Participants at the two-day workshop. Photo: Sen Le Thi Hoa
Agricultural knowledge among farmers on latest varieties, changing weather patterns, crop production techniques and improved agronomic practices, is important and enables global food security. However, the practice of agricultural extension is difficult to facilitate in a way that is efficient and useful. The increased accessibility and penetration of phones and mobile networks in low- and middle-income countries, create opportunities to address these challenges through digital extension tools.
To tackle this challenge in Vietnam, Hue University of Agriculture and Forestry (HUAF) initiated the Digitalization Extension Services (DES) project which is being implemented under challenge 3 of the AgriFoSe2030 programme. The project aims to explore the availability and quality of digital advisory information to ensure the accessibility and timely benefits of digital extension services to smallholder farmers.
Building public extension agency capacity
Based on the desired change outlined by the research team for this project, diversified communication tools and approaches have been applied to enhance the interaction with stakeholders. Different from the traditional research approaches, the researchers collect data for the study on a continuous basis with the stakeholders through virtual calls, direct interviews and group discussions.
The project started with the researchers interviewing key informants at agriculture extension departments at national level. From the interviews, Quảng Trị and Thừa Thiên - Huế provinces were selected for this research project. Following this, the researchers interviewed the board directors of extension centers of the two provinces regarding their awareness of DES and barriers of using DES. They then held a meeting with key stakeholders at Quảng Trị province to discuss the survey results.
‘We have heard a lot about digital agriculture, but we do not fully understand how it works and the tools needed. In addition, we have received requests from both national and provincial level to provide a proposal on digitalisation of agriculture and extension work but we did not have any clear guidelines or trainings to satisfy the request. It was until we interacted with the DES research team that we got a better understanding that will guide us in drafting the digitalisation proposal’, Nguyen Thanh Tung- head of the communication and training department of Quang Tri Provincial Extension Center said.
Trainings organised for public extension officers
A two-day training was organised by the DES research team with the participation of 53 extension staff from commune and provincial levels with the aim of raising awareness on digital agriculture and extension services.
Forming virtual chat groups for the extension workers’ network. Photo: Sen Le Thi Hoa
Previously, the public extension departments were hesitant to collaborate with research institutes like HUAF but due to their urgent need and the right timing of the DES project, they contacted HUAF to organise and design the training. Part of the training was a discussion by all participants on how to improve and digitalise extension services and the roles of different stakeholders. Participants also learnt how to form virtual chat groups which connects all extension workers and formed farmers’ chat boxes to enable exchange of information.
As a result, all participants including the board directors of extension centers were satisfied with the training and were keen on organising follow up activities.
This article is written by the project team with support from the AgriFoSe2030 C&E team.
Ylva Nyberg, PhD
Assistant Challenge leader for AgriFoSe2030 Challenge 3
Department of Soil and Environment, SLU
Telephone: +46 18-672053