ARET provides ‘back-to-basics’ demand- driven extension services to tobacco farmers and other stakeholders to maximize returns on investment in tobacco production in Malawi. This is done through the Department of Extension and Specialist Services. To achieve its extension objectives ARET has strategically placed Extension Agents in tobacco producing areas of the country. Highly qualified and well experienced Subject Matter Specialists and Research Scientists provide technical support to the Extension Agents in extension and training, farm management, land husbandry, forestry, electronic and print media, tobacco agronomy, crop protection, and curing structures.

The extension and specialist services are provided through several sections under the Department of Extension and Specialist Services. Theses are Extension and Training Section; Farm Management Section; Land Husbandry Section, and Forestry Section. Under the extension and training section, there is also an active media component that covers both electronic and print media.

Extension and Training

The main activities of the Extension and Training section include:

·         Design and refinement of extension methods

·         Planning, coordination and implementation of participatory extension and training programmes

·         Collaboration with other organizations on tobacco technology and information dissemination

·         Regular monitoring and evaluation of extension and training programmes

Since a large proportion of small and medium scale farmers produce the bulk of the tobacco crop in Malawi, the ‘group approach’ is advocated in providing extension and training programmes as more farmers are contacted in a cost effective manner. Individual methods of extension are also used when dealing with large-scale farmers, as their needs are usually very specific. Furthermore, electronic and print media productions compliment the group approach and individual methods.

When delivering extension and training services, ARET puts emphasis on farmers understanding the basics in tobacco production. Extension Agents, therefore, use result demonstrations and on-farm training courses in all relevant issues.

The media unit is equipped with up to date publishing and broadcasting technologies including facilities for the preparation and multiplication of circulars, leaflets, newsletters and other publications. There is also a fully equipped recording studio with state of the art equipment including ‘analogue-digital conversion’ software and hardware that enhances recording and editing of radio programmes as well as the delivery of recorded programmes to public broadcasters.