Researching Small Farm Resource Centers

Since January of this year, ECHO Asia Impact Center staff, with major involvement from Dr. Ricky Bates (Penn State University), has been carrying out research for a case study entitled, The Small Farm Resource Center’s Current and Future Roles in Extension and Advisory Services in Southeast Asia.” Administered by MEAS (Modernizing Extension and Advisory Services) through the University of Illinois with major support from USAID, the study aims to document, evaluate and empower existing small farm resource centers as a useful research-extension tool in South and Southeast Asia operating outside the formal government/academic extension model.

Defined by ECHO’s first director, Dr. Martin Price, a Small Farm Resource Center (SFRC) is a research-extension tool that coordinates trials at a central site, as well on the fields of individual farmers, with the purpose of evaluating, within the community, ideas that have been proven elsewhere. The SFRC concept is that any new ideas, techniques, crops, or new varieties of a local crop may first be evaluated at the SFRC and promising ideas extended to local farmers with little risk. This adaptive research is done directly by the non-governmental agency (typically missions organizations and other small institutions) and local farmers and extended to the community.   

Related to this study, the overall objective for MEAS is to “define and disseminate good practice strategies and approaches to establishing efficient, effective and financially sustainable rural extension and advisory service systems in selected countries.”  With the support of MEAS, ECHO Asia staff and Dr. Bates have visited seven SFRCs across Southeast Asia (Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and the Philippines) and interviewed their community-based beneficiaries to attempt to determine whether the SFRC concept remains a viable means of conducting research and extension for smallholder farmers.

With the SFRC case study currently concluding, ECHO Asia and MEAS look forward to publishing the findings and sharing the results at the upcoming ECHO Asia Agriculture and Community Development Conference in Chiang Mai, Thailand in early October 2013 as well as at the ECHO Agriculture Conference in Ft. Myers, Florida in December 2013.