| Agroforestry in-service training: A training aid for Asia & the Pacific Islands |
On Saturday, October 29, the last day of the workshop, written evaluations of the IST were requested of the participants. A prepared evaluation form (appendix J) was distributed to the participants soliciting responses to the overall effectiveness of individual exercises, the training staff's performance and the overall success of the workshop agenda in meeting the established goals.
We have provided a chart (appendix K) with the rating scale used during the evaluation process. On that chart, below each number rating of one to five, five being the best, a percentage is assigned designating the proportion of the participants that rated the exercise at that level.
Of special note - in the opening session on expectations, almost 70% of the participants agreed that a good starting point in any training exercise is for the staff to solicit input from participants on the training syllabus. Further, it was felt that the flexibility of the training agenda and the staff's willingness to incorporate participants' suggestions served as a good ice-breaker.
Those sessions most enthusiastically received are as follows:
• Expectations - The participants rated the session on expectation among the highest as previously stated. Comments on the session ranged from a "necessary component" to a few that indirectly called it a ''waste of time." The vast majority of the respondents did receive the session well and rated it highly.
• Counterparts/WID - Overall, this session was rated highly as to presentation, content and utility. One participant commented, "good chance to hear about the motivations of our counterparts...to give us a better understanding of one another." The slide presentation on Women in Development was quite a success, well received and highly praised for its merit because of the inclusion of women and the recognition of their indispensable role in development.
• Concepts of Agroforestry - Presented by Dr. Napoleon Vergara, was rated across the board at fours and fives. Dr. Vergara's presentation ranked among the best received by the participants; they expressed profound pleasure at having "met" and been under the instruction of "the expert." Participants felt that more time should have been devoted to this topic.
• Ecology - This session was given a rating of four by 50% of the participants. The overall reception by the group of this topic was good although it was felt that greater depth and more specificity would have made the session more beneficial. The participants understood the rationale for the simplistic approach which in effect was the only approach the staff could take given the time, group size and participant's work site variations. Seemingly, a session on Ecology will, in future, be better suited to single country ISTs or multi-country ISTs with identical environmental conditions (as can be seen in some of the Sahelian countries of Africa).
• Land Use Planning - Although the session on Land Use Planning received high evaluation marks from the trainees, comments reflected a general feeling that this session had shortcomings and drawbacks overall. One volunteer suggested that the session was redundant, perhaps due to the simplistic stepwise directives given on planning and implementing land use, something most forestry volunteers would have previously received during PST or ICT. Nontheless, land use planning should be included in future ISTs if the need exists, but should be better structured for a generic overview geared principally towards agroforestry.
• Ecological, Economic and Social Aspects of Agroforestry - This session was also lead by Dr. Vergara. Once again, he received high ratings from the participants, especially for his manor of presenting the subject matter, very clear and precise. One participant liked that he presented both the advantages and disadvantages, while another stated that he "tended to glossover the social impacts of Agroforestry for the sake of selling the concept on an economic and ecological basis. The general feeling was that such a broad, worthwhile topic should have been allotted more time.
• Nitrogen Fixing Trees I & II - Kenneth MacDicken made two presentations on the pros and cons as well as the latest advances in the use of nitrogen fixing trees in agroforestry schemes. On our rating scale of one to five, the two combined presentations received an average rating of four at 42.5% and of five at 45%. Actually, Nitrogen Fixing Trees I was rated in the five slot by the greatest percentage of participants (48%) than any other session. Part of the reason for this was the delivery format utilized by Mr. MacDicken. It was apparent that he tailored his presentation appropriately to the technical level of the target audience maximizing its effectiveness. This is important when a technically oriented lecturer presents his/her subject to a not as educated audience.
• Agroforestry Project Planning - This session, devoted to the systematic development of an agroforestry plan, stimulated much discussion, exchange and country specific input from the trainees. Factors of primary consideration when planning any development project and issues to be researched related to the plan were brought to light. Also discussed were the steps to be taken in the planning process and the importance of including the people who will benefit from the project in all the steps. It proved to be an outstanding and stimulating discussion and clearly demonstrated the need for project planning in general and planning Agroforestry projects, the focus of the workshop, in particular. On the rating scale, 57% of the trainees placed this session at a four.
Agroforestry and Fuelwood Production; Sustained Production of Fodder and Fertilizer in Agroforestry; Seed Collection; Grafting; Pruning and Agroforestry Projects along with those discussed above received the highest ratings during the evaluation of the workshop. The apparent conclusion to be drawn from the evaluative comments on the previous seven sessions is that the participants had a real need for and interest in the specific areas covered. Further, it is our conclusion that the methodology utilized for information and skill transfer met the needs of the participants.
In general, the participants felt that all of the foregoing sessions, with the exception of expectations and counterparts/WID could have been better if more time had been allowed. Other topics on the training agenda not covered specifically in this section were rated below average. The most frequent comments on the below average and low ratings were: "Too hurried", "too technical" to "not enough specifics", "more 'hands-on' training" and a few "waste of time."
Other concerns expressed by the participants included:
• A need to allow more time on the agenda for information sharing among participants. It was intended that the slide presentations by the participants would stimulate and satisfy this need; however, it is apparent from the comments that additional time was needed.
• That lecturers designated as experts should be experts in their field with previous training experience. This comment had a dual meaning. First, an expert should have a thorough understanding of the technology they are to cover. Second, they should, as previously stated, be aware of the composition of the target audience so that the delivery of information is free flowing and easily absorbed. As these ISTs are usually short and fully planned well in advance of delivery (although subject to change), time, which is of the essence could easily be wasted if a topic inadequately covered has to be rehashed in an attempt to deliver information that was poorly presented the first time around.
• That there should be a greater emphasis on extension approaches and techniques. The single most important function of any volunteer is to effect skill transfer (extension) in an effective and culturally accepted manner. Therefore, participants felt that more time and consideration should be given this subject.
• That the intensity of the training be decreased by increasing the overall length of the workshop.
In closing, the evaluation provided the IST planners, implementing staff and the Office of Training and Program Support an opportunity to assess the degree to which areas of training requested had been or not been satisfied. To this end, better and more effective training during the period of service of the volunteer can be delivered based on their evaluation and suggestions for improvement of future in-service training workshops.