Product line 6.1. Innovation in learning and communication tools and extension capacity development

Rationale

The future challenge of global, national, and household food security for rice growers and consumers demands stepping out of the boxes that separate research and extension functions. The governance practice of demarcation is obsolete. It has proved particularly detrimental to small and marginal farmers and to women. Each country has a unique set of actors in dissemination comprising the public sector, private sector, and civil society. The successes within one country or region can potentially be adapted in other countries or regions. At the same time, the global ICT revolution has had an impact for the poorest and most vulnerable farm households. To improve rice production, farmers need coherent and consistent rice production and postharvest knowledge that is up-to-date and in a format that can be clearly understood.
        The platform of the Rice Knowledge Bank (RKB) globally and within-country provides consistency in rice knowledge. This can be greatly strengthened by linking with the initiatives of FAO concerning ICT and food security. FAO provides an umbrella for the many public ICT efforts in agriculture. At the same time, joining with CABI and its ICT program for plant health will give added consistency to rice health messages. Already, IRRI and CIMMYT have consistent protocols for the Cereal Knowledge Bank (CKB) for rice, wheat, and maize systems, and this will be extended to Africa in collaboration with AfricaRice. AfricaRice and IRRI and LAC are working together on ICT development to build capacity in rice extension. Lessons learned may be of benefit to other CGIAR Research programs in the future. ICT innovations provide an opportunity to go to scale within-country and across regions. The mobile phone technology for nutrient management recommendations as developed by IRRI is an example and it can be adapted to specific country settings. The rice seed health videos for women illustrate an ICT that has crossed cultural borders across regions (from Asia to Africa). 
        The public extension service is aging in many countries and often has struggled with structural readjustment, a private sector in extension is emerging in some countries, and civil society has varying capacity in agricultural extension. New models/approaches in extension capacity are needed to ensure a young cadre of competent extension professionals. Capacity development for women in extension will ensure greater extension penetration for rural women. 
To take advantage of large-scale regional rice investment projects, the international centers must assemble technical expertise that can readily link the advances in rice science and production technology to avenues for large-scale delivery regionally and nationally. Environmental disasters linked to climate change and periodic country postconflict risk management require technical expert services. It is not uncommon for the international centers and disaster/postconflict civil society organizations to become engaged in disaster mitigation and institutional rebuilding. Examples have been Cambodia, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and, more recently, Liberia.    

Activities

The international centers with key partners will form a global learning alliance for accelerating the scaling up of rice technologies with a particular focus on ICT for development, knowledge management, and innovative models/approaches for extension capacity development. This platform will link with the FAO ICT and Food Security group and CABI ICT Plant Health for moving forward together in practical innovations in ICT for growth of the rice sector. The link with FAO will provide an important entry to policy dialogue for extension for rice within regions and nationally. The learning will draw directly on practical experiences within each region: for example, the mobile phone technology for fertilizer application developed by IRRI or the video on dissemination of learning of AfricaRice, the agronomy extension training program of FLAR, and the accreditation program for agronomists in India. The alliance will draw on cross-country learning on projects that have been successful in reaching small and marginal farmers. Experiences will also be shared from effective private- and public-sector and civil society–public-sector partnerships. For the latter, an NGO summit will be held to frame an alliance for the large-scale delivery of rice technologies, particularly to support delivery to women and poorer farm households.
        Investments in technologies for mobile phones, e-learning modules, the Rice Knowledge Bank, and videos within Asia and Africa will be the basis of ICT for extension. Within Asia under CSISA, there will be multichannel approaches with telecenters, mobile phones, and community radio. An e-seed course will be released across the regions in local languages to support the private and public sector and farm-level seed production. The international centers will work closely together in the use of the Rice Knowledge Bank globally, regionally, and within-country for providing consistent extension messages for rice production and postharvest care and the centers will be the platform for multiple ICT products for dissemination. 
        Under a JICA project, IRRI and AfricaRice with PhilRice will release a season-long coherent training course for extension capacity development in Africa. This will be a south-south product with international center support. The PLAR adaptive and extension approach as developed by AfricaRice will be used for capacity development in ESA, WA, and Asia.  
        A new team of extension agronomists and business development specialists and multistakeholder facilitators will be established across South Asia and Africa. This cadre will be crucial for building awareness and linkages to national and regional investment for large-scale diffusion of new technologies and to provide a coordinated expert response to natural disasters and postconflict situations. The team will also help with the design and piloting of improved delivery systems, including business models for large-scale roll-out of technologies. AfricaRice will support rebuilding national rice research and extension capacity in postconflict countries, such as Liberia. IRRI will also seek to partner in new investments to support reconstruction in the war-torn areas of northern Sri Lanka or other countries. 

Products

    6.1.1 Rice knowledge management for dissemination  
    6.1.2 ICT for development
    6.1.3 Innovative approaches for extension capacity development
    6.1.4 Technical expert services for rice-sector investment and disaster or post-conflict response 

Partnerships

Products of this product line will feed into PL 6.2 to 6.5 and will rely on partnerships within and across regions. The participation of CSOs will be particularly important for rapid out-scaling of products and inclusion of poorer farming communities and women. 
Rice knowledge management will be coordinated globally through the Rice Knowledge Bank at IRRI, with links to NARES partners that will develop country sites. A major effort will be undertaken in Africa to boost rice knowledge management capacity. 
ICT development will require linking up with other development partners already active in this area, most notably FAO and CABI and the private sector, for example, telecommunication companies. Much is expected from mobile phone technology, providing multiple services for farmers.  
        Partnership for capacity development in extension will include strong NARES partners to help with or outsource technical training through a multitude of means from e-learning courses to season-long training. Collaboration with ICRA will ensure ample attention to improving skills to facilitate change and establish learning alliances across the rice value chain. 
The creation of pools of rice experts (extension agronomists) in the various regions, mostly from NARES partners, but with a limited number employed by AfricaRice and IRRI, will allow improved and more sustainable linkages with major rice investment projects and rapid and focused contributions to country-led responses to natural disasters or postconflict situations.  

Uptake and impact pathway

The uptake and impact pathway will vary according to national systems and the roles of public, private, and civil society organizations in various countries. It will also vary according to the nature of the technology. Nutrient management, water-saving technology, and postharvest processing technology dissemination will often require different intermediaries. CSISA and STRASA in South Asia illustrate how to effectively engage a diverse set of actors for adaptive research and dissemination. The use of mobile phone technology to disseminate rice knowledge engages the international centers, the national research and extension system, telecommunication companies, and local telecenters. For video education on rice seed health, evidence from AfricaRice shows that pathways include more than 500 organizations, with national research institutions, NGOs, universities, schools, networks, rural radio, and television participating. 
        Consortia such as CURE and IRRC each have more than 100 partners drawn from a wide diversity of actors in the public and private sector. These specific consortia also have socioeconomic teams in place that provide regular evaluation of extension pathways, as well as ex ante and ex post impact assessment. Knowledge from the local Bangladesh RKB fact sheets is disseminated through the public extension system, NGOs, CD shops, local mosque committees, and schools. There will be additional pathways through the networks linked to FAO and CABI for ICT extension. The video extension and the season-long training in rice production for African extension personnel illustrate a south-south impact pathway. The program for the accreditation of extension agronomists will support uptake through committed individuals, private companies, and civil society and public-sector extension. For poorer farmers and for women, the effective dissemination pathways will include specific civil society organizations and the establishment of learning alliances, which provide feedback for public- and private-sector extension. Investment projects regionally and nationally and links with regional economic communities such as ECOWAS in West Africa will provide a further opportunity for large-scale dissemination. For a coordinated response to postconflict situations or natural disasters, the pathway will be through public-sector and specialized civil society organizations such as CRS and global actors such as FAO.
        There will be strong linkages to the products emerging from themes 1, 2, 3, and 4 that also link with the IRRC and CURE for IRRI, the AfricaRice Task Force initiatives, and FLAR in LAC. Impact pathway monitoring and evaluation will be linked with theme 5.        

Financing strategy

The strategy for financially supporting ICT for development and rice knowledge management for dissemination is predominantly through embedding it within larger objectives. This is coupled with seeking additional in-country co-investment. The STRASA and CSISA projects illustrate this approach. The mobile phone extension technology has been initially funded for Southeast Asia through IRRC, and its development within South Asia via the CSISA project. RKB knowledge management development for ESA has been within an IFAD R&D project. At IRRI, significant input into updating the RKB is provided by the different consortia. What is apparent is the cross-linking of projects for ICT product development. JICA is committing resources to extension capacity development for Africa through AfricaRice, IRRI, and PhilRice. The accredited extension agronomist model for India is a self-funded model with local institutionalization. The financial model for technical expert resource development will be cost recovery through regional or national investment projects. Examples are the larger-scale investment opportunities with the World Bank for Vietnam, AusAID for Cambodia, and USAID for Cambodia. Funding within LAC is through farmer associations, public contributions, and as an implementer of the rice component for investment projects. Funding for Africa for learning and communication tools and rice knowledge management is expected to come partly from a new BMGF grant on integrated soil fertility management led by CABI. Extension capacity-building efforts in Africa will be supported by Japan, the African Development Bank, BADEA, ECOWAS, and BOAD, among others.