|dc.description||A private foundation has helped develop a system of 'research-managed extension' as an alternative to current nation-wide services in Africa which are constantly hampered by a lack of resources. The Gatsby Charitable Foundation, working with collaborating organisations in countries such as Cameroon, Uganda and Kenya since 1985, has reviewed its experience and believes lessons can be learned for presenting an effective alternative to conventional technology transfer* .
The majority of scientists in research institutes suffer from chronic under-funding, according to Laurence Cockcroft, adviser on African programmes for the Foundation. Their potential contribution, he says, is hardly tapped. Most extension services are barely able to deliver farm-level advice because they are effectively grounded, and few agricultural credit agencies have managed to provide incremental finance to farmers. Most marketing boards have been wound down in the context of economic liberalisation.
The Foundation's approach provides scientists with the power to fund and mobilise small cadres of extension staff in selected areas, and to reward them according to the degree of farmer contact. Targeting resources to carefully defined objectives while recognising the limits of what can be achieved is, says Mr Cockcroft, essential to success. So also is having a 'project champion' within the scientific community - an individual clearly identified to work continuously to ensure the project objectives are achieved.
In Cameroon, a project with IRAD, the Institute for Agricultural Research and Development and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) trialled and disseminated improved varieties of cassava and sweet potato. In its second phase, a Root Crop Fund was established and a project co-ordinator provided grants for research and loans to farmers for multiplication and commercialisation of the new varieties. The support later concentrated on women's group saving schemes ('tontines') which were connected to a network of rural microbanks giving them an opportunity to move into the formal banking system. As this approach worked well, the fund and its board was to be formalised as the Cameroon Gatsby Trust and take the project to a third stage.
A second case mentioned by Mr Cockcroft comes from Uganda where the cassava mosaic virus disease reached epidemic proportions and resistant varieties were urgently needed. A cautious low-cost approach was taken given the uncertain response of the improved varieties to such intense infection. The project had six basic aims: to sensitize farmers, identify target areas, select extension workers to support on-farm trials, to establish a main source of planting material, set up local multiplication centres to serve target areas, and provide training in rapid mulitplication technqiues developed at IITA.
The co-ordinator of the National Agricultural Research Organisation's cassava programme managed the budget. He provided daily allowances for time and fuel, and purchased bicycles, motorbikes and vehicles. Between 1991 and 1996, 1,350 extension workers, 2,000 'opinion leaders', and 16,000 farmers were sensitised to solutions and the availability of planting material. At a district level 20% of the total cassava area came under improvement. The project, supported by the Gatsby Foundation, then moved to other districts and was to look at the feasibility of establishing a self-standing trust or a not-for-profit company instead of working through the public sector.
The benefits of closer integration of research with extension-type activities and the farming population is largely undisputed, and the Gatsby experiences may provide food for thought wherever transfer systems are being reviewed.
See Spore No. 72 (page 8) for more information on the cassava mosaic virus disease.
* Cockcroft, L. 1996. Transferring the benefits of research to resource-poor farmers in Africa: the experience of a private foundation.
In: International Service for the Acquisition of AgriBiotech Applications Annual Report. pp17-19.||