|Fish Handling, Preservation and Processing in the Tropics: Part 2 (NRI)|
Most developing countries have training programmes designed to help the rural community improve its standard of living. These are often in the form of extension services aimed at the peasant farmer or fisherman. The aim of extension services is to help the villager to help himself and the aim of every extension worker should be 'to leave the community in a better state than he found it'. The extension worker usually has a general knowledge covering a particular field; however, he must have easy and direct access to experts in other fields, in case problems arise with which he is not capable of dealing. The extension worker must ascertain what is best for the community in which he is to work and he must also realise that there are many constraints which tend to prevent any improvement. It is most important that, as far as possible, the results of his efforts should be quantified; for example, he should be able to demonstrate that any innovation he may suggest to a fisherman or his family will show some benefit. This should ideally be in the form of cash benefits to the fisherman; for example, he may be able to sell his processed fish at a higher price because it is of better quality or he may be able to catch more fish for the same effort because of improved gear or boats.
Not only should an extension worker be able to give advice and demonstrate improvements in his own particular field but he should also be able to see what is necessary for the improvement of the community as a whole. For instance, a village may require a clinic, a water supply or better sanitation, a primary school or advice on growing crops. The worker may not be able to do any of these things himself but he should know whom to contact in order that something can be done.
Training extension workers
Before an extension worker can go out into the villages and start training others, he will need training himself. It is in this area that many difficulties begin to arise. To determine the most appropriate training for an extension worker, we need to know the sort of problems he is likely to encounter in his work and the training organisers must, therefore, be familiar with the village situation. All too often, people from outside the country come into a particular area to teach extension workers improved methods for the fisheries industry and, before they start work, they do not get to grips with the real problems that are being encountered in the local fishing community. To import known technology from other countries without at least seeing whether it is appropriate to the particular situation is foolhardy to say the least. The technology and knowledge that should be imparted to an extension worker comes from various areas i.e. from the experience of others in similar situations, from the experience of the trainer himself, and from people working in the country concerned The trainee should be able to ascertain from this information and from his own experience the sort of improvements that are most likely to be of use to the fishermen. This groundwork is most important; otherwise the extension worker may get into the field and find that what he has learned is of little value. Once the method to be taught (e.g., improved processing, net mending etc.) has been decided, a syllabus can be drawn up. The details and background to be included depend to a large extent on the education and the previous experience of the extension workers.
This brings us to the next point for consideration. Whom does one select for training? In most cases, the prospective extension worker will be someone who is already employed by the fisheries department. He will, therefore, have some knowledge of the fishing industry in his own country and should know something about the fishery in which he is going to work particularly. Before undergoing any training, the extension worker must also realise that his life in the field will not be easy: extension work can entail spending many months away from home and family under fairly arduous conditions. It is often advisable that a worker should spend a probationary period in the field with an already established extension worker before he undergoes any training. This will select out from prospective candidates those that really do not fit in to the type of life-style which will be encountered. He will be working without direct supervision most of the time and must, therefore, be conscientious and hard-working. He must be able to get on with people without losing his patience and drive. He will also be working in a strange environment where he will be unknown and his presence may be resented by some members of the community which he is in fact trying to help. He must not tee 'put off' by the initial reaction of the group in which he is to work; he may find them hostile to begin with but, if he is doing his job properly, they should accept him and gain confidence in him. However, when improvements can be introduced and adopted by the community, extension work can be very rewarding. It is extremely important, therefore, that the right sort of people are chosen to become extension workers.
In addition to the personal qualities outlined above, there are professional qualifications that must be taken into account. The most important consideration is that the extension workers must be more able than those they set out to advise. If extension workers are to demonstrate fishing techniques, they must be able to out-fish the local fishermen; if they are to demonstrate processing techniques, they must be able to show that the products they make will keep better than the traditional ones, or fetch a better price or both. Extension workers must be well-educated in the first place so that they can keep abreast of developments within their own country and they must be well-trained. This training must include practical instruction and practice in the methods they are likely to be demonstrating. The level to which the workers must be trained depends on the level of competence of the fishermen themselves. The general principal is that the workers should be at least one stage ahead.
Methods of getting information to the fishermen
In the previous session, three separate methods were outlined for making sure that a fisherman gets the information which he requires to increase his livelihood:
1. Individual training on a one-to-one basis
2. Group discussions and meetings
3. Mass media methods.
The purpose of making individual visits to fishermen includes: giving information to a particular fisherman that suits his own individual situation and problems; arousing interest in problems which the fisherman has yet to recognise; and obtaining information from the fisherman about his own problems and the local situation.
By making these visits, the extension worker gains first-hand knowledge of the actual problems encountered by the fishermen. He develops the goodwill and confidence of the fishermen in himself and his recommendations. Individual teaching on a one-to-one basis is most effective. However, these types of visit require a great deal of time and the number of people who can be reached through this method are few. The visits are, therefore, a costly method of extension. Another disadvantage is that there will be a tendency for the extension worker to visit the same fisherman time and time again after he has built up a relationship with him. This will make problems of contact with the community as a whole and may arouse jealousy and resentment amongst the other fishermen who are not visited as regularly. It is important that a visit to an individual fisherman should be planned beforehand. Some points worth noting are as follows:
Plan the visit by:
(a) Making an appointment if possible.
(b) Deciding the purpose of the visit.
(c) Reviewing the record of previous visits.
(d) Checking any subject matter and information which is needed by the fisherman that may have arisen from previous visits or may be likely to arise during the planned visit.
(e) Scheduling visits to a number of different fishermen to save on time and travel.
Whilst making the visit:
(a) Be punctual.
(b) Be friendly and greet the man with whom you are going to talk openly with good manners.
(c) Find something to praise amongst the fisherman's activities. This will give him confidence in you.
(d) Get the fisherman to talk about the problems which he has at present.
(e) Get the fisherman to ask you for a solution to the problem that he has outlined.
(f) Give alternative solutions and information so that the fisherman could follow any one of the different alternatives.
(g) Demonstrate any skills that the fisherman may need to learn to put into practice any of the new methods demonstrated.
(h) Encourage the fisherman to come to a decision as to which of the alternative solutions may be the best for him.
(i) If the fisherman is able to read, give him essential information about the methods in writing.
(j) Keep any information about the fisherman confidential, especially his personal circumstances.
(k) Make notes for your own records of what has been achieved.
(1) Encourage the fisherman to participate in any group extension activities.
Fill in a record card or book and send any literature requested to the fisherman. If there is need for specialist help in any particular areas, make arrangements for this to be provided.
Not only does the extension worker need to make visits to individual fishermen but he will also have the fishermen call on him in his office. These will be either personal visits or in the form of letters written to him individually asking for information and advice. It is important that these visits are treated with as much importance as the visits by the extension worker to the fisherman. If the fisherman has a problem and has taken the trouble to come to the extension worker's office, then he must feel that it is an important problem and that the extension worker can help him.
Literate fishermen will write for information and these letters must be answered punctually and with all the information that is required by the fisherman. Letters should be clear and concise and should not be too long. Badly written letters may destroy any confidence that the extension worker has built up within the community. Although extension workers do not reach many people by means of individual letters, they are important in gaining confidence and creating a good impression of the extension service.
Individual extension teaching methods as outlined above are costly to undertake in terms of time and effort and only reach a limited number of people. For these reasons, much extension teaching activity consists of group methods. Group activities are organised for a variety of purposes. It may be to give and receive information about a programme; to encourage and advise and train leaders; to create awareness and interest in a new fishing practice; or to focus attention on group problems and possible solutions. Very often, fishing skills can be taught to a group at demonstrations or in a training centre. Group methods can be divided into three broad types:
Extension meetings are held to introduce and discuss a new idea or practice and to obtain from the community their opinions as to whether it is feasible within their own situation. If meetings are to be really effective, then they must be planned carefully and good publicity given to the meeting so that all the important people within the community are available. Meetings should not be held unless they are absolutely necessary. Unnecessary meetings are a waste of everyone's time and, if one meeting proves to be unnecessary, then support for further meetings will not be forthcoming. For a check list of the areas that must be considered in planning a meeting, one should refer to 'Guide to Extension Training' by D. J. Bradfield published by FAO.
The main purpose of a 'result demonstration' is to prove to fishermen that a new recommendation is practicable and increases either his catching ability or the quality of his product. For example, if an extension worker wishes to introduce a different sort of fishing gear to the community, he may well make a demonstration comparing the traditional gear with the new design. From this demonstration, it will be clear to the community that there are advantages to the new gear proposed by the extension worker. It is important that, as much as possible, the local community and fishermen should themselves be involved in making the demonstration. For instance, they should be responsible for actually setting a new net using their own boat etc. for that purpose. If the extension worker was to do all the work himself, there would be doubts amongst the community as to the validity of the results obtained. A demonstration meeting must be planned very well in the beginning if it is to be effective. Again reference to 'Guide to Extension Training' by Bradfield should be made.
A second type of demonstration meeting is the 'method demonstration'. The purpose of a method demonstration is to actually teach a fisherman or a group of fishermen new skills rather than suggest why a new skill might be worthwhile. A method demonstration is usually attended by fishermen who have already accepted that the particular practice being demonstrated is of benefit to them. They have been taught why it is of benefit by means of a results demonstration or some other extension method. Now they want to know how to carry it out themselves. These sorts of demonstrations must again be carefully planned and carried out. It is important that, before the meeting, an outline is made of the operation to be demonstrated in logical steps. Certain points will need particular emphasis and these should be clearly defined during planning. If possible, a fisherman himself should carry out the demonstration. He will need to be rehearsed in advance to explain to the audience what he is doing and why. Again a useful list of points to bear in mind when planning a demonstration of this sort is in the book by Bradfield.
It is often useful for an extension worker to be able to demonstrate a particular practice in the actual situation in which the fisherman finds himself. With the co-operation of a local fisherman who has adopted a particular method, a field visit to that fisherman will be useful for others in the community. Field visits are usually organised for small groups. If too many people are involved, they will not have enough time for discussion, questions, and inspection. People invited to attend a field visit should usually be those who will benefit most from the visit and who are likely to be most effective in supporting the extension programme. Once again, field visits need very careful planning. Another sort of visit can be arranged as a tour. A number of people from the fishing community may be invited to visit various places of interest to them so as to acquaint themselves with practices used by other fishermen.
Individual and group methods involve personal contact between the extension worker and the fisherman as an individual or a member of a group. In mass media methods, there will be no direct personal contact between individuals but messages of importance to all fishermen can be imparted through such media as the newspapers, radio, publications, agricultural exhibits etc. It is found throughout the world that many fishermen have a radio and will listen to it whilst sitting beneath a tree mending their nets or they will take a radio with them when they go fishing. To impart information concerning new methods and to give publicity for meetings, a radio may well be the most important means. Mass media are not especially costly when it is remembered that, with little effort and experience, an extension worker can reach very many people with his message. Newspaper stories can also reach many people who might not otherwise seek information from extension workers. However, it must be remembered that many fishermen throughout the world are illiterate and would not be able to read the message if it was printed in their local paper.
BRADFIELD, D. J. (1966) Guide to extension training. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.