Legitimising grassroots efforts: How frontline workers became certified agriculture extensionists
Updated: Feb 14
Krishi Mitras in Odisha have been able to build on their experience to gain certification as agricultural extensionists through newer institutional arrangements between OLM, FES and ASCI.
Capacity building at the grassroots – Becoming a Krishi Mitra
Women like Gita Satpathy might look like any other ordinary village women, but their work and contribution as a Krishi Mitra in the region of Nayagarh, Odisha, has been unique. The Krishi Mitras are the selected members of the SHGs of Odisha Livelihood Mission(OLM) who are responsible for the agricultural development in their gram panchayat. In a gram panchayat, three Krishi Mitras divide the villages among them and promote different agrarian approaches. In Nayagarh, for the past two years, Krishi Mitras have been promoting sustainable agriculture among the farmers of four blocks amid of COVID 19 pandemic.
They have been able to develop their skills and knowledge through participating in
several capacity building programs organised by Odisha Livelihood Mission (OLM) and the Foundation for Ecological Security(FES) on sustainable agriculture practises as a part of the OLM and FES partnership in the state. Hindustan Unilever Foundation and Socion partnered with FES in the two year long initiative. The pandemic severely disrupted physical training and workshops, but the women were motivated to overcome obstacles and learn through online mode. Women who had never used an app before learnt how to operate Zoom platforms and attend programmes. They now get digital attestations with the PDA Participant app, where they quickly access the reading materials used in training to enhance their knowledge in the sector. The Master trainers of FES handhold the Krishi Mitras and help them during the activity at the grassroots level to improve their training skills. It was challenging for them to convince the community with their leadership positions as knowledge experts during the initial period because the community felt that they did not have enough experience, training, or a certificate from a formal institute.
To solve this issue, FES collaborated with the Agriculture Skill Council of India(ASCI) to certify them under the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) as an Agriculture Extension Service Provider, a nationally recognised job role under the Skill India initiative of the Government of India. These training programs are based on Government of India approved qualifications followed by assessment and certification.
Recognising the skills and knowledge of Krishi Mitras
Among the 108 Krishi Mitras working in the Nayagarh district, 25 were selected for the first phase of the certification process. Specific parameters like their performance over the last two years, the rate of adoption of the farming approaches in their area, and the level of participation during the training sessions, amongst other factors, were considered. After the registration in the ASCI portal for the certification process, a two-day long training was organised to share the certification process and provide them with a quick refresher on the relevant topics for the certification process. During the certification process, the external assessors selected by ASCI assessed the attitude, skill and knowledge of the Krishi Mitras through Viva-voce, practical demonstration, and a theory test.
Newfound confidence based on the certification process
The selected Krishi Mitras are from 4 blocks of Nayagarh, i.e. six each from Daspalla, Nuagaon and Ranpur block and seven from the Odagaon block. Among the Krishi Mitras, there are 11 Krishi Mitras who have an educational qualification of class 10th, eight of them have completed their 12th, and three have completed graduation. Among the 25, three had not completed their 10th class qualification. For them, the certification process was a novel experience. After the assessment process, the Krishi Mitras shared that they are habituated to give training in a known circumstance in or near their village, but as an agriculture extension service provider, they need to be prepared for everything. They were very clear about the “What” and “Why” part of their training sessions, but after the certification process, they understood the strength of a trainer lies in the "How to deliver" content to the audience. Their testimonials indicate the significance of the certificate for their professional identity.
i. Theory Test Using AI in-build TABS from ASCI
ii. Viva-Voce of the individual candidate
Guluri Swin (Krishi Mitra, Ranpur) explained,
"I left school after class eight at the age of 14. This certification process is my first experience of any type of examination out of my village. Without even experiencing the 10th board exam, appearing for a national-level job role certification made me nervous. The master trainer of my block (Babula Rana) constantly encouraged and motivated me. I was so nervous that even after getting ready at home, I could not step out of the door. For the first time, my husband dropped me at the examination centre. My in-laws who were initially skeptical of my work brought sweets after I successfully secured the certificate”.
Jita Khamari (Krishi Mitra, Daspalla) shared,
"On the day of certification, it was my sister's marriage. When the certification date was announced, I was very sad and decided not to go for the exam. When I told my sister about my decision, she said, ‘we women barely get any recognition, you should go. I will wait until you come back' and I went for the certification process. Now my sister will be delighted to know that I have secured the certificate."
All 25 Krishi Mitras secured the certificates from the ASCI as an agriculture extension service provider, and the recognition might go a long way in bolstering their capacity as well as legitimacy as a knowledge provider.
Saswatik Tripathy is the District Coordinator, Foundation for Ecological Security at Nayagarh, Odisha. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org