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5 Organizational Change and Institution Building T he second subgroup examined the institutions with which extension personnel work. What changes are required in how agents are orga- nized, supported, and resourced for them to engage in peacebuilding activities? Participants discussed options for working with ministries of agriculture, the need for decentralization, and the challenges of ensuring program sustainability. OPTIONS FOR WORKING WITH MINISTRIES OF AGRICULTURE Extension systems typically operate in a ministry of agriculture, and the subgroup began its conversation by talking about changes required in min- istries of agriculture to support peacebuilding as part of extension services. One option was for a ministry to officially adopt peacebuilding as part of its mission. Perhaps, as suggested by Jon Unruh earlier in the workshop (see Chapter 2), the ministry of agriculture could facilitate the role of exten- sion personnel as intermediaries between customary systems and statutory systems. Another possibility is that the ministry of agriculture could under- take conflict analysis, especially to the extent that conflicts are affected by agriculture. Or a ministry and its extension officers could become involved in the reintegration of regions previously held by rebel groups, as occurred in Colombia (see Chapter 3), perhaps by demonstrating the competence and credibility of state actors. 35
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36 ADAPTING AGRICULTURAL EXTENSION TO PEACEBUILDING But extension services need not work entirely through agriculture min- istries. For example, the department of transportation may be involved to ensure that products get to market, or the highest levels of government may need to be involved for change to happen. Alternatively, because universities sometimes enjoy a credibility that governments do not, they might serve as anchors for extension activities. But research, extension, and education often fall under different ministries, so there might be institutional barriers to support and collaboration. Participants pointed out that in many countries the capacity of the min- istry of agriculture is severely limited. Many do not have extension services or have a very narrow technical focus rooted in the Green Revolution. Others have poor records of being able to recruit, train, and support such services, resulting in ineffective and unsustainable extension programs. NGOs can provide support for ministries, but often such efforts are not sustained once an NGO leaves. Furthermore, changes in a ministry can take considerable time, whereas conflicts typically generate immediate needs that must be addressed in the short term to avoid greater conflict. States that are corrupt or predatory may wish to keep agricultural producers poor and dependent. In these cases, political changes are neces- sary at the state level to create sustainable interventions for development or peacebuilding. The capacity of individual extension agents also is limited, participants pointed out. Giving them responsibility for peacebuilding may detract from their principal mission with objectives that are impossible for them to achieve. Agricultural extension agents first need to provide information about agriculture. Peacebuilding can come after that. But participants con- ceded that the legitimacy of the peacebuilding depends on the legitimacy of the agricultural advice (as described in Chapter 4). And, as was empha- sized throughout the workshop, peacebuilding need not be explicit or even conscious. Extension can serve the purposes of peacebuilding, regardless of whether it specifically focuses on that end. THE NEED FOR DECENTRALIZATION Central ministries need to allocate resources and make policy decisions, but centralized planning tends to fail, in part because it generally is too direc- tive and ignores local needs. The subgroup therefore turned to the possibility of a decentralized system with the capacity to support local grassroots exten- sion activities that have a peacebuilding component.
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ORGANIZATIONAL CHANGE AND INSTITUTION BUILDING 37 For example, the core role of extension personnel is to distribute information. The information typically involves agricultural productivity, but it need not be limited to agriculture. In addition, extension agents can empower the people they serve to seek out information on their own or to make their needs known to others. The great advantage of extension activities is their potential to serve farmers' needs in a bottom-up fashion, through both geographic distribution and the ability to address expressed needs, subgroup members said. A farmer may or may not be knowledgeable about ways to increase productivity, and an attentive extension agent can tailor advice accordingly. Ideally agents could also try to identify and prioritize assistance for the most pressing prob- lems facing farmers, such as land tenure issues following conflict or water management disputes during a drought. It is similarly helpful for agents to respond simultaneously to both short- and long-term needs, so that early success paves the way for long-term improvements. For example, a producer association can address both immediate needs and the longer-term issues involved in sustainable improvements. Participants cited some examples of successful decentralized approaches. The Agriculture Technology Management Agency in India was designed to be accountable to farmers and their needs. Another decentralized approach that has resulted in successes is the extension-supported business coopera- tive; in Armenia, such cooperatives have become among the most trusted actors in rural communities. A bottom-up approach need not be antithetical to top-down directives, subgroup participants pointed out. The extension agent typically represents the state and needs support from the state to be effective. The development of institutional structures in the community, whether agricultural associations, schools, or health clinics, requires both grassroots and government support. Although the state may at times be a negative presence, it also can promote positive internal changes in a community. For example, universities, NGOs, or the private sector generally are not able to step in and resolve conflicts in the same way that government officials can, though nongovernmental enti- ties can make governments more aware of conflicts. Support for extension efforts may be more effective in some countries than others. Successful extension systems tend to be decentralized, increas- ingly pluralistic, participatory, market oriented, sustainably financed, and technology enabled. For systems with these characteristics, investments are likely to be more productive than for weaker systems. At the same time, as was emphasized throughout the workshop, one size does not fit all. One pos-
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38 ADAPTING AGRICULTURAL EXTENSION TO PEACEBUILDING sibility is to identify a menu of evidence-based possibilities for what should work in different contexts. Hard data about approaches that work and do not work can guide modernization of extension services and improve the fit between services offered and needs expressed. Support from NGOs could offer a bridge between the immediate postconflict period and longer-term sustainable development. However, NGOs work better as servants of government than as replacements for it, a subgroup participant noted. Following conflict, the government may be per- ceived as incompetent or untrustworthy. Government representatives need to convince the people that the government is a trustworthy and competent institution concerned with their needs. Thus extension systems should be organized to ensure that the government (and not NGO partners) receives the bulk of the credit due for any successes achieved. ENSURING SUSTAINABILITY Extension activities need to be both stabilizing and sustainable, sub- group participants said, and sustainability is often enhanced by support from multiple sources: public, private, governmental, or nongovernmental. Mul- tiple sources of support also can enable decentralization. In the United States, for example, the extension service in each state or territory is operated by a land-grant institution, which, in addition to local, state, or territorial fund- ing, receives some federal funding that can be used to support local extension agents who respond to local needs through community structures. In India, local governmental and administrative structures are vital to the successful implementation of local extension activities. But generally government support in particular is necessary to ensure that services are sustainable, coordinated, and backstopped properly, through not only the training and "re-skilling" of agents but also proper monitoring, evaluation, and quality assurance for the service put in place. Government support is also important because local areas are often resource starved. Local authorities can be empowered if given authority for resources, including taxation authority. When the central state controls all the resources, it can be difficult to have a bottom-up and decentralized sys- tem characterized by innovation and responsiveness to local needs. Outside funding organizations may provide support for a decentralized system, but coordinating multiple donors, and combining their efforts with state efforts, can be a challenge.