AREA joins Haiti’s Ministry of Agriculture to train extension agents
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, May 13, 2019 — Experts say if farmers are to become more productive and increase their standard of living they need to improve how they cultivate crops and raise livestock, use new technologies and gain access to larger markets.
It’s a big challenge, but even family farmers can succeed with the help of hands-on agricultural experts, also known as extension agents, whose job is to link farmers to unbiased research and practices that can increase yields, lower costs and improve the livelihood of people in rural communities.
To fill this vital need, the Feed the Future Haiti AREA project has joined with the Ministry of Agriculture of Natural Resources and Rural Development (MARNDR) to offer a weeklong training for agricultural extension and advisory agents.
About 40 extension providers and other participants from the Ministry of Agriculture and Haiti’s agricultural research and development centers (CRDDs) are expected to attend the workshop, which will be held at the Karibe Hotel in Port-au-Prince Monday, May 13 through May 16.
The training highlights Haiti’s goal of improving its network of extension and advisory services and to better reach the mostly small-scale farmers in rural communities throughout the country.
Caribbean extension specialist to lead training
Norma Samuel, an expert in Caribbean extension services and a native of Antigua and Barbuda, will lead training. She holds a doctorate from the University of Florida and specializes in understanding the professional development needs of extension officers throughout the Caribbean.
Samuel said the training is designed to produce well-rounded extension professionals who can work with a wide-variety of farmers and agricultural experts.
“If you want to improve the agricultural sector you have to invest in human capacity. Professional development is very important,” said Samuel, who also serves as chair of the Caribbean Agricultural Extension Providers Network (CAEPNet), an organization of extension service providers in Haiti and 12 other Caribbean countries.
Samuel and members of AREA’s research and outreach team will introduce the agents to a comprehensive “learning kit” that has been used in other developing countries to teach agents a variety methods to modernize and financially sustain extension and advisory services. Topics include:
- How to manage a successful extension program
- Understanding adult learning for behavior change
- Analyzing the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to a program
- Assessing the needs of the farming community
- Developing and evaluating an extension program
- Properly administering an extension service
AREA, which stands for Appui à la Recherche et au Développement Agricole, was launched in 2015 by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to build the capacity of Haiti’s research and educational institutions and improve Haiti’s agricultural sector. The project is managed by a consortium of universities led by the University of Florida. The training is based on work of another project funded by USAID, called Modernizing Extension and Advisory Services (or MEAS), which provides developing countries with strategies to establish effective rural extension and advisory service systems.
“We’re in the business of building lives,” Samuel said about the importance of extension services. “We help to improve the lives of people we serve — farmers and farm families. Once a farmer is able to increase his or her production you are likely to see benefits not only at the family level but in the community as well.”