Since its launch in November 2016, AgReach has continued the University of Illinois’ legacy in international development to improve agricultural, nutrition, and gender-responsive extension services and systems that benefit smallholder farmers.
By supporting the development of people and organizations, AgReach stimulates growth, improves rural livelihoods, and increases food security in some of the world’s poorest countries.
AgReach has worked in over 50 countries and reached nearly 15 million smallholders. Its most recent success stories include examples of strengthening extension services in Malawi, empowering youth in Sierra Leone, improving food security in Bangladesh, and developing young professionals in Uganda.
AgReach has also published a robust library of resources https://agreach.illinois.edu/resources and continues to serve as an influential voice in the international development community.
Strengthening Agricultural and Nutrition Extension in Malwai (SANE)
Access to quality and efficient extension services is a fundamental element for smallholder farming success. Understanding who is benefitting from, and has access to, extension advice and technologies is one step that SANE, led by the AgReach team at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, took towards strengthening services for men and women smallholders in rural Malawi when it presented the results from a baseline household survey and indicated some key areas for improvements in extension. Survey results suggest that farmers do not know what to demand, or do not know the options available, that they can demand at all, or simply do not believe that the extension system can help them.
This was the first time the Malawian Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development allowed key stakeholders in agricultural and nutrition extension to gain insights from research results. Through group work and discussions focused around SANE’s study results and presentations, the stakeholders discovered ways to increase the functionality of the districts’ agricultural extension systems.
Integrating Gender and Nutrition within Agricultural Extension Services (INGENAES)
In Sierra Leone, INGENAES, led by the AgReach team at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and WorldFish collaborated with schools, universities and communities to work with over 300 students and youth to raise awareness about gender gaps in agriculture and the resulting impacts on nutrition. This work by INGENAES and WorldFish will continue to empower youth as gender and nutrition change-makers.
In Bangladesh, INGENAES performed an impact evaluation on two Catholic Relief Services/Caritas Bangladesh pilot projects that aimed to improve household food security. Ultimately, INGENAES’s project evaluations enabled the nongovernmental organizations to prove that their intervention strategies were successful in improving production, income, and nutrition needs of beneficiaries’ households. The projects have now expanded as the “Sustainable Food and Livelihood Security Project Phase II” (SuFoL II). Its design and implementation builds onevidence found through INGENAES’s impact evaluation to better suit the needs of rural households in Bangladesh. SuFol II, which began in January 2017, aims to reach 10,000 households (approx. 54,000 individuals) in 48 vulnerable rural villages.
In Uganda, the INGENAES fellowship program supports stellar students to conduct research related to INGENAES themes. The program builds the capacity of young professionals by helping them integrate gender and nutrition extension into their graduate-level research on food security-related topics. The program is equipping the next generation of Ugandan students with the professional and technical skills to become tomorrow’s leaders within the areas of agricultural extension, gender, and nutrition development. The fellows are also providing their valuable perspective to help create gender and nutrition training materials that can be used by farmer-based organizations.
The INGENAES project has developed a robust library of practical resources that meet the needs of extension providers. The materials include tip sheets covering nutrition basics, training manuals replete with participatory activities, and nutrition-sensitive messages developed by the Zambian Ministry of Agriculture for that country’s agricultural extension services.
AgReach in the Media
AgReach leaders have been featured twice recently in the opinion editorial section of Devex, the media platform for the global development community: