Improving extension across Iraq’s Kurdistan region
Extension services – the way that new techniques and technologies are promoted and distributed to farmers – are often held back in Iraq’s Kurdistan Region (IKR) by budget cuts, limited funds, and poor facilities. In remote areas, a lack of transportation complicates the task of reaching some of the region’s most vulnerable and resource-poor producers.
HSAD addresses extension constraints in multiple ways: providing training opportunities and raising the capacity of extension agents; exploiting new technologies and IT applications; and holding participatory farmer workshops to equip farmers with the required skills and know-how to effectively utilize new technologies.
These efforts are successfully facilitating farmer access to the inputs they need to raise their productivity and incomes – anything from sustainable crop, livestock, and natural resource management techniques to alternative feed sources and supplemental irrigation.
The interventions have been welcomed by IKR’s Director of Extension, Dr. Khasro Mamand, who acknowledges the assistance HSAD has provided: “Since HSAD has been working in this area, we have taken advantage of the help they have offered - for example, the mobile seed cleaners they have repaired, and the demonstrations they provided. They also introduced new practices such as zero tillage, and offered different types of courses and promoted successes to farmers.”
Commenting on the potential of zero tillage, he added: “Most of the farmers have taken the successes on board because they can see the value of zero tillage - this is a rain-fed area and the practice helps to retain water and keep costs lower.”
The HSAD Program recently held a two-week media training course which provided extension agents with the know-how to produce effective instructional videos targeting farmers. These ‘farmer to farmer’ videos – so-called because they feature farmers talking about the pros and cons of a particular intervention – are a proven means of building trust with farmers and encouraging the adoption of new technologies.
Dr. Mamand continued: “The creation of the videos is an innovative strategy to extend new information to farmers. Although we have already been doing this, the course will help extension agents to improve our production of videos and help us to reach an even greater number of producers across the Kurdistan region.”
Acknowledging the constraints facing IKR’s extension services, Dr. Emad M. Al-Maaroof, Coordinator of the HSAD Initiative in Iraq’s Kurdistan region, commented: “Extension in this region has to be strengthened and extension staff must be supported if they are to effectively deliver new information and innovations to farmers.”
He added: “We have held training courses to help extension agents transfer new ideas and innovations, and with the cooperation of the Ministry, we have successfully established improved links between extension staff and farmers.”