Working paper 26 - Agricultural Extension in Kenya: Practice and Policy Lessons

Author(s):  Muyanga, Milu; Jayne, Thomas


Introduction

A general consensus exists that extension services, if properly designed and implemented, improve agricultural productivity (Romani 2003, Evenson and Mwabu 1998; Bindlish and Evenson 1993; Birkhaeuser et al 1991). The term ‘extension’ is here understood to mean ‘advisory and other services’ that help rural families to make the best possible use of the productive resources at their disposal (Katz 2002). Agricultural extension services provide farmers with important information, such as patterns in crop prices, new seed varieties, crop management, and marketing. Exposure to such activities is intended to increase farmers’ ability to optimize the use of their resources.

At times even when technologies are available, smallholder farmers have no access to them (Fliegel, 1993). Awareness of existing technologies generates effective demand by providing a critical signal to input distribution systems (Davidson et al 2001). Thus, extension systems and input distribution systems are mutually reinforcing – the contribution of extension to agricultural productivity growth depends on functioning input distribution systems, and vice versa. In addition, ideal extension system provides feedback from farmers to research centres.

The importance of agricultural extension in relation to the fight against poverty has been underscored in the Strategy to Revitalize Agriculture (SRA) (Republic of Kenya 2004). The declining effectiveness of the public extension service has been identified as one among the factors impeding agricultural growth in Kenya. In this regard, SRA has suggested reform of the extension system to create more effective linkages between research, extension and farmers, who are the ultimate beneficiaries.

Extension is thus one among the six SRA first-tracked areas requiring urgent fix. Inefficient public extension system has triggered a debate in the developing countries that is calling for a greater role by the private sector (Alex et al 2002, Katz 2002 and Rivera et al 2001).

The debate is anchored on the premise that the private sector is more efficient in extension services delivery. The primary objective of this study is to contribute to this debate by assessing the quality of extension service provision for food crops and livestock in Kenya, with a broad aim of understanding what exists, what works, and why.

It seeks to expand knowledge of the existing extension providers, their characteristics, approaches employed and the challenges they face, with the aim of informing the implementation of the new National Agricultural Sector Extension Policy (NASEP). Given the importance of extension services, and the amount of resources invested in them, such a study is justified and urgent.

Agricultural Extension in Kenya: Practice and Policy Lessons