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IRRI co-organizes multi-stakeholder dialogue to strengthen extension and advisory services in Odisha

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), together with the Department of Agriculture and Farmers Empowerment (DAFE) of the Government of Odisha, brought together over 35 key stakeholders for a policy dialogue on how extension and advisory services (EAS) can contribute more effectively to Odisha’s agricultural transformation.

At a time when farmers are facing complex challenges like climate change, depleting natural resources, increased incidence of pests and diseases, and poor nutrition, a dynamic and pluralistic extension system has an essential and vital role to play in supporting farmers to effectively address these challenges.

The dialogue, held last 17 August 2019, was chaired by Dr. Saurabh Garg IAS, Principal Secretary of DAFE, and drew on studies undertaken by IRRI in collaboration with the Center for Research on Innovation and Science Policy (CRISP) to understand the extension landscape, opportunities, and capacity needs in the State.

Participants in the dialogue represented the pluralistic extension landscape of Odisha, with public and private sector actors including the Directorate of Agriculture, Directorate of Horticulture, Directorate of Soil Conservation, Directorate of Extension Education of the Odisha University of Agriculture and Technology, the Institute on Management of Agricultural Extension (IMAGE), the Odisha Livelihoods Mission (OLM), Regional Information Technology Enable Services (RITES), Krishi Jagran, Digital Green, Foundation for Ecological Security (FES), Pradan, and Precision Agriculture for Development (PAD).

Dr. Rasheed Sulaiman V, Director of CRISP, shared key findings and priorities identified through the aforementioned studies and elaborated on plans of an IRRI-Odisha project to strengthen capacities, including the development and delivery of extension trainers focused on new topics like value chain extension, extension and advisory for climate-smart agriculture, facilitation for development, and design and delivery of gender-responsive services. Also discussed were the development of new introduction modules for newly recruited extension officers so they are aware of the latest extension approaches and tools, and the Organisation and Management (O&M) review of the Odisha Extension System to develop strategies for the revitalization of the service in Odisha.

During the dialogue, Dr. Garg IAS said he appreciated the efforts being undertaken by IRRI to strengthen EAS capacities in the state in collaboration with CRISP, and he reiterated the focus of the government in transforming agriculture, recognizing that a farmer is the greatest risk taker. He advised that diverse stakeholders engaged in EAS and the private/non-governmental organizations should be included. He also added that the government would utilize the master trainers for imparting similar trainings in future for a multiplier effect. He concluded by highlighting the importance of capturing the outcomes of these interventions and also developing a comprehensive action plan for 2019-2021 and beyond for capacity strengthening and scaling up.

During the forum, some of the participants suggested the introduction of e-modules, and also discussed the merits of setting up an Odisha Extension Network for enhanced sharing and learning of good practices.

The second part of the dialogue was a presentation by Dr. Sulaiman on “What is new in EAS, globally?”, which will be the first topic in the capacity development series that IRRI and CRISP will be organizing during 2019-20. This presentation was aimed at helping extension stakeholders understand and appreciate the changing global extension landscape, and how other global and regional networks such as GFRAS (Global Forum for Rural Advisory Services) and AESA (Agricultural Extension in South Asia) are trying to address the new challenges in extension delivery.

Dr. M MutthuKumar IAS, Director of Agriculture & Food Production, Odisha closed the dialogue urging everyone on the need for “changing ourselves to change farmers’ mindsets.” He said that though Odisha has achieved some production stability through the use of science and appropriate technologies, it faces new challenges every day that demand dynamic extension support. He highlighted the importance of forming an advisory committee in the state, to oversee and advise in the execution and monitoring of these capacity development activities, and gave the responsibility of forming the apex body to IRRI.