Vietnam - Strengthening Participatory Agricultural Extension
Location: Three provinces of the Mekong Delta (An Giang, Hau Giang and Soc Trang) and two provinces in South-East Vietnam (Ba Ria, Vung Thau and Binh Phuoc)
Implementation: 2008 - 2012
Budget: Total 2008 - 2012: €1,025,116 (realised 2008 - 2010: €622,435 - planned 2011 - 2012: €402,680)
Key themes: Agricultural extension, Participatory development of technology, Extension methodology, Farmers’ associations, Capacity development
Agricultural extension in Vietnam is mainly based on a topdown approach. Its contents are determined by government planners, officials, politicians, researchers and social leaders. Often, the selected topics do not respond to the immediate and urgent needs of the farmers or are incompatible with the situation and financial means of an ‘ordinary’ farmer. In line with the government’s intentions, this programme wants to contribute to an extension system that adequately addresses the real needs of the farmers.
Technically, the agricultural extension system seems to function rather well. Observers have however pointed out that the system has important shortcomings in the areas of methodology and capacities of extension workers.
The programme intends to convey skills and attitudes to farmers, extension workers and government planners in view of the development of an extension system based on real needs. As such, the programme wants to attune the planning process of agricultural extension to the real needs of the farmers.
The programme is implemented in three provinces of the Mekong Delta (An Giang, Hau Giang en Soc Trang) and two provinces in South-East Vietnam (Ba Ria, Vung Thau and Binh Phuoc). In every province, the programme collaborates with the Provincial Extension Centre and the Provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. Women’s unions and farmers’ associations are also involved in the programme.
The Mekong Delta Research Institute (MDI) in Can Tho and the Institute of Agricultural Science of Southern Vietnam (IAS) in Ho Chi Minh City are the operational partners of the programme. Field staff of these institutes assist in liaising with the provinces. They organise trainings in extension methodology and provide coaching to government planners, extension workers and beneficiaries (farmers and farmers’ associations).
As a means to implement a bottom-up approach, Farmers’ clubs were initiated. Through these clubs the extension workers deliver and receive information in a participatory manner.
Training of extension workers and club leaders was planned to be central but the idea to use core groups of trainers in each province seemed to be more sustainable. During 2009 and 2010 the ‘Trainers of Trainers’ were trained. They will train the extension workers from the provincial to the village level in the use of participatory extension methods. The training ranges from participatory development of new technologies and innovations to more administrative and managerial aspects with respect to the Farmers’ clubs (leadership, administration and direction of Farmers’ clubs; setup and follow-up of experiments,…).
The programme helps extension services and Farmers’ clubs to identify and execute experiments. Close cooperation with the provincial extension centres should ensure that a participatory approach becomes a constant factor of extension activities. We advocate that the provinces allot sufficient time and means for training and courses in participatory methods and that the system takes into account the real farmers’ needs during the planning.
An overview of the main successes and realisations of the programme, according to an external assessment carried out by the end of 2010:
- The PAEX programme is highly relevant because it responds to the needs of the farmers and is in line with the national policy regarding agricultural extension.
- The Mekong Delta Institute (MDI) and the Institute of Agricultural Science of Southern Vietnam (IAS) are in a good position to provide high-quality training in participatory extension methods.
- The farmers’ associations and the Participatory Technology Development (PTD) are highly appreciated by farmers, extension workers and government officials (on the level of the district, province, MDI, IAS and programme managers).
- Extension workers trained through the PAEX programme have learned much more than just PTD. Their communication, guidance, listening and problem-solving skills have also improved.
- In each of the five provinces, a team of extension workers have received an intensive PTD course for Trainers of Trainers.
- Several provinces have initiated or are preparing provincial programmes to set up Farmers’ clubs and PTD activities. The province of Soc Trang leads the way and plans to set up about 200 new associations by 2020. In Hau Giang and Ba Ria Vung Tau are sufficient indications that a genuine plan will be elaborated.
- A workshop on institutionalisation was organised in November 2010. This is an important step. The provinces were given the possibility to exchange ideas and the PAEX programme showed its willingness to grant more responsibility to the provinces and cooperate closely with each of the provinces to increase the institutionalisation of PTD activities.
- Several other national and international projects are addressing the improvement of participatory training methods as well as communication and guidance skills. The PAEX programme is relatively unique with its particular focus on problem identification and PTD.
- In 2010, numerous manuals, leaflets and other high-quality extension materials were developed.