The goal of the USAID Agricultural Extension Support Activity is to strengthen the existing agriculture extension system within the 12 FtF (Feed the Future) program districts in southwest and central Bangladesh with an aim of sustainable improvement in food security and nutrition situation for vulnerable smallholder farmers, with an emphasis on women.

The Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) is the largest extension service provider in Bangladesh and the project works to strengthen the existing capacity of DAE to deliver effective, innovative and value chain-based extension services, and to provide enhanced support to smallholder farmers – both men and women.

A block is the lowest administrative and operational unit within DAE’s structure and one Sub Assistant Agriculture Officer (SAAO) is in charge of one block which is consisted of three wards of a Union council. The project, jointly with the DAE initiate a 5-day long capacity building training program for the field level DAE officials namely ‘Professional Skill Development training for SAAOs’.

A training needs assessment (TNA) was done before designing and initiating the capacity building of the extension agents so that the TNA could identify specific needs of the Sub Assistance Agriculture Offices. The main objectives of the TNA were to find out knowledge and skill gaps which slow down the process of effective extension service for the farmer by the SAAOs.

The TNA identified those improvement areas which helps SAAOs to provide information to the farmers on improved production technologies of cereal, non-cereal and other field crops including vegetables. In addition, it also detected the training needs of the SAAOs on issues like climate change and adaptation, market and supply chain, ICT, gender, nutrition and value chain.

The assessment engaged the Upazila and district level DAE officials and the report was also shared with the top management of DAE so that they can understand and validate the knowledge gaps of the SAAOs for further effective measures.

Accordingly, a 5-day course curriculum and modules were developed by the project together with the DAE for capacity building of the SAAOs in order to provide necessary supports to the smallholder farmers and other stakeholders. A pool of trainers has been developed through TOTs for providing training on different technical issues other than the crop production including climate change and adaptation, market and supply chain, ICT, gender, nutrition and value chain. It was jointly decided with DAE that the expert from DAE will provide training on different crop production related topics and project will provide rest of the topics which are related to other than crop production.

The training is very unique in nature as a national Non-Government Organization: Dhaka Ahsania Mission through the USAID funded support and with technical assistances by an International humanitarian organization: CARE Bangladesh and a social enterprise; mPower jointly with DAE are working for the capacity building of the government extension officials.

The first batch of the training has been conducted during July 31 to August 04, 2016 at the CSS-AVA Center, Khulna. The training event was officially inaugurated by Mr. Protip Kumar Mondal, Director-Planning, Project Implementation & ICT Wing, DAE, Dhaka; who was present as the Chief Guest in the inauguration session.

Mr. Md. Abdul Latif, Deputy Director, DAE, Khulna and Mr. Md. Zakir Hossain, Deputy Director (PI&E), DAE and the DAE Focal Person to the project were present at the occasion as Special Guest and Guest of Honor respectively, while Mr. Nitya Ranjan Biswas, Additional Director, DAE, Khulna chaired the event.

Mr. Bidyuth K. Mahalder, COP, Ag Extension Project, Ms. Tania Sharmin, NTC, CARE and all other concern staff of AESA project and DAE as well as consultants of the training were present at the inauguration session.

It is hoped by all that with a positive attitude and creativity, the SAAOs would be able to use their knowledge and learning from the training and would help the farmers more efficiently and effectively while providing extension services.