EVALUATION AND IMPACT ASSESSMENT OF THE CENTRALLY SPONSORED SCHEME “SUPPORT TO STATE EXTENSION PROGRAMME FOR EXTENSION REFORMS” (ATMA PROGRAMME)
The Centrally Sponsored Scheme “Support to State Extension Programmes for Extension Reforms” more commonly known as the (ATMA Programme) was launched on 7th May 2005. The scheme is presently under implementation in 591 districts of 29 States and 2 UTs of the country.
The institutional reforms mechanism in the form of Agricultural Technology Management Agency (ATMA) at the district level was a major intervention in overhauling the extension system for making it farmer driven and farmer accountable.
The Government of India, Ministry of Agriculture had entrusted the task of centralized Evaluation and Impact Assessment of the ATMA Programme, to AFC India Limited., a premier national level consultancy organization. The study was conducted in two districts of Haryana and nine districts of Uttar Pradesh covering 18 Project Blocks spread over 245 villages in U.P and four Project Blocks spread over 70 villages in Haryana. The sample size for field survey comprised of a total of 7875 beneficiary farmers covering 6125 farmers from Uttar Pradesh and 1750 farmers from Haryana.
KEY OBSERVATIONS AND FINDINGS
The study aimed at assessing the project impact on the target beneficiaries and in reforming the extension system in respect of various processes envisaged under the scheme.
The study revealed that the extension reforms envisaged under ATMA programme was slowly and gradually picking up. While the institutional mechanism created at the district level has started functioning after the initial teething problems, the block level operations have not moved at the same pace in many of the sampled districts mainly due to shortage of staff at the block level and also the level of their skill. The block level institutions viz. BTT & FAC have started playing some role in planning & execution of developmental plans at the village level though the bottom-up participatory planning, single window concepts and convergence/dovetailing of schemes in the true sense of the term, are yet to take an institutional shape.
All ATMAs in the sampled districts have made reasonable progress on diversification and intensification of different farming systems though it would take some more time to establish firm roots, particularly in view of the huge complexities in extension mechanism and diverse agencies involved in the process.
FIGs/CIGs which have initiated some activities are yet to become self-propelling institutions to make use of the extension network. The process of technology dissemination through various institutional arrangements such as training, demonstrations, exposure visits, field days, kisan ghosties, etc. has certainly shown some improvement over the pre-ATMA position. Farmers have found high utility and relevance of knowledge gained through participation in these programmes. The research, extension and farmers linkage through meeting/goshties with scientists has started but the general perception of the farmers was that the frequency of such meets needs to be enhanced to at least one interactive meet during each rabi and kharif season.
Based on the findings & conclusions of the study and keeping in view the scope and significance of ATMA Programme aimed at reforming the extension mechanism, AFC made a comprehensive and wide ranging recommendations touching upon the entire gamut of the extension reforms to facilitate Government of India to take a policy review of the scheme at the appropriate levels so as to make the extension system truly farmer driven and farmer accountable.
Some of the major recommendations made were as under:
- Convergence of Extension Activities - funds provided under different schemes of the centre and State Governments to be directly transferred to ATMA for implementation at the block/village level with a coordinated approach of all the line departments. Moreover, ATMA needs to be well equipped with logistic facilities to utilize the technical officers of departments.
- Deployment of a dedicated manpower in ATMA Office - ATMA PD in his capacity as Head of Agriculture Department in the district already overburdened with multifarious activities under multiple schemes of the Centre/State, desired focus and attention to extension activities in the district lacking - ATMAs in the district to be strengthened with a dedicated PD to look after extension - competent and suitable technical support staff to be deployed on contractual basis to give fillip to extension reforms.
- Strengthening Extension at Block/Village level - construction of FIAC buildings in all blocks on priority and equip them with necessary infrastructural facilities viz. computer with Internet facility, audio-visual aids, library etc. - FIACs to provide farm related information and advisory services such as farm inputs, market access, competitive price of produce, weather information etc. - FIACs within the district to be networked electronically to enable information sharing - Involvement of Panchayati Raj Institutions for creating awareness among farmers, selection of beneficiaries, conduct of training programmes, on-field demonstrations, etc. - Dedicated staff to FIAC for effectively undertaking village level extension activities and to bring about synergy among all the line departments.
- Promotion of effective Farmers’ Interest Groups and Farmers’ Organisations - to fill the gap in extension services at the village level through technology generation/dissemination.
- Farm School / Farmers’ Field School – to be completely realigned and restructured to make it an effective for farmer to farmer learning and dissemination. Detailed step by step measures have been suggested for consideration.
- Involvement of farmers in planning and implementation process - Farmers’ Advisory Committee (FAC) to play a more proactive role through interaction with farmers’ interest groups and farmers’ organisations in order to obtain their extension priorities before finalization of Block Action Plan (BAP).
- Research-Extension-Farmer Linkages – time lag between technology generation and dissemination to be minimized by devising suitable means & mechanisms for continuous flow of knowledge, techniques and technologies from research institutes / universities to KVKs and ultimately to farmers.
- Involvement of KVKs / SAUs - synergy between ATMA and KVK at district level and SAU and SAMETI at State level to be strengthened - KVKs and ATMAs to complement activities of each other and avoid duplication - KVKs to be given complete responsibility for conducting farmer-scientist meets, arranging Goshties and managing the farm school - KVKs to be utilized for training of extension functionaries, progressive farmers and leaders of CIGs based on training needs emerging from SREP, in addition to their other extension activities to create awareness on various improved farm technologies.
- Gender Mainstreaming in agriculture - recognizing women as agricultural extension clientele, training of men and women extension staff to sensitise the role of women in agriculture, especially dairy, training women on decision making in the context of farm and live-stock management, training women farmers in agriculture marketing, adequate representation of women folk in the training programmes.
- Promotion of Self Help Groups (SHGs) - efforts to promote SHGs, particularly, women SHGs and providing them the needed skills to take up income generation activity in the farm and non-farm sector.
- Training & Capacity Building of extension officials - time bound and well-structured HRD plan for each of the ATMA districts to be developed to provide capacity building/training to all the field functionaries and stake holders - involvement of KVKs, extension departments of SAUs and other local level training institutes
- Training of Farmers - exposure visits and demonstrations to be given more priority in allocation of funds in view of their vital utility- training programmes on system based and sustainable technologies such as IPM & IPNM to be enhanced.
- Concurrent Monitoring and Impact Evaluation - budgetary provisions for concurrent monitoring, evaluation and impact assessment to be suitably enhanced.
- Strategic Research & Extension Plan (SREP) - SREP to be reviewed and updated after every three-year period to keep pace with the changes & times - launching of a wide publicity campaign at the district level with active participation and involvement of all the line departments, KVKs, SAUs, Farmers’ Organisations/FIGs, Corporates and NGOs.
- Involvement of Voluntary Sector - to promote multi-agency extension strategies through mobilization of farmers and capacity building of Farmers’ Interest Groups - input dealers being in closer proximity to farmers in villages to also be gainfully engaged in activities related to marketing and providing backward & forward linkages apart from input supply
- Strengthening Public-Private Partnership (PPP) - facilitating a formal contract agreement between FIGs and corporates including quality specifications, volume, price and other production and post-harvest requirements - strengthening market linkages such as linking primary producers to processors, promotion of value addition at the local level and linking producer groups to other institutions in addition to providing technical support and credit.
- Other Recommendations – equipping SAMETI at state level with full complement of staff, progressive farmers from different commodity groups to be identified as resource persons in extension activities to promote farmer-to-farmer extension, create mechanism at district and block levels for integration of the efforts of multiple agencies involved in research and extension activities, Agri-preneurs to be identified, trained and linked to commodity specific groups, use of ICT.
ACCEPTANCE OF RECOMMENDATIONS
AND ISSUE OF REVISED GUIDELINES
The Government of India, Ministry of Agriculture considered the recommendations made by AFC at length and desired AFC to suggest specific measures and ways & means for implementation of each of the recommendations. Accordingly, AFC made a detailed presentation on the report before the Technical Committee of the Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India chaired by the Additional Secretary (Agriculture) on 23.2.2010. The presentation brought out the ground level bottlenecks in the implementation process and suggested specific measures for overhauling the existing scheme to make extension truly farmer driven and farmer accountable.
The Government of India started consultation process with the State Governments and the MANAGE, being Nodal agency for implementation of extension reforms, on the broad findings and recommendations made by AFC in its report. Subsequently, the Ministry of Agriculture requested AFC to make another Presentation on 25.3.2010 before the Technical Committee chaired by the Additional Secretary (Agriculture) in which the Director General, MANAGE, Hyderabad as well as Director (Agriculture) of six States from different zones namely, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Bihar, Tamilnadu, Himachal Pradesh and Maharashtra were invited for a detailed deliberation on the findings so as to facilitate Government of India to take a policy decision for revising the existing scheme.
Some of the major recommendations made in the report which have since been accepted by the Government of India and are being incorporated in the revised Guidelines are as under:
- Deployment of a dedicated Project Director for ATMA in each district
- Additional complement of staff for ATMA office –
- State level – one State Coordinator
- District level –5 personnel
- Block level- 3 personnel
- Convergence of ATMA with other schemes of Government of India to achieve complimentarity, eliminate duplication of efforts / resources and avoid cases of multiple benefits to the same farmers. ATMA is also now envisaged to look after the work related to other Schemes of GoI for a true convergence and synergy in efforts.
- Innovative Support for ATMA through a Farmer Friend (AFC had proposed Farmer Facilitator) at Village Level - support for One Farmer Friend (FF) for every 2 Census Villages - A Farmer Friend will be a progressive farmer who will lead by example and guide by being a technically proficient practitioner, would activate bottom up planning and serve as vital link between extension system and farmers at the village level.
- Enhancing Financial Support to SAMETIs for Creating Essential Infrastructure for providing training and capacity building support
- Restructuring & realigning the entire concept of Farm Schools
- Mobilisation of Commodity Interest Groups and Farmers’ Organisations in a structured manner
- Strengthening Extension at Block/Village level through support for connectivity & mobility.
- Concurrent Monitoring and Impact Evaluation of ATMA Programme in each State – Limit enhanced to Rs. 20 lakhs from the existing Rs.10 lakhs.