National Agricultural Extension Services are often criticised for not doing enough, not doing what they do well enough, or not being relevant. Participatory approaches can improve them by making them more demand driven and accountable. In this paper the author describes how management and field staff of the Department of Extension and Engineering Servicesin Ohangwena, a region of Namibia, have improved the efficiency and responsiveness of the services they offer by making them more participatory. The paper begins by looking at OhangwenaÆs organisational culture, examining the changes in approaches and how staff have reacted to them, with younger staff generally being more willing and able to take new ways of working on board. It then goes on to describe management innovations such as: planning and budgeting whereby farmers groups are involved in the process, and monitoring and evaluation for which the management team decided, with the help of technicians and farmers, to monitor themselves. It also looks at training, interaction with stakeholders and publicity. The paper concludes that although these types of services are seen as highly bureaucratic, they can change their managerial style to be more participatory, flexible, effective and responsive thereby empowering farmers and assisting rural communities in sustaining their livelihoods.
International Institute for Environment and Development