Building a sustainable system of agricultural extension around schools

Innovations for Poverty Action will lead the first randomized evaluation of School-Based Agricultural Education (SBAE), an innovative approach in integrating existing infrastructure to tackle intertwined challenges in agricultural extension, youth empowerment and rural education. Impact evidence will support scale-ups to 8-10 African countries in the next ten years.

Why take action ?

In rural Liberia, 71.6% of households live in absolute poverty (Benfica and al, 2018). Agriculture is the main source of livelihoods for 80% of the population (African Development Bank, 2008), but agricultural productivity is low even relative to other sub-Saharan African countries. Farm households rely mainly on advice from relatives and friends in their communities, as only 3.4% of them have access to extension services (LISGIS, 2017).

Meanwhile, students lack basic skills despite enrollment and a majority of youth farm as assistants to their elders on farms. Agricultural extension is a key pathway to improve productivity, but countries lack capacities in covering every household. School-Based Agricultural Education is an approach with the potential to address intertwined challenges in agricultural extension, youth empowerment and rural education in Liberia and other African countries.

Evidence-based implemented innovation

School-Based Agricultural Education encompasses classroom instruction and supervised agricultural experience through school garden practice, student home projects, and youth participation in agricultural organization. It aims to empower elementary and high school youth with practical skills while strengthening extension.

School-Based Agricultural Education’s innovative potential relies in:

  • leveraging schools to amplify extension : classroom instruction promoting a scientific understanding of agriculture, direct communication of program activities and ideas, management of school gardens for demonstration, management of home projects, participation in program and communal farming activities;
  • leveraging agriculture to strengthen schools : Interest in student-centered, project-based learning, participation in youth development clubs, word-of-mouth about yield-enhancing practices.

In this project, Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) partners with 4-H Liberia, AgriCorps and the Ministry of Education of Liberia to offer the first randomized evaluation of School-Based Agricultural Education in Liberia, to inform and support scale-ups of its programs. The pilot phase of the program conducted by 4-H Liberia already provided evidence of the impact of the innovation. FID’s funding will allow the pending randomized evaluation including the midline survey, the intervention phase, the student survey and the endline survey.

The 100 treatment schools will be offered assistance in setting up school gardens where students will practice new knowledge, 3 extension visits per month, annual training of science teachers and parent-teacher association representatives in agricultural innovations and student-centered pedagogy, and networking opportunities for students and teachers in 4-H Clubs (e.g. national agriculture fairs). Treatment effects collected include outcomes in agriculture, education, and empowerment.

The evidence generated by this project will support AgriCorps’ efforts to scale School-Based Agricultural Education in 8 to 10 African countries in the next 10 years.

Expected impact and key learnings

School-Based Agricultural Education is expected to improve:

  • the livelihoods of farmers in students’ households and communities through adoption of yield-enhancing practices, soil conservation methods and increased market orientation;
  • rural schools performance through improved pedagogy, increased students’ academic interest, performance and skills, and better school management.
  • in-school youth’s livelihoods, aspirations and agency, via access to farming knowledge, skills, networks and personal incomes.

STARS is also supported Development Innovation Ventures (DIV).

Image credits : IPA team

Presentation of the team

Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) is a non-profit organization founded in 2002 which designs and implements rigorous impact evaluations to test the effectiveness of development programs.

This project will be conducted by IPA’s Liberia team, which has local knowledge and expertise to ensure effective implementation. Several key partners are involved in this project: the Northwestern University, the NGO AgriCorps, 4-H Liberia (an independent branch of the international 4-H network), the Liberian Ministry of Education and the Liberian Central Agricultural Research Institute (CARI).