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9. Animal traction extension

Many countries have agricultural extension services of some kind in which locally-based extension workers or agents visit farmers and advise them on new plant species, pests and diseases of crops, and the use of fertilizers and pesticides. Extension agents understand the need for farmers to produce more for the national economy and are expected to help farmers increase their production to meet both the family's needs and those of the national government.

People who work small farms, however, may not view changes in methods of production as beneficial, for several reasons. Farmers whose needs have been met traditionally at the family and village level may be satisfied with their current agricultural production level and feel no need to increase production. Social or cultural practices and traditions may dictate the types and number of crops grown, the cropping method, and even when crops are planted or harvested. Farmers using traditional tools and techniques for many years know how much work is required for a certain harvest. Changing to animal traction or to a new type of crop involves taking a risk: farmers may, as a result, be reluctant to try it.

Extension agents provide the support necessary to encourage the farmers and reduce risks of failure from improper use of new systems. Extension programs can provide education and equipment, and health care for the animals. The success of an animal traction program may depend upon the availability of these services to farmers.

 

Extension education

Extension education is a way of supplying new ideas, information, and technology to people who are far from schools or who have no time to attend classes. The teacher, or extension agent, is a trained specialist who lives in a small town or village and circulates to outlying communities where people have shown interest in improving traditional skills or developing new ones.

The extension agent's classroom may be a cornfield, forge, family kitchen, shop or marketplace, or dispensary; the student is usually a successful, longpracticing professional farmer; the method of teaching is informal discussion, demonstration, and application.

While it is ultimately the village extension agent who becomes the farmer's key resource on animal traction, it is often a special instructor who has the job of popularizing the method in a given region. The instructor may be an outside technical assistant such as a Volunteer, missionary or private consultant, or a trained agent of the country's agricultural service.

Animal Traction Instructors

The animal traction instructor shows farmers the advantages of the method and helps them acquire animals, tools and practical skills. Instructors also help local artisans learn to make and repair animal traction equipment.

The instructor must ensure that farmers will continue to receive local support after that agent has left the village. This is accomplished by transferring instructional skills to local extension personnel. In the field, animal traction specialists transfer skills to veteran agents at workshops and clinics, during coordinated farm visits and often through informal contact. In some instances, the instructor may be assigned a counterpart who is his or her assistant, and finally, replacement. This assistant may be the local general agent, the agent supervisor, or a member of a cadre of national animal traction instructors. In older, welldeveloped programs, the village agent has become the "specialist".

Instructional Settings

Animal traction instructors may be assigned to work at a regional center, where group instruction is the central activity, or in a centrally located village, where field visits constitute the bulk of the work.

When instructors are assigned to a central village, they may be expected to visit and work in the surrounding villages. The village of residence is selected for its accessibility by road and for its staff of supportive government personnel, such as medics, veterinary nurses, agricultural supervisors or general agents, primary school teachers, or other administrative staff. Sometimes called a pilot village or village center, it is a natural location for supply distribution, demonstrations and meetings because it is a hub of traditional market and social activities. Thus travel between the central village and those surrounding it is part of the normal, established pattern of the villagers. Instructors may be given sets of demonstration equipment and funds to buy and maintain teams of draft animals. They live and work in the village and visit the surrounding areas on a regular basis. As farmer interest grows, instructors may become involved in systems of local and national support, such as:

• farmer associations or cooperatives which supply parts, equipment and veterinary supplies.

• workshops where artisans build and repair animal traction equipment.

• training sessions for agricultural and veterinary personnel who already work or intend to work with farmers who use animal traction.

Regional centers are usually located on the outskirts of a town or area adminstrative center and serve a broad geographical zone. These stations are often composed of residences, barns, workshops, storehouses, trucks and a staff of animal trainers, herders, fieldworkers and extension service trainees. These centers may serve as administrative points for pilot villages. The instructor is responsible for coordinating a number of programs, including courses for both farmers and agents in animal husbandry and training, and equipment maintenance. There might also be programs in stock breeding, artisan training, and crop trials. During the cropping season, group training is suspended and the instructor makes regular visits to villages, fields, and workshops where techniques are being put into practice.

Assignments may vary because farmer reaction to instructional settings varies. Some farmers will not use technology that requires them to seek training, equipment or services outside the village. Farmers also may object to being organized in nontraditional groups while at the center. Farmers who are willing to try new methods expect the attention and interest of an instructor who is nearby and who has time to listen, visit fields and give personal assistance.

Guidelines for Field Visits

The instructor must be present the first time farmers use a new tool, and until they show that they can adjust and handle it. In practice, this means finding out when and where the farmer is going to plant each crop, recommending which fields can be plowed, maintained, and harvested with draft equipment, and being there when it is done. Agents should listen and observe, respect standards of social courtesy and obligation, and explain and demonstrate useful techniques in order to earn the confidence and trust of farmers.

Although relatively short assignments make it difficult, the instructor must be able to speak the farmer's language. This effort, however limited, is a sign of interest and commitment. It allows the instructor to establish the social relationship which often precedes a business relationship.

A fundamental approach to instruction requires the agent to adjust the tool and demonstrate the technique before the farmer begins. Until the farmer gets the feel of the tool-sees what it does, and what it is supposed to do-he or she cannot be expected to understand how an adjustment affects the performance of that tool. This learning process and the fact that a given tool, used under different conditions (soil; power of animals) must be customadjusted, make it obvious and critical that the instructor establish a program of initial and follow-up visits for each farmer.

A sample visitation and instruction form is given in Appendix E.

Cooperation Between Extension Agents and Instructors

Many of the small villages within the animal traction instructor's reach are served by a resident general agricultural extension agent who knows each farmer and who visits those who are using techniques promoted by the national extension organization. The village agent's knowledge of local language, customs, and existing farm practice makes him/ her a valuable colleague and resource for the animal traction instructor. The agent's knowledge of individual farmers' abilities and interests makes him/her a natural, informal counterpart.

Working with village agents by accompanying them on their rotational field visits is the easiest yet most frequently overlooked method of reaching the farmer. The agent is often in the field or spends the night or several days at a family farm or village. Field visits should be arranged beforehand at the monthly meeting of the agricultural supervisor, at a market, or by leaving messages.

It is important to visit both traditional and agent-supervised fields. The latter may be grouped into sections or "blocks", where the same crop (usually a cash or hybrid variety) is sown by individual families. Agents want intructors to meet these farmers because they have already shown interest in new technology. The more traditional farmers may be harder to visit. Their fields may be widely scattered, they may have shown little interest in new crops and techniques, and agents may not have had the time or interest to visit them. Meeting these farmers is often a matter of instructor initiative.

The tendency of instructors and extension agents to work independently of each other has been observed in many projects. Undefined official relationships, conflicting work schedules, cultural and even occupational differences are cited as causes of the problem. The fact remains, however, that instructors who spend all of their time with farmers not only deprive themselves of the valuable experience of the extension agent, they also deprive the agent of valuable animal traction skills. Veteran agents who ignore newer methods because it means more study or work or exposure to the authority of an outsider are soon unable to supply farmers with the information they need. The instructor can take several steps to expose village agents to animal traction and prepare them to assume responsibility:

• Express interest and participate in meetings held by the agent supervisor. Because animal traction is part of a growing package of technology offered to the farmer through extension services, instructors who are isolated from the information and problems discussed at these meetings cannot do their jobs. Meetings usually are held monthly, or as necessary, and all village agents within the supervisor's area must attend.

• Coordinate field visits. Touring fields with the local agent is a good way of meeting farmers and learning about their techniques. Once farmers have begun to use animal traction, the instructor should continue to work through and with the local agent. Agents should be encouraged to assist in demonstrations and field instruction; they should be notified well in advance and briefed on the operation to be performed. It is helpful for the instructor to chart the skills of each agent; efforts should be made to expose him or her to all techniques. For an example of a chart used in the field, see Appendix E.

• Organize clinics/workshops. Agent supervisors and area supervisors are often receptive to the idea of organizing demonstrations for village agents. During the offseason it is easy to arrange two-or three-day sessions in animal training and/or equipment maintenance. When the cropping season begins and ground is cultivable, short demonstrations can be scheduled on market or meeting days when all or some agents will be in the same village. Because they will have come from considerable distances and must return the same day, it is extremely important to have animals and equipment ready to go and to keep demonstrations short and to the point.

• Encourage agents to use animal traction. Many agents hire laborers and farm several hectares of crops for personal consumption and sale, or as part of a subsidized trial or demonstration program. The animal traction agent can ecnourage the agricultural agent to buy or rent a draft unit, or obtain a program funded demonstration unit to effect this operation.

Demonstrations

In some areas where animal traction is being introduced for the first time, the instructor may promote interest by demonstrating techniques in the fields which belong to the village agent, school, youth club, or farmer association.

Open demonstrations are generally well received, but must be scheduled when the ground is workable-the time when farmers are busiest and may not attend. Individual demonstrations are effective but inadvisable if they involve labor output that may be seen as a gift, or if they indicate favoritism. The most effective demonstration is an indirect one.

One way to provide an indirect demonstration is to maintain a small field or fields using a combination of traditional and animal-powered labor. One problem with instructor maintained fields, however, is that some farmers may attribute success to the instructor's special resources or abilities.

Ideally, the land under cultivation should be located along roads or major paths where farmers can see the work being done. Permission to use the land is given by the village chief, mayor, or whatever person or council controls land use. Compensation for use of the land may be given in the form of labor (the instructor helps the landowner plow, weed or transport some of his crops), or in cash or credit supplied by the project. The field could be located in the block managed by the local extension agent.

While instructors could plow, weed and transport their crops alone, or with the aid of a counterpart or village agent, they could not clear, plant, or harvest without hired help. These operations require intensive use of hand labor and traditional farmers depend on spouses, children, and often hired labor to accomplish them. By hiring labor, instructors not only generate interest in their work, they demonstrate that what they teach is an integrated system, combining manual and animal-powered techniques.

The advantage of practicing agriculture in the village is twofold: it lets farmers see what agents are talking about, and it lets the agents see what the farmers are talking about. By personally using established local technology, the agents begin to see the impact of proposed changes from the farmers' viewpoint. The agents become sensitive to the limitations and potential of tools, particularly the ones they are selling. All too often, equipment tested at agricultural stations fails to perform in the less-than-optimal conditions of the field. Techniques recommended for their cashproducing potential may upset delicate labor balances that farmers have learned over centuries to respect.

Once farmers have begun to show interest and to use animal traction, instructors should concentrate all of their efforts in the fields. The success or failure of these first few animal traction farmers often determines the extent of subsequent interest. At this point, the instructor may want to loan his or her animals and equipment to a school or youth club, to a village cooperative or farmer association, or to a local extension agent.

Schools and Youth Clubs

Many village primary schools and youth clubs grow cash crops and use the profits to buy room furnishings, sports equipment, musical instruments, or other supplies. They often get organizational, financial or instructional assistance through government channels. By cooperating with local teachers, club officers, agricultural personnel, and regional youth club supervisors, the animal traction instructor can familiarize these groups with draft agriculture. This cooperation might include:

• A visit to the group's field.

• A pre-arranged visit to a classroom or club meeting.

• An invitation extended to the group to attend a demonstration and participate in "hands-on" activity. The demonstration could be in the instructor's field, or in the school or club field. The student or farmer is allowed to lead or drive the team, or handle equipment. Beginners find it easy to harrow.

• Labor-sharing. The group helps the instructor plant or harvest his or her fields (manual assistance); the instructor, in turn, helps plow, weed, or harvest the group's fields (animal assistance).

Invitational Competitions

The use of animal traction has been successfully promoted by holding competitions among farmers. For example, in Benin from 1970 to 1976, competitions were organized by cooperating local extension personnel and funded by a joint United NationsBeninese Agricultural Ministry animal traction project. Arrangements were made with the help of local animal traction farmer associations. The focal point of each competition was an hour-long contest where farmers used their oxen to plow adjacent strips of cleared land. Points were awarded for depth and regularity of plowing, obedience of animals, appearance of animals, and speed of work. Prizes were given to all contestants; a typical first prize was a sum equal to the yearly payment on an equipment/credit package. Other prizes included replacement ploughshares, traction chains, salt licks, and tubes for cart tires. No entry fees were required. All bulls were given free preventive treatment for trypanosomiasis.

Animal traction agents who would like to try such a demonstration should keep these points in mind:

• Ideally, the event should be scheduled toward the end of the cropping season (between weeding and harvesting operations) when farmers have time to attend. Though preparations may be made through the local animal traction farmer association or by farmers in the instructor's village, all animal traction farmers within the area covered by the instructor should be invited. Planning should begin 6-8 months beforehand. The event should fall on a market day.

• The event should be public. In Benin, it took the appearance of a festival. The village chief, family heads, and market vendors were notified well in advance. Interest spread primarily through word of mouth. Farmers, village agents, instructors, and supervisors from distant areas came to watch; the event became an occasion for numerous social activities.

• It should be organized through established channels; participation and cooperation of agricultural personnel-national, regional, local, and animal traction-is one of the goals of the competition. Invitations should be extended to appropriate officials and arrangements made for their comfort.

• The competition should be preceded by a morning-long veterinary clinic. A team of regional veterinary medics could treat the animals, assess their health and physical appearance, discuss feeding requirements, disease control and prevention, and organize schedules for prophylactic treatment.

• The field should be cleared by the local animal traction association or by participating farmers, then divided and staked into plow strips 50 m long and 12 m wide, measured by the village agent. After the contest, the field could be used to grow a seed crop of forage grass for participating farmers.

• Judges should be agricultural agents, supervisors, and veterinary medics from outside the immediate area.

• A project-funded, instructor hosted reception should be given after the competition for all participants, village officials, visiting officials, and organizers.