How competent will Uganda’s new privatised extension system be? This paper reports on a case study conducted in Mukono District to assess the effectiveness of the ""private service provider advisory system"" in motivating farmer participation and control of the extension agenda. It discusses how the farmers’ needs were identified and prioritised for delivery of extension services under the new system, and what farmers felt about it. The authors also highlight problems experienced in translating the system’s lofty objectives into reality, and draw lessons for the new system as it expands to cover more districts. Research findings include:
the needs identification process for the new contract extension system tended to assume a high degree of homogeneity among farmers and overlooked the needs of minority and primary groups
there was a mismatch between the time-bound contracts for service providers and the lengthy and complicated enterprise selection process, leading to service providers short-circuiting the process on a number of occasions
some of the enterprise selection criteria tended to be academic, with no real practical value
while provision of knowledge to farmers is important, it is not a sufficient prerequisite to move agriculture forward. Other elements of the mix have to be present in sufficient quantities.
Policy implications drawn from this research include:
there is a need to promote broad-based multipurpose farmers’ organisations as a strategy for building strong farmers’ institutions. The new extension organisation needs to look beyond the narrow focus of institutional mandates as it sets up ""farmer-controlled institutional structures""
there is a need for more flexibility in the system to reach and cater for a broader range of farmers, by means such as decentralising extension programme planning from sub-county level to primary farmers’ group level
the enterprise selection criteria for the contract extension system should be greatly simplified to enable farmers to engage meaningfully in the process. There should be more emphasis on the use of the farmers’ own criteria
the farmers’ needs for credit and inputs should be critically examined and suitable arrangements made for their provision.