see Figure 3-1). Universities are also a source of training for extension agents, and weak linkages with these institutions can impede that training. Supporting university faculty to train extension personnel, either at the university or in the field, can be a valuable role for NGOs, national governments, and industry. Extension personnel also can gain legitimacy by working with local people who are trusted and credible. Identifying these individuals can be difficult, but it is a skill that extension agents need. In some cases, these individuals may already have made significant advances; in others, they may be respected members of a community who are not yet involved in exten- sion activities. They also might be people with an especially useful store of information, such as visiting experts or university researchers. The perception of an extension agent as a member of the government may enhance or detract from the agent's legitimacy. If the government is per- ceived negatively by a community, the agent may have a hard time engaging in peacebuilding activities. But such an association need not be a factor if the agent's connections to local areas are strong. An important attribute in creating legitimacy is commitment or motiva- tion. If an agent is motivated simply by a paycheck or by having a government job, that person's legitimacy will be suspect. But if an agent's motivation is to improve a community, whether through agricultural or peacebuilding activities, legitimacy is enhanced. In some countries, extension agents do not have the trust and respect they do in the United States. They also may not have extensive agricultural knowledge--for example, if they were recruited locally simply so that they would be more accepted by the local population. Extension agents from local areas probably know the language, culture, and best people with whom to work, but they may also have a vested interest in outcomes, belong to an elite, take a job for the wrong reasons, or be distrusted by the populace.
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CAPACITY BUILDING AND TRAINING 33 A final characteristic mentioned by subgroup participants is the need for extension personnel to have a compelling vision of the future. Communities in conflict often seem to live day to day since survival is such an immediate priority. An extension agent can help by laying out a desirable future for the community. Discussants acknowledged, however, that in practice few exten- sion agents have the skills or resources necessary to fully realize such a vision. PROCESSES There was general consensus that the agricultural extension agent's ability to understand when and how extension work and peacebuilding fit together--in short, to understand the whole process--is key. Extension agents should be able and willing to assess what is required for both extension services and peacebuilding. Agricultural extension agents often do not spend enough effort analyzing needs and the steps to meet them, subgroup participants said. To make such assessments, agents should be aware of cultural practices; they can learn much from the local popula- tion, both about agriculture and about conflict. Indeed, at some point, the bulk or all of the responsibility for analysis and action can devolve to local communities and away from extension personnel. Problem statements that explicitly identify what is needed can build consensus and provide objectives for extension personnel. Because problems change over time, these statements should change as well to reflect new cir- cumstances and a better understanding of a problem. Conflict situations can be extremely complex, and the information needed to assess a situation scarce, requiring special expertise and access to information to enable effective conflict analysis. Extension agents must understand not only the drivers of conflict, but also the consequences of their actions in terms of the conflict; for example, agricultural improve- ments may exacerbate conflict if their benefits are unevenly distributed. So it is important that agents be able to assess whether a particular action will result in good or harm. Extension personnel also need to understand how agriculture fits into a larger picture--to consider not only peacebuilding but also health care, the legal and political system, income distribution, and so on. They will have to be able to work within existing mechanisms for conflict resolution and aug- ment them if necessary and possible. In addition, an understanding of the local culture is critical. For example, the residents of an area may not perceive their situation as a conflict, whereas
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34 ADAPTING AGRICULTURAL EXTENSION TO PEACEBUILDING others may, requiring sensitivity among those who would offer to analyze a conflict. It is also important to understand that there is a distinction between "postconflict" and "postviolence" situations: a region may no longer be sub- ject to violence although conflict remains pervasive. As mentioned earlier, linkages are essential for a project to be sustainable and can multiply the effects of individual extension agents, especially when financial support comes from international donors rather than taxation by the central government. The needs in a conflict situation can be enormous, so many people must be on board for sufficient resources to be available. Furthermore, unless the efforts of individual agents are scalable, outcomes are limited to what single extension agents can do in their local communities. Finally, for extension services to be sustainable, it is essential both that agents remain current in agricultural knowledge and that senior agents train and mentor their subordinates. Regular training in skills and knowledge rel- evant to farmer needs allows agents to remain effective. Effective agents, how- ever, tend to be hired away by other organizations, so new personnel must continually be trained and be prepared to step in. Extension agents should mentor younger agents, knowing that succession is only a matter of time.