New project on agriculture extension in Malawi

In depth interview with extension officer and lead farmer at Chitsime EPA, Lilongwe

IFPRI is starting a new evidence-based policy support project titled: "Assessing and Enhancing the Capacity, Performance and Impact of the Pluralistic Agricultural Extension System in Malawi." The project will analyze the demand for and supply of agricultural extension services in Malawi in order to design and undertake activities that will strengthen the capacity of various service providers to effectively address farmers’ demands for information. This will contribute to increased farmer productivity and enhanced welfare. The project will involve assessment, capacity strengthening, and policy support. The main activities under the project are:

  1. Rigorous assessment of the current status of demand for and supply of services  (2016);
  2. Monitoring progress in key indicators over time (follow-up surveys in 2018);
  3. Identifying approaches or interventions that would have contributed to any observed changes in these indicators over time; and
  4. Using these results to inform the review and reform of the current extension policy, as well as activities for improving capacities of service providers and design of training modules and curricula in Malawi.

Policy and research questions that will be addressed under the project would include identifying both demand- and supply-side factors as well as capacity and incentive issues in agricultural extension provision; measuring and enhancing quality of services; understanding the constraints to uptake of improved technologies; and assessing what extension service provision approaches and interventions work or not under what conditions.

The project will involve two rounds of panel household surveys, community-level survey, and in-depth focus group discussions and two rounds of surveys of both government and non-government agricultural advisory service providers and frontline extension workers, coupled with analysis of existing datasets.  The program will run for three years from July 2016 to July 2019. The activities for the first year (July 2016 to June 2017) will focus on the first round of household and community surveys, and first round of surveys with state and non-state service providers, data analysis, and discussion of findings.  As the project is launched and discussed during the Malawi Extension Week (July 25-29), stakeholders in the country are looking into this project and the datasets that it will generate to permit a credible monitoring of key performance indicators related to extension services for DAES and DAECC, and can be used for the Strengthening Agricultural Extension and Nutrition (SANE), Agriculture Sector Wide Approach (ASWAp) and the National Agricultural Policy (NAP).  The research team includes Catherine Ragasa, Todd Benson, Niu Chiyu (University of Illinois), University of Illinois/SANE project team, IFPRI-Malawi team.

This project is funded by Flanders Department of Foreign Affairs and GIZ.