March 20, 2014
A training course aimed at building the communication skills of Cambodian agricultural research and extension staff with hands-on experience in publishing, research methodology and the preparation of fact sheets and posters produced a suite of materials targeting farmers and market agents in regional Cambodia.
Conducted by agricultural communication consultant Alison Moore and with support from NSW Department of Primary Industry and the Crawford Fund, the training provided the skills for extension staff to be effective communicators, comfortable with writing, presenting and producing materials best suited to their clients.
A total of 11 research professionals from three of Cambodia’s key agricultural research and extension organisations attended, with training led by Ms Moore, principal of Empatheia Consulting, Brisbane together with Bonn Maguire, an Australian Youth Ambassador Program volunteer and Nin Charya, CARF coordinator from the Cambodian Agricultural Value Chain Program (CAVAC), based in Phnom Penh.
Participants were from the Cambodian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI), the General Directorate of Agriculture (GDA) and the Royal University of Agriculture (RUA). The course funded by the Crawford Fund, Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) and Empatheia Consulting was presented over four and half days in the seaside city of Sihanoukville and was delivered in an intensive mode, building technical skills in writing, publishing, presentation and review. Activities of lectures, hands-on workshops and peer review/translation of materials were designed to provide opportunities for practice, building the capacity of key staff in communication effectiveness.
According to CARDI’s head of agricultural engineering Som Bunna, the training was a valuable contribution to the development of Cambodian research capacity. “It is very important for our staff in this institution and other research and extension organisations in Cambodia to access skills and experience from other professionals around the world,” he said at the conclusion of the workshop.
At the end of the week a total of 10 fact sheets/posters had been prepared, revised and were at the stage of near-to-completion. A further 14 were at various stages of preparation.
As a follow-up to the week, a list was compiled for participants, noting the revisions required, images and illustrations for completion of each of the remaining factsheets and posters. Follow up between Ms Moore and participants post workshop resulted in further support given in completing some of the remaining extension materials.
Feedback from participants indicated they gained specific skills which would assist them in producing communication products suited to farmers and that they felt more able to embed these practices into their daily work. From the five completed evaluation questionnaires circulated after the workshop, the overall training was rated either 5 (excellent) or 4 (good) using a Likert scale of between 5 (excellent) to 1 (very poor). Responses to Questions 1 through to 10 scored 5 or 4. Questions 5 and 10 were rated 3 (neutral) by only one respondent. Two participants wrote directly by email to the lead trainer expressing appreciation of the training, describing it as very useful for not only contact with farmers but their day-to-day communication. Three participants provided written feedback requesting additional training using the same training model.
This training addressed a critical information gap which exists in Cambodia. Technical material suitable for use in training of extension workers and farmers for any topic is in short supply. While research by organisations including ACIAR have delivered significant improvements in agricultural production, researchers, extension officers and staff of key agencies find translating their findings to a farmer audience quite a challenge. Content is most often prepared for a research environment, rather than for on-ground problem solving.