Farmers aren’t getting the message

Government agroforestry advisory services are not getting through to farmers effectively, says Elis Nurhayati


Farmers in Sulawesi, Indonesia, are not getting the advice they need about agroforestry from Government advisory services, according to a new study by Enggar Paramita, Endri Martini and James M. Roshetko of the World Agroforestry Centre, presented at the National Agroforestry Seminar held in Malang, East Java, Indonesia on 21 May.

The ineffectiveness of the services is linked to insufficient numbers of skilled advisory workers and limited use of appropriate communication media.

Mr Mustakim, farmers' group, Sulawesi, personal communication

Farmers prefer face-to-face communication about agroforestry techniques

The research team interviewed 146 farmers in the provinces of South Sulawesi (Bantaeng and Bulukumba districts) and Southeast Sulawesi (Konawe and Kolaka districts) to identify the media and methods that farmers preferred for receiving agroforestry and agricultural advice.

Agricultural experts were infrequent visitors to the often remote mountain villages. So, while farmers preferred to be advised in person, their second preference was television, radio or mobile telephone. This preference for audio-visual media was not surprising given the low literacy rates in the area. However, the information mostly received by farmers in both provinces was printed material in the form of books, leaflets and posters.

Clearly, a better strategy was needed to ensure that farmers received the information they wanted in the ways they wanted. However, the second-most preferred medium after face-to-face communication—television—was largely impossible to provide because agricultural shows weren’t broadcast in the region. The next-most preferred, radio, did have some special programs dedicated to farmers.

This finding led the research team to develop agroforestry advisory programs for Radio Republic Indonesia, the wide-reaching Government station, in which farmers and scientists discussed topics such as improving pepper, clove, cocoa, coffee and other tree crops that were popular in the area.

The programs potentially reached many more people than just the farmers involved in the Agroforestry and Forestry in Sulawesi (AgFor) project being conducted by the Centre in collaboration with the Canadian International Development Agency and the Government of Indonesia. For the AgFor project team, spreading information about improved agroforestry and agricultural techniques was crucial for achieving their goal of improving farmers’ livelihoods while also enhancing the environment, which was why they conducted the study of farmers’ communication needs.

Agricultural advisory information, combined with local knowledge and traditional wisdom, is a significant factor in rural development worldwide. Dissemination of reliable information along with new farming techniques can bring novel opportunities to farmers that can improve their livelihoods and increase food production. And although agroforestry is an age-old practice, particularly in Indonesia, it is a relatively new science. Traditional agroforestry systems have evolved into modern, more intensive systems in response to demand from an increasing population while monocultural food crop production is considered to be less sustainable. Hence, more productive agroforests offer a practical alternative to monocultural production and the depletion of natural resources.

Provision of high-quality information about agroforestry is one of the keys to improving poor farmers’ livelihoods and securing our food supply, making the research team’s study of critical importance.


Edited by Robert Finlayson


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This work is related to the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry

Rob Finlayson

Robert Finlayson is the Southeast Asia program's regional communications specialist. As well as writing stories for the Centre's website, he devises and supervises strategies for projects and the countries in the Southeast Asia region, including scripting and producing videos, supervising editors and translators and also assisting with resource mobilization.

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