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Blog 96- Institutional Convergence for Agricultural Development: The Changing Role of Extension

Extension agencies globally face the twin challenges of limited finances and manpower. However, some extension agencies manage these challenges and achieve larger impacts by converging their efforts with others. Based on their experiences with convergence of activities at the Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) in Khordha under ICAR-Central Institute for Freshwater Aquaculture, Bhubaneswar,  Odisha, PN Ananth,  S Babu, NK Barik, AK Dash and JK Sundaray demonstrates how convergence at the KVK level can enhance innovation and impact.

INTRODUCTION

Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVK), the farm science centres, have been claimed as one of the major institutional innovations of the NARS (National Agricultural Research System) in India. KVKs act as knowledge and resource centres for the district extension system in India. KVKs are fully sponsored by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and are authorised to organise technology assessment and refinement. Apart from this they also organise demonstrations to provide technological backstopping to state agencies at the district level and training to farmers (Box 1).  Agriculture is considered to be a state subject which means that states are mainly responsible for agricultural development. But KVKs are centrally sponsored.  The KVKs work closely with the state governments in providing information and knowledge on latest innovations, along with technologies and updates on agriculture and allied sectors for district agricultural development.

 WHY CONVERGENCE FOR KVK?

There is a general misunderstanding that a KVK has to cover the whole district (as it is a district level organisation) with its extension services. The latest directive speaks on Technology Assessment and Demonstration for its Application and Capacity Development. The earlier directive had also mentioned Technology Assessment, Refinement and Demonstration. Additionally many consider and feel that KVK is a training centre. Training of KVKs are part of the demonstration programmes and a standalone activity. Demonstrations too differ from the state government’s way of demonstration as it is unique being a Front Line Demonstration (FLD). The FLDs of KVKs means that a cutting edge innovation/technology is demonstrated for the first time in the district involving scientists and extension workers of the state government.

Though the mandates of KVKs clearly indicate that it is entirely different from a full time extension agency, many expect it to function like a district level extension agency. For instance, if a technology being assessed by KVK is found to be feasible and productive for farmers, many believe that it is the role of KVK to extend its outreach to the entire district. But it must be kept in mind that KVKs are not appointed to play this role. Apart from this, they are also not in a position to do this because they lack adequate budget and manpower. However, it is possible for KVKs to expand viable, assessed and demonstrated technologies if they work with other partners at the district level.  

 

There was an extensive reform during 2014-15 wherein KVK Heads were re-designated as Senior Scientists and Heads from the former designation as Programme Coordinators – this was done in order to leverage the district administration. The Heads of KVKs currently sit in the front row in meetings whereas earlier they used to sit at the back. Now it is time for KVKs to work on realistic district action plans and play proactive roles in extending the reach of its activities (although still plagued with low investments and manpower). This expansion process is always in the hands of KVKs, but it can happen only via self-induced practices/personal traits in the personnel working in KVKs rather than through external push factors (especially in the case of Heads of KVKs). With set mandates KVKs normally assess a technology, demonstrate, train and then sends it the state government for scaling out (a linear model is what a government-sponsored official offers). Such a linear model will not be good for better reach of technologies assessed and demonstrated by KVKs.

KVKs now have to devise mechanisms to overcome the challenge of low investments and inadequate manpower. This blog gives details on how a KVK in the eastern state of Odisha (in India) has expanded its activities, covered more farmers, and provided technical backstopping to other organisations using similar partners in the district and many other ways, including tapping into Corporate Social Responsibility (CRS) funds. The experiences shared here are from KVK-Khordha, which works in the district of Khordha, under the administrative control of ICAR-Central Institute for Freshwater Aquaculture.

APPROACH ENVISAGED BY KVK-KHORDHA  

With an idea to expand its activities for better reach, the KVK made an action plan and named it as ‘People and Partnership’. The approach was launched in 2012 in collaboration with various agencies to improve delivery of technical and extension services in a convergence mode. Since, then KVK-Khordha has been working with more than 21 partners, such as Employment Mission (GoO), ATMA-Khordha (GoO) supported by GoI, Odisha Community Tank Management Project (OCTMP) (a World Bank-aided project of GoO), District Rural Development Agency (DRDA) (GoO), National Council of Rural Institutions (NCRI) (GoI), Watershed Mission (GoO), Bringing Green Revolution to Eastern India (BGERI) a GoI-aided GoO project, Odisha Watershed Development Mission, Indian Farmers Fertilizers Cooperative (IFFCO), Coconut Development Board (GOI), Paradeep Phosphates (Pvt), Krishi Jagran Media group, Reliance Foundation, National Institute for Agricultural Marketing, RKVY-Odisha, and many others. Having understood the background this blog goes on to cover the nature of convergence initiated by a KVK marked with limited funding and manpower.

 ANALYSIS ON THE CONVERGENCE

A brief analysis of the initiative is imperative as the aim of working with partners (Table 1) is for mutual benefit with main focus on strengthening farmers in terms of increasing their incomes. The convergence envisaged by the KVK has yielded better outreach of activities and benefits to farmers that have been realised over time. By converging its activities with the efforts of others, the KVK started playing the role of a bridging organisation as envisaged under Extension Plus (Sulaiman and Hall 2004; Sulaiman 2012). As a bridging organisation at the district level with much better grasp of the ground situation, the KVK could better support agricultural extension system with aspects related to technology backstopping, integration, and management.

As the KVKs are not formally mandated to do these roles, they often concentrate more on organizing programmes by themselves. However, KVK-Khordha was well ahead in understanding its position and presence in the district and demanded to work with partners having its own capacity. The KVK identified partners who have similar objectives for expanding its activities. A brief analysis on the few partners with benefits from the KVK is presented in Table 1.

Table: 1 Objective, mechanism, funding pattern, achievement and lessons learnt of the approach

Partner
 
Objective of partnership
Mechanism of partnership
Funding and sharing of resources
Achievements
Lessons learnt
Employment Mission Developing

entrepreneurs in freshwater aquaculture

Joint implementation Full funding and sharing of expertise 143 entrepreneurs developed

(one-month long skill development training)

Long-term capacity building is key for developing entrepreneurship
Orissa Community Tank Management Project Support to agricultural livelihoods Joint implementation Full funding for implementation by the partner with additional manpower 412 ha of land under line sowing in paddy;

25 ha of community tanks under fish culture;

80 units of backyard poultry;

85 trainings benefitting 2285 farmers; trained 180 master farmers

Short-term partnerships to achieve targets in a livelihood project is a constraint
Odisha Watershed Development Mission To train farmers on off-season vegetable cultivation Implemented capacity building with own design Full funding and expertise sharing 210 farmers trained in off-season vegetable cultivation;

Unique guide for off-season vegetable cultivation in the local language

Absence of funds for assessing impact
District Administration KVK key in the district extension system Joint implementation of activities Full funding and sharing expertise Awareness camp–cum-workshop for 50 fish farmers to link with state schemes; and

120 farm women on drudgery reduction

KVK – vital for the district level extension system
National Council for Rural Institutions Promoting rural enterprises Implemented with own design Funding on completion of the program Training on rural enterprise for 35 farmers – trained on rural technologies One time initiative for promoting rural enterprises is an uphill task
ATMA Problem solving skills and feedback

 

Independent and joint implementation of activities Formal allocation of funds to KVK by ATMA for validation trials and other activities Technical backstopping to bring 10,000 ha of paddy cultivation by adopting the practice of line sowing;

Organised validation trials on crops;

Sharing expertise on suitable technologies for promotion in the district;

Support to prepare Strategic Research and Extension Plan (SREP);

Key member to prepare the Comprehensive District Action Plan (C-DAP);

Interface meetings to scale up best practices for larger development in the district;

Trained 850 progressive farmers identified by state actors

Personal relationships are key.

Although it is mandatory to provide funds by ATMA to KVK, yet lobbying is required

Coconut Development Board Focus on employment for rural youth Joint implementation of skill development training Full funding 210 rural youth trained in using coconut climbing machine;

210 climbing machines provided free of cost

Providing skill development training and support of a climbing machine can create impact
National Institute for Agricultural Marketing (NIAM), Jaipur Develop a model to connect fish farmers to best marketing ways  (Aquaculture Business Schools) Development intervention in critical stages of fish production; and connecting to better markets Full funding Formed one aquaculture business school  (other activities ongoing) Model to be scaled up using different methods
RKVY Developing and strengthening of Demonstration Unit of KVK Infrastructure development to KVK Full funding

(INR 78 lakhs)

Construction of eight additional demonstration units Critical inputs for providing certain innovations will be realised
International Rice Research Institute Introduce innovations to reduce  post-harvest losses The new innovations of IRRI, such as Solar Bubble Dryer, cocoon and supper bags have been provided to KVK worth INR 2.5 lakhs to create awareness and demonstrate its usefulness Full funding Demonstrated the innovations in five villages Most of the innovations of KVK are related to production aspects. KVK has started working extensively by demonstrating innovations related to reducing post-harvest losses with this partner.
Private-1

Paradeep Phosphates Ltd

Soil health cards (SHCs) using CRS funds  Achieve the target of providing SHCs Financial support for providing SHCs 3000 soil health cards prepared and distributed;

Support for a few farmer scientist interactions on soil fertility management

Realised the expertise of private sector;

Tapping into Corporate Social Responsibility funds

Private-2

IFFCO

Product testing and upscaling  On-farm testing and joint demonstration of IFFCO products Financial support  Seven products tested and reports provided;

Introduced IFFCO products through cluster demonstration initiatives of KVK

Tapping both expertise and importance of KVK as a certifying agency
Private-3

Krishi Jagran (KJ) Media group

Using print media  (monthly magazine for extending outreach)  Joint decision on content for Odia KJ farm magazine and digital platform of KJ Odia Agreed that KVK should have two articles in all issues of the magazine

(monthly). KVK suggests innovations, and technology assessed and demonstrated for KJ Odia for each issue. Joint content creation

Contents for Odia KJ since eight months (and continuing). Increased visibility for KVK-Khordha in Odisha, even though it is just a district level organisation Realising the power of print media
Private-4

Reliance Foundation

Extending outreach through media Sharing expertise Investing in events Organised eight video and audio conferences for farmers at out of range places     Reaching unreached farmers using media tools

 Impact of convergence on the KVK’s mandatory activities

  1. A KVK that used to work on technology assessment with 22 technologies each year before convergence has now grown to include 40 as there has been demand from partners to assess technology for adaptive trials and to provide results for scaling up.
  2. In most instances, before convergence ‘fordism’[1] prevailed; but after convergence, most of the interventions were need-based as the KVK was contacted by partners to decipher their problems by sharing expertise and resources. Understandably, the KVK took on a new role in extension delivery.
  3. Through partnerships the number of trainings organized increased from 73 to 110 every year, benefitting more than 5000 farmers. The core competencies of the KVKs shifted from – relevant technology assessment to scanning the need for technological interventions, to simple delivery of package of practices through demonstration – towards farming system models. The KVK’s investment per training increased from INR 5000 to INR 45,000 and then to INR 1,20,000 as the shift moved from short-term to long-term.
  4. During 2005-2010, the number of beneficiaries was 6000/year; and since 2012-2017 after implementing this approach, it has grown to 12,000/year, for which a number of partners are responsible.

The coverage of the KVK has expanded considerably to all the blocks whereas before convergence the reach was only to five out of 10 blocks in the district.

 CONVERGENCE: BEFORE AND AFTER

Enhancement in outreach was the key outcome of this convergence as it was visualized shrewdly by the KVK. Nonetheless, with this key outcome many other advantages were also observed over a period of time. The reason to keep enhanced outreach as the key for partnership was the recognition that the KVK had poor visibility, had fewer interactions, was secluded, and also had many other problems. This was the state of affairs despite possessing capabilities higher than other extension organizations in the district. It is an accepted fact that before convergence, the KVK was an isolated institution with minimal reach and had to achieve the set targets with available resources and manpower.

KVK-Khordha and Coconut Development Board Skill Development Training

The so-called ‘Fordism’ (Chambers 1992) is a central hindrance to reform, since farmers will not make demands, and extension service providers will not consider locally perceived needs if both assume that extension only deals with fixed packages

As a result of convergence, improvements arising from expertise, use of different multiple extension methods,  use of innovative approaches in demonstrations, transformations in training pattern and other activities, were observed (see Table 2).

Table 2: Measures of convergence output of KVK-Khordha

Functions KVK before convergence KVK after convergence
Convergence with other institutions (No.) 1  21
Technology assessment/year (No.) 21 40
Interaction with research system Prevailed Strengthened
Involvement of scientists and academicians in KVK activities Prevailed Increased
Coverage of technology demonstration Low outreach High
Approaches in demonstration Traditional Cluster and block demonstrations
Expertise Involved in basic demonstration of improved practices of crops, fruits, vegetables Enterprise development
Trainings/year 73 110
Typology of training Short duration (1-2 days) Long-term (5-30 days)
Core competency expedited Package of practices in lecture mode Skill acquisition
Extension methods in training Predominantly lectures Multiple extension methods
Investment in training on one unit (INR) 5,000 45,000 to 1,20,000
Farm and rural advisory services in terms of beneficiaries (No.) 2000-2500 12000
Advisory delivery methods Farm and home visits and all other traditional methods Mobile, Short Message Service (SMS), WhatsApp and other ICT tools, audio and video conferencing
Interaction with other extension agencies Prevailed Increased
Participation in meetings Low High
Institutional investment on extension/year (INR) 70-80 lakhs 100-120 lakhs
Outreach and capacity of rural poor as service users 6000 farmers 12,000 farmers
Extension activities Traces 50 events/year
Involvement with private sector Traces 10-12 private sector and Corporate Social Responsibility funds are invested in KVK
Coverage 5 blocks of the district All 10 blocks of the district
Green services Traces Increased to a considerable extent
Fordism Prevailed Changed
Trust and cooperation As usual in business Unusual (heightened)
Prominence in the pluralistic extension system Existed Enhanced
Demonstration units 2 12

NEW EXTENSION ROLES

The increased funds and involvement of more partners in demonstration of improved practices had greater impact – by involving additional farmers, adopting practices uniformly, introducing farm-mechanization, and putting into place a strong monitoring and evaluation system. In most of the instances before convergence, Fordism prevailed and after convergence, most of the interventions were need-based as the KVK was approached by partners to decipher their problems by sharing expertise and resources. Understandably, the KVK took on a new role in extension delivery which is presented in Table 3.  

Table 3: New roles of extension upon convergence

Strategic questions
Expected new roles required
Perception of KVK’s new role in extension delivery after envisaging convergence
How to win trust and cooperate with partners having similar mandates? Developing a commitment to actively explore ways to work together with small-scale farmers and rural producers Prevalence of a commitment towards exploring possible ways to serve farmers involving multiple stakeholders;

Due to involvement of partners, the KVK could identify the needy farmers that it has to work with.

How to target and achieve equity? New approaches to overcome the elite, high-external input, and gender biases which have affected extension Shift from traditional capacity building initiatives to skill development, towards eliminating high external-input agriculture to low external-input sustainable agriculture;

New approaches, like cluster demonstration and training master farmers, were envisaged.

What is the mode of integration for better outputs? Efforts to be focused on a realistic set of service components related to information and communication about agricultural technologies, keeping farmers’ needs in a complex environment Majority of the works have been demand-driven focussing on agricultural technologies that are relevant to the operating environment of the farmer;

Partners sought help of KVK as they needed to partner for sharing resources and expertise.

How effectively can an extension agency like KVK  use extension pluralism? Enhancing the effectiveness of one agency to work strategically within a multitude of organizations and individuals that provide information and other services to farmers Clearly brought multiple stakeholders into the fold to jointly deliver information, knowledge, and skill for boosting farmer and institutional capacity;

Enhanced outreach was possible due to convergence.

What is the view from the field,  i.e., from end users, of the  KVK? Objectives and approaches focusing on poor farmers be operationalized by extension agents in their day-to-day tasks Sharing of resources, expertise and other aspects of each partner made KVK look closely into the field and carry out day-to-day tasks.

The shift has been from target crops to people through all these initiatives, as the KVK has responded to farmers’ needs rather than to partners’ needs. The whole convergence experience of the KVK  deduced that rural development is complex; and demands that farmers, their neighbours, input salesmen, local officials, and other actors meet and negotiate to arrive at joint decisions for addressing complex problems of natural resource management (as observed by Christoplos  1996). There is very little empirical research on the Agricultural Innovation System (AIS) and on how partnerships are formed, and how they affect extension service provision within AIS (Ragassa et al. 2016). Our experience fills this shortcoming to some extent.

LESSONS

Firstly, the key to the success of this initiative of institutional convergence has been the mutual understanding between a KVK and its partners, which has been complementary in terms of sharing resources and expertise. Both the KVK and partners have been in synergy due to the clear understanding of their respective strengths and weaknesses within a pluralistic extension system. It is worth researching whether partnerships are externally induced or self-induced, and why a partner demanded to partner? Questions may arise several times on why an extension services providing agency needs another partner. Given these arguments, it also means that similar extension organizations in a region should work with strong linkage mechanisms, and the government needs to be proactive in inducing partnerships.

Secondly, given the experience of this initiative it is evident that restrictively-funded public extension services providing organizations with rich diversified knowledge and expertise, can perform better with the help of partners for convergence of ideas, resources, and expertise. Their ability to drive agricultural development should also be beyond reproach. It is also evident that partnerships will continue only as long as mutual benefits exist, and withdrawal is common when goals diverge. It must be inferred that partners can continue only through continuous dialogue and interactions, especially when new targets and innovations are to be delivered. In the present context of climate change and its impact, most of the agricultural extension agencies need to collaborate as pooled expertise is vital for providing appropriate solutions to farmers. Development projects/programmes should be forced to have dedicated partnerships in order to reach end-users effectively, and also to disseminate its many benefits to a larger audience.

END NOTE

In the increasingly pluralistic extension landscape, partnerships are going to be the key to design and delivery of effective and efficient extension. Frameworks such as Best Practice to Best Fit (Birner 2006), Extension-Plus and Agricultural Innovation Systems (AIS), too emphasize this. Extension professionals need to learn how to fit themselves into the existing AIS, rather than wait for policy directions from the top – if they want to remain relevant in these changing times.

References

Birner R, Kristin D, John P, Ephraim N, Pooniah A, Javier EM, Mbabu  AN, Spielman DJ, Daniela H, Benin S, and Muge K. 2006. From “best practice” to “best fit”: A framework for designing and analyzing pluralistic agricultural advisory services. Research briefs 4. Washington, D.C.: International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

Christoplos I. 1996. Poverty, pluralism and extension practice. Gatekeeper Series 64. London, UK: International Institute for Environment and Development.

Ragasa C, Ulimwengu J, Randriamamonjy J and Badibanga T. 2016. Factors affecting performance of agricultural extension: Evidence from Democratic Republic of Congo. The Journal of Agricultural Education and Extension 22(2):113-143.

Sulaiman RV. 2012. Extension-Plus: New roles for extension and advisory services. Thematic Note 3, Module 3 in Agricultural Innovation Systems: An investment source book. Washington D.C.: The World Bank.

Sulaiman RV and Hall A. 2004. Towards Extension-Plus: Opportunities and challenges. Policy Brief 17. New Delhi: National Centre for Agricultural Economics and Policy Research (NCAP), ICAR

 

Dr PN Ananth (ananthkvk100@gmail.com) is Senior Scientist and Head of KVK-Khordha, Odisha, India;

 

 

Dr S Babu (s.babu@cgiar.org) is Senior Research Fellow / Head of Capacity Strengthening, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Washington D.C., USA;

 

 

Dr NK Barik (nageshbarik@hotmail.com) is Scientist in Social Section of ICAR-Central Institute for Freshwater Aquaculture, Bhubaneswar, Odisha;

 

 

Mr AK Dash (ajayadashkvk@gmail.com) is Subject Matter Specialist at KVK-Khordha, Odisha;

 

 

 

 Dr JK Sundaray (jsundaray@gmail.com) is Head, Fish Genetics and Bio-technology Division, ICAR-Central Institute for Freshwater Aquaculture, Bhubaneswar, Odisha.

 

 

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6 Comments

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  • In 2015, my AESA blog on KVKs (Blog 46) reflected how convergence is important but little visible in the ground. Happy to see, there are now KVKs which have shown not only the convergence is possible but also demonstrated well how convergence at the KVK level can enhance innovation and impact. The innovative programmes like ‘People and Partnership’ initiated by the KVK, Khordha could be a motivator for other KVKs. Truly mentioned that KVK role is often misunderstood and many people believe it as district level extension agency for transfer of technologies.Congratulations to KVK, Khordha and the authors of this well written AESA blog 96 which effectively addresses the issue of convergence. Many of those who haven’t read my AESA blog 46, may find it linked here.http://www.aesa-gfras.net/Resources/file/RS-eds-MC-20-April%202015.pdf?fbclid=IwAR3Kfb9_9gANR9Fl289Dd6DHTdEpyuxi-JKMqlIiznTyZdeCrbQ1G1xEGGU

    • Dear Dr. Mahesh Chander,

      Thanks for your comments and also the wishes to our KVK team. In fact we decided well ahead in 2012 onwards with this approach (institutional convergence) to achieve our targets. Above all, our KVK has developed an expertise in identifying relevant partners to work with. If we feel the partner who has come to work with us is not of our choice and not for end user, there is no second meeting. It has taken six years to reap the fruits of this approach and we are still working with this approach. However, it was not an easy task to work with diverse partners fitting into their institutional design, administration and financial process. However, we managed it.
      Apart from that KVK-Khordha is thankful to Dr. Rasheed for pushing the KVK to write on this institutional convergence after a brief meet at Hyderabad few months back.
      A full fledged paper on this topic in detail has been accepted as a book chapter being published by Elsevier by March, 2019.
      With regards,
      Ananth

  • “Hearty congratulations to Dr Ananth and his team for practicing convergence and documenting so elaborately with the help of co-authors and CRISP, which itself is a convergence effort.
    We have seen most KVKs practice convergence and have reaped the results not only for the organization itself but for the benefit of other organizations and most importantly the farmers and entrepreneurs.
    The objectives of convergence speak about the diverse nature of activities being carried out by the KVKs, which is also in indication of dilution in the mandate of the KVKs. This is where I feel that ATMA, the “all-convergence platform” should take note of and act upon.
    I have shared the pdf of the Blog with KVKs in the Zone and have encouraged them to document their unique efforts”.

  • Really set a very good example of results of convergence of extension services. Congratulations to the KVK team. These results need to be highlighted among the extension professionals for wider followup.