Strengthening Extension and Advisory Services in Georgia (SEAS):
A USAID funded project implemented by the
Modernizing Extension & Advisory Services Program (MEAS), University of Illinois
The Strengthening Extension and Advisory Services (SEAS) Activity will support the efforts of the Georgian Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) in further developing its recently implemented public agricultural extension and advisory service system. A major component of the SEAS project will include the development of staff training, mentoring, and continuing education programs for MOA employees who are charged to work directly with farmers regarding improved agricultural knowledge and technology transfer. The overall project objective will be accomplished through the use of activity-funded technical advisors who will work closely with the Ministry in developing and implementing a multi-year strategy to enhance the capacity of Ministry leadership and relevant field employees to provide effective, public funded agricultural extension and advisory services to the farmers in Georgia. The Activity will contribute to USAID’s overall goal of improving agricultural productivity and rural incomes through more effective delivery of information on best practices to farmers throughout the country. The University of Illinois is the lead institution of this 2-year activity.
A Technical Advisor/Chief of Party to the overall project, who will occupy an office in Tbilisi, Georgia, will provide support to the MOA as it evaluates its policies, organizational structure, procedures, and operations relative to the public agricultural extension and advisory service system. Sustainability of the new system will depend upon its ability to effectively meet the needs of farmers, agribusinesses, rural families, and other stakeholders. Part of the implementation activities will be planning with the MOA and then providing logistical support for additional training for extension field staff throughout the country. A goal of the professional development for MOA field employees is for them to have the capacity to develop and implement appropriate and effective education programs and services for farmers of small- and medium-sized operations in Georgia. University extension faculty and other experts from the U.S. and other countries will provide the training on education outreach methodology and technical subject matter to increase the ability of MOA field agents and specialists to transfer appropriate knowledge to farmers so that farm productivity and household incomes can increase. Training topics and approaches will be determined with assistance of the MOA as it identifies its high priority development needs. The number of workshops and the topics covered will depend upon interest of the extension specialists, municipality stationed employees, MOA leadership, and budget constraints.
It is expected there will be opportunities for collaboration with other USAID funded projects on specialized topics, and certainly there will be coordination with other donor activities focused on agricultural development. SEAS project activity is certainly not intended to duplicate on-going projects funded by other donors. The SEAS Activity will be focused primarily on leveraging the current capacity in the MOA to build an effective public agricultural extension system delivering relevant information and education to farmers and agribusinesses in Georgia. Therefore, the primary target audience for the Activity is MOA management and MOA employees who have a major job responsibility to directly deliver localized outreach education and advisory services to farmers.
Other activities that will be considered for implementation will be two-week mentoring sessions during the summer of 2014, where a three-person faculty team will shadow MOA employees as they make farm visits or conduct educational programs. The three-person team will provide feedback to the MOA employees on education delivery techniques and technical subject matter training. Demonstration plots and research trials will be a part of this mentoring effort. For management leadership in the Ministry of the new educational outreach system, a two-week fellowship program to the U.S. or some other location to observe Extension management models from other locations could be considered.
Expected results from the activities conducted as a result of the agreement include:
1. The Ministry leadership will evaluate various aspects of the organizational and management structure for the new agricultural information outreach/extension system and make adjustments as needed for the system to become more effective.
2. Ministry employees directly involved in outreach activities to farmers will increase their subject matter knowledge of producing commodities important to their region.
3. Ministry employees directly involved in outreach activities to farmers will understand modern educational methods and approaches to transfer subject matter knowledge to farmers and agribusinesses.
The SEAS Activity will support the Government of Georgia’s (GOG) renewed interest in agriculture as an important sector of the economy and the U.S. Government’s (USG) interests in supporting the MOA in its new initiatives by responding positively to the MOA’s request for assistance in improving its extension and advisory services for the benefit of small- and medium-sized farm operations.
The United States Agency for International Development is the leading American government agency building social and economic prosperity together with the government and people of Georgia.