Improving dairy production in Sri Lanka through improved extension

Dairy Excellence Training Initiative (2016-2019) is funded by the New Zealand Aid Programme and implemented by FCG ANZDEC. The project is supporting Sri Lanka Ministry of Rural Economy’s central and three provincial departments of animal production and health to increase their capacity to carry out dairy extension. It covers five districts (Kandy, Nuwara Eliya, Matale, Kurunegala and Gampaha) and three provinces (Western, North-Western, and Central). New Zealand expertise is being transferred as part of this project, reflecting New Zealand’s comparative advantage in dairy skills development, vocational training, and extension.

This project will contribute to achieving Sri Lanka’s national development goal of increasing country Gross Domestic Product and providing benefits to every segment of the society. The planned outcomes are: improved quality and increased supply of Sri Lankan milk, and improved standard of living for rural families. The project has following outputs:

  1. Key performance indicators for smallholder dairy farms and key technologies identified;
  2. Dairy extensionists’ training and coaching program to improve reproduction, farm economics and feeding and safe milk handling developed;
  3. Extensionists’ mobile IT tools and communications platform developed, maintained and deployed, and;
  4. Extensionists’ delivery to farmer societies and co-operatives piloted.

Capacity building of the dairy extension staff is being conducted by embracing a practical and applied approach. This included starting by building a stakeholder consensus on the current situation and the pathway forward, and then utilising methods such as training of trainers through study tours, on-the-job training, and workshops.

FCG ANZDEC team worked with the Department of Animal Production and Health to select 11 master trainers. The master trainers and extension staff (livestock development instructors and veterinary surgeons) are drawn from the five project districts.

Study tour to New Zealand: In 2016, from 25 October to 2 December, 11 master trainers spent six weeks in New Zealand to familiarise with New Zealand dairy farm systems and extension approaches. The master trainers gained better understanding of the whole-farm system approach and group facilitation techniques (such as farmer discussion groups), and had experience of on-farm work such as milking, pasture and feed management, farm mechanisation, milk quality and reproduction in a New Zealand setting.

DETI photo Mark and team

On-the-job training: FCG ANZDEC team is mentoring and working with the master trainers to develop and implement a training plan with training materials for the workshops.

Workshops: Training of extension staff in Sri Lanka is being conducted at the Department of Animal Production and Health – Institute for Continuing Education.

In 2017, two four-day workshops were held for the Department of Animal Production and Health extension staff in May and July. The third workshop will be held in October.

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The most recent workshop was held from 26 July to 3 August at the Department of Animal Production and Health – Institute for Continuing Education. Eighty trainees completed this workshop, comprised of 43 livestock development instructors and 37 veterinary surgeons. There were 34 women and 46 men. The workshop was run by FCG ANZDEC consultants and the master trainers, and covered topics including farm business, dairy cattle breeding and reproduction, milk quality, and IT for dairy extension. The FCG ANZDEC team mentor and encourage the master trainers to facilitate these workshops for extension staff. As the project progresses, master trainers will take an increasingly larger role in conducting trainings, so that by the end of the project they will be fully capable of training staff in all the content.

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Along with the technical sessions, the workshop included two farm visits to change the emphasis from classroom learning to on-farm application, and to practically apply knowledge learnt at the workshop.

The main result of the workshop is for trainees to set up and facilitate farmer discussion groups, which is one of the primary approaches used in improving the productivity of farmers in this project. Farmer-to-farmer learning is a key extension tool used in New Zealand that can be adapted to Sri Lankan realities to increase production and profit.

By 2019, the aim is that 180 staff members of the Department of Animal Production and Health will have been trained, resulting in 3,000 Sri Lankan farming households benefiting from this project and improving their dairy productivity.