In the Philippines, agricultural productivity improvements since the 1960s have been slow in coming. The public delivery of extension services has largely devolved to provinces, cities, municipalities and villages as a result of the 1991 Devolution of Powers Act. Thus, answers to questions of the relative roles of private and public extension services and the financing and delivery of public extension are important. Project researchers are helping to answer these questions by defining the respective roles of public and private extension services in the Philippines. This includes the development of an economic framework for the financing, design and delivery of public extension services to farmers from central to local government level. Practical steps for adopting such a framework will then be proposed.
Year 1 (01/01/2003-31/12/2003)
Objective 1: Describe and analyse the existing supply chain for the delivery of public extension services.
The activities completed fall into four components. The first was a visit to Los Banos to meet a large group of mayors and vice mayors who were attending a governance workshop. Discussions on the project and agricultural extension services were held.
The second component was a two-day visit to Leyte Province. This involved:
meeting the provincial agriculturist and the vice governor;
site visits to various experimentation sites;
one day workshop with provincial and municipal agricultural officers.
The third component was a visit to the municipal of Santiago in the province of Isabella, for productive and informative meetings with Mayor Miranda and a one day workshop with municipal extension staff and half a dozen farmers. Some extension methodologies were discussed with feedback helping create a fuller picture of the current situation.
The fourth component involved a meeting with the Steering Committee to discuss a proposed program and findings to date.
Objective 2: Design an economic framework for the financing, design and delivery of public extension services to farmers from central to local government level.
A body of research literature, including work conducted by international agencies in recent years, has been compiled.
The main activities through 2004 were:
a field visit in April by Australian team members coinciding with a Steering Committee meeting, to amongst other things, finalise case study areas and issues to be covered;
field visit by Australian team members in August with a two day visit with the Steering Committee to the Claveria case study area;
extension training workshops on project planning and evaluation in Leyte;
completion of 7 case study reports by Philippine team members in September;
preparation and presentation of a paper for the Philippines Agricultural Economies and Development Association (PAEDA) Conference in October; and
preparation and presentation of a paper for the Philippine Extension Network (PEN) Conference in December.
Agricultural productivity improvements are essential for achieving overall economic growth. The Philippine performance on both counts has been disappointing. Agricultural extension which is one way of improving productivity has undergone substantial change in the last thirteen years through devolution under the local government code. Whether devolution has improved agricultural extension delivery is a key question. Devolution generally, has yielded some positives; cooperation between LGUs and with the private sector and NGOs, recognition of the realities of globalization and use of modern management and communication. But problems of capacity building, partisan local politics and uncertain lines of financial and decision making accountability between center and local remain. These general lessons apply to agricultural extension. Moreover, even the best extension service, whether delivered by local or central government is unlikely to be effective where farmer decision making is unduly influenced by government controls and pricing policies and where security of tenure is weak. In this context some of the more important issues or questions are set out below.
Devolution, what has happened?
When services including devolution were devolved, people recognised there were risks. On the one hand there were potential gains from local participation, and on the other hand there were risks of weak capacity and political patronage. This story is emerging from the case studies. One concern expressed at Steering Committee meetings was that as a case study based story with statistical backing is not robust. One task in the closing stages is to tighten up and close in on this story by revisiting case study areas and selecting new case study areas and asking about devolution impacts.
Farmers as clients
One of the potential benefits of devolution was the greater empowerment of farmers by putting them closer to service providers. So a particular aspect of devolution and public extension delivery in general has to be from the point of view of farmers as clients. The September 2004 Steering Committee meeting identified farmer demand as a key issue. Options for follow up include: farmer surveys in case study areas, interviews with extension providers and flushing out emerging evidence already collected on use of co-payments and farm systems and high value crops.
Obstacles to farmers becoming good clients
On this score the main identified obstacles are as follows.
Farmers are too small and a combination of land reform law constraints, weak tenure and weak finance tends to keep them small.
Public policy pushes people towards rice growing which keeps them poor and diminishes interest in their own profitability.
On the supply side, delivery of extension suffers from overlap of central government departments and local government so that even if farmers were able to ‘voice’ their needs they would not be listened to.
One of the main themes has to do with policy response. Various recent reports on extension tend to focus on the supply side. Thus they argue for unification of extension program and agenda, better technical training of extension staff and a better interface of extension and research. An emerging counter proposition is that until farmers become effective clients, unification and strengthening of supply is unlikely to be effective.
What to do to give farmers a voice
There are several possible actions here.
Address central policies of self sufficiency and land tenure
Move to co-payments, vouchers etc
Learn from the Australian experience where the various models (below) all count on local participation and shared identification and resolution of needs. They all recognise that solutions imposed from above are bound to be ineffective:
Next steps to address these issues will comprise:
Gathering additional information to fill gaps
Assimilate all the existing information available
Make the arguments at key forum and with key players in government.
In order to follow up on factors affecting farmer decision making and demand for extension services this follow up farmer survey was finalised in March 2005. This survey itself will cover case study areas and will be conducted through May 2005. Other activities planned for 2005 include:
Write up of farmer survey results - May/June 2005
Finalise case studies and incorporate survey results - July 2005
Preparation of papers for a National workshop/conference to be held on 10 November 2005
Philippines team visit to Australia on 20 November 2005 to finalise report and meet key extension policy experts in Queensland and New South Wales
Submission of study results to key decision makers in Government - December 2005
Finalise project completion report - December 2005
Plan publication of key findings.
The primary outputs promised in the original design of this project are:
an appreciation of how extension activities happen in the devolved system.
a description and analysis of other major changes in the environment for extension (besides devolution) in the Philippines
a framework for identifying niches for delivery of public extension
exposure of these outputs to Filipino practitioners and policy makers by way of conferences and workshops to be part of the ongoing assessment and debate shaping policies concerning devolution, agriculture and extension.
Appreciation of the impact of devolution
Using a range of information-gathering methods including case studies, Steering Committee meetings, field visits and literature reviews, the project came to the following key findings about the devolution experience.
Continuing concerns about extension delivery are set out below.
The relative roles of central and local agencies remains unclear.
Many central agencies continue to be involved in extension resulting in:
- waste and duplication;
- extension resources being diverted from local priorities;
- continued commodity emphasis;
- maintenance of a tops down supply-driven approach over one that is bottoms up and demand-driven;
Training of extension officers is piecemeal and limited in terms of planning and other ‘higher order’ skills.
Some municipalities appeared to be too small to deliver extension services efficiently.
In those LGUs where the devolved extension service had apparently been ‘successful’ this success was ‘hostage’ to a particular leader and with the fall of that leader programs would be brought to a close no matter how successful.
On the other hand there were positive signs as illustrated below.
In some LGUs a farm system approach aimed at family incomes had replaced the old commodity driven production targets approach.
Extension partnerships with private sector, seed suppliers, universities and NGOs were being formed.
Farmers were less inclined to equate extension with subsidies and co-payments for seed, fertiliser and stock were becoming accepted.
Some LGUs were cooperating to achieve benefits of size.
Environment for extension
Some of the more significant aspects of this environment for extension delivery include:
the steady diminution in farm size from 3.7 ha in the 1970s to 1.7 ha in the 1980s to 0.6 ha in 2004.
security of tenure is weak even in agrarian reform areas and opportunities available from tenant share farming are restricted by law.
access to the internet in isolated areas is hampered by weak communication infrastructure.
In reviewing these initial findings with the Steering Committee it was agreed that along with most studies of extension in the Philippines this first-round work focused on delivery or supply of extension and that more attention needed to be paid to demand. Consequently case-study writers were asked to revisit their case-study areas to assess factors affecting demand for extension. Some of the main outputs from this follow up work were:
farmers on small pieces of land had both little capacity and incentive to demand extension services.
commercial farmers, including those involved in hog and boiler raising, seemed to have good access to commercial extension.
contract growing among small farmers especially landless and farm workers by way of consolidating their rented lands is emerging. This endeavour provides sustained income to small farmers.
Niches for public extension
Suggested key niches for public extension in the Philippines are:
moving away from a commodity approach towards a farm system and farm family focus.
working with low income/small farm communities with a holistic approach to promote development through cooperative farming, diversification to off-farm income and sustainable production.
focusing on practices relating to pest and disease control, water and waste management where impacts extend beyond the farm and where extension delivery may need to involve delivery from a unit larger than LGU, for example at the provincial level.
working with larger commercial producers on a copayment basis to develop the further emergence of private sector advisors.
providing packaged information, demonstrations and training packages targeted towards mass dissemination and access and informing private providers of extension and advisors of best practice.
providing feedback to research and policy makers in terms of the needs and best directions for rural/agricultural communities.
importantly the findings stress that input subsidies are not good extension methods.