On-Farm Trials: Tools to Reduce Poverty

By Layth Mahdi, Agricultural Advisor. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.
On-farm demonstration trials are used to teach farmers to improve their agricultural practices and increase yield. It serves as one of the most valuable extension education program to help farmers to sustain the environment, increase agricultural production and reduce poverty.
In Iraq, over 80 percent of farmers practice traditional farming techniques that resulted in low production and productivity. It is useful to demonstrate good crop production practices on small plots by comparing them with traditional farming methods so farmers can see results and adopt the new practices.
Some technologies had shown good results such as introducing a greenhouse tomato production, combined application technique of fertilizers and pesticides or changing the practice from flood irrigation to furrow irrigation (http://www.iraq-businessnews.com/2011/09/12/furrow-irrigation-strategy-to-save-water-in-iraq/).
Last year I have visited many agricultural extension centers in Iraq and found that the extension personnel lack the infrastructures (research equipment) and monetary support for their activities. In addition the personnel have limited academic education and knowledge, and lack practical field experience and skills. Above all they lack adequate incentives.
Most agricultural extension staff told me that they receive a very low salary, less than $200/month. The Ministry of Agriculture (MoA), instead of constructing modern villages ($500 million) and providing agricultural loan ($500 million) without any study (failed programs), MUST allocate financial resources to provide training and education program to revitalize the agricultural extension services and workers in order to better serve the needs of farmers. This approach is as an investment option for MoA to improve agricultural production and to fight rural poverty.
In 2008, a demonstration trial was conducted in farmer’s field in Anbar province, Iraq. It was published in March 2009 in Information Management Unit – PRT/USAID, Baghdad, Iraq, and can be found in this pdf.