The goal of this study was to develop a framework for improving coordination in the provision of Agricultural Support Services (ASS) in the Oshikoto region of Namibia. The research questions that were addressed were: Who are the current role players in the Agricultural Support Services (ASS)? Are there any official linkages structures for coordinated agricultural support services? What are the required capacities and skills for coordinated ASS and what are the perceptions and attitudes of the stakeholders towards ASS?
The conceptual framework of the study was framed by extension and decentralisation policies that need to be in place for ASS work to take place. The research further examined the internal factors that lead to outputs of coordination and ultimately to a framework for improving coordination.
A mixed method research design was used to obtain data. The study used qualitative techniques to interview 11 active ASS providers from different organisations such as Government, Parastatal, FBO, Input Supply and Educational Institutions in the Oshikoto region who work with farmers. The ASS providers were selected using the snowball-sampling technique. Although the results revealed that the majority of the ASS providers indicated that they would like to work with other organisations, there was no formal coordination structure put in place allowing them to do so. As a result of no official linkages, the ASS providers plan activities individually and report to different supervisors. It is, however, very clear that ASS providers want to work together, as 72.7% were of the opinion that good coordination is when all ASS providers assist one another and work together in a complementary way so that they are more effective, efficient and avoid duplication of the same activities.
Regarding ASS providers education, out of the 84 ASS provider field workers, only 36 had a Secondary School Certificate and only 28 had diplomas in agriculture-related courses. Some of the ASS providers indicated that, according to them, the higher education institutions were too theoretical and not practical enough, and did not consult organisations on the ground when developing their curricula. Higher education institutions such as UNAM were more research oriented, concentrating more on trials and demonstrations and not on farmers needs. The Supply/Traders had very little knowledge of agriculture yet they sometimes vaccinate livestock on request. Most of the ASS providers use top-down approaches such as the T&V approach rather than participatory approaches. The problems can only be solved if an enabling environment is created whereby all the ASS providers belong to one umbrella organisation and are accountable to one supervisor.
In addition to qualitative techniques, the study also utilised quantitative research techniques, which included structured and semi-structured questionnaires that were administered to (N=200) randomly selected farmers from eight constituencies in the Oshikoto region. The quantitative data were entered into the SAS statistical software program and tables of descriptive statistics and test of significant differences were generated. Some of the quantitative data revealed that government institutions such as the DEES and DVS were in contact with many of the farmers, but the farmers did not seem very satisfied with their services. The few farmers who were contacted by the Private Extension Services Providers, NGOs, and Agricultural Mentors perceived their services as being more relevant and adequate as compared to the DEES and DVS. An estimated 86% (171) of the farmers indicated the radio as their primary source of information. From the 200 farmers interviewed, only 65 (35%) of the farmers belonged to a Farmer-Based Organisation (FBO). There were 42.3% farmers who belonged to a cooperative, 43.1% to a farmers association, and 24% to community projects. There is a need for increased formation of FBOs in the Oshikoto region. Sixty-two per cent (62%) of the farmer respondents indicated that coordination and collaboration of activities were an extremely serious problem in the Oshikoto region, while only 5% of the farmers indicated that it was not an issue.
The study results informed the development of the framework for improving coordination in the provision of Agricultural Support Services in the Oshikoto region.