Discussion Paper 1673: Capacity and Accountability in the Agricultural Extension System in Malawi

Agricultural seeds, Malawi, 2016 (IFPRI/M.Maher)

The government of Malawi is in the process of reviewing its national extension policy and developing an effective extension strategy, all while implementing and monitoring extension activities under its National Agriculture Policy.

A newly published IFPRI Discussion Paper, Capacity and Accountability in the Agricultural Extension System in Malawi: Insights from a Survey of Service Providers in 15 Districts, summarizes data collected from a survey of government and non-government extension service providers in Malawi, and can support the government and other stakeholders in these ongoing extension efforts.

The study used a systems approach to reveal some surprising results and confirm many of the commonly known challenges at various levels of Malawi’s agricultural extension system. For example, the magnitude of non-government extension service provision is much larger than earlier portrayed and is increasing. Operating funds for extension services remain scarce, and extension agents—particularly government extension workers— face poor working conditions, while also contending with high expectations from both the government’s and farmers’ sides. Lastly, performance monitoring and impact evaluation remain poor, even more so in the government system.

This discussion paper highlights the need for more government funding for extension services, especially to fulfill its coordination function and address current gaps, such as services related to sustainable production systems, natural resources management, and disadvantaged groups.

The dataset generated from this study can serve as a baseline for regular monitoring of extension service providers, of the quality and relevance of extension messages and technologies being promoted, in addition to harmonizing these messages, mapping complementarities across service providers, and addressing service gaps at the district and national levels over time.

Authors: Catherine Ragasa, Diston Mzungu, Eric Kaima, Cynthia Kazembe, and Kenan Kalagho, 2017.

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