TMG Research and institutional stakeholders of the agricultural sector in western Kenya adopted a peer review process as a platform where stakeholders critically examined options for providing effective agricultural extension services. The peer review addressed targeting the poor and promoting sustainable land management.
During TMG-led multi-stakeholder consultations, farmers raised concerns over the failure of extension services to adequately reach them; the limited transparency and accountability of sector institutions and the lack of robust platforms for representation of farmers’ voices and interests in decision-making processes in the agricultural sector. TMG and its partners developed this peer review process in response.
Farmers are the stewards of sustainable land management. But they need an enabling environment consisting of
(Kiragu & Flohr, 2016)
Step 1: Setting up a peer review alliance
With facilitation by TMG Research, leading stakeholders in the agriculture sector from the three counties of Bungoma, Kakamega and Siaya agreed to form a peer review team: the Steering and Advisory Committee (SAC). The SAC analyses the challenges of public extension service provision and formulates strategies for addressing them. The team consisted of representatives from the Ministries of Agriculture, public research, training institutions, civil society, farmer organizations, and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH. The first mandate of the committee was to support data collection by the TMG research team to help elaborate the nature of the challenges of extension.
Step 2: (Self-)critical reflection on extension service delivery gaps
As peers in the agricultural sector, the SAC members frankly discussed the root causes of the challenges of public extension service provision, such as the lack of a systematic strategy for reaching the poor, corruption and political interference resulting in diversion of funds originally budgeted for extension support, and manual reporting systems that resulted in poor information management. The driving spirit of the discussions was one of co-learning and sharing ideas. Members were able to challenge each other on why extension had failed to optimally reach its goals.
Key areas for improvement in order to strengthen and better target extension were brought to the fore:
a. extension co-ordination and
b. giving farmers a voice.
Step 3: Formulation of viable solutions
The SAC formed small task forces of 5-8 people to further deliberate on the above key areas. The solutions were then taken back to the SAC and thoroughly vetted for viability of implementation in terms of time, resources, and policy context. At the end of the process, two key feasible solutions were mutually endorsed and requirements for their implementation identified:
a. Institutionalising a co-ordination unit – harmonising extension service delivery.
The coordination task force elaborated the key gaps in coordination taking a sector-wide perspective. They identified a lack of coordination across directorates of ministries of agriculture, across other ministries and parastatals, and across the many non-state actors, especially NGOs and development partners working in the counties. This lack of coordination leads to duplication of efforts and investments – and in some cases to conflicts in extension messages, such as methods of fertilizer application. As a first step towards addressing the gap of extension coordination, they recommended institutionalising the coordination unit. In response, SAC members from the Ministries of Agriculture committed to lobby for ‘coordination’ to be explicitly referenced in the counties’ key planning documents, specifically the annual development plans and the five-year county integrated development plans – which were being drafted in early 2018.
The detailed road map on how to operationalise the installation of the Coordination Unit was articulated by the taskforce members in a policy brief on “Agriculture, Extension and Extension Coordination”.
b. Governor´s Day with Farmers – a strategy for strengthening accountability towards farmers.
The idea of a Governor’s Day with Farmers aims to give farmers a strong platform for articulating their needs and interests. The members of the task force have recognised that a strong lobbying platform for farmers could improve the accountability of advisory services to their customers: the farmers. Kakamega County Farmers Association (KACOFA) has committed to lead the process.
Siaya County has set the pace in the implementation of the recommendations of the peer review process by providing for a County Stakeholder Forum in its 2018-2022 County Integrated Development Plan. To start, the county has nominated an executive steering committee and provided it with terms of reference to guide the operations of the Forum.
Bungoma and Kakamega counties have quarterly stakeholder meetings, which they see as a starting point in structuring coordination based on the peer review’s recommendations.
KACOFA has kick-started consultations and preparations for Governor’s Day with Farmers. During first-level consultations, farmers and leaders of farmer cooperatives provided input for preparations towards meeting the Governor. KACOFA has also started consulting ministry staff for input on how best to package its messages and approach the office of the Governor. TMG Research continues to provide KACOFA with technical backstopping in this innovative process.
The peer review process for improving public extension service provision has been an iterative co-learning process. The outcomes of the process could not have been achieved by a single scientist/technical advisor but are the sum of the work of the diverse stakeholders engaged in it. The open and self-reflective discussions built trust and ownership of results, as demonstrated by the request from county staff to take the recommendations on coordination to their line management for sector programming. KACOFA’s readiness to lead the Governor’s Day with Farmers process was further confirmation that co-developing solutions with those affected by the problem yields higher chances of the solutions’ uptake.