In an effort to alleviate poverty and improve the livelihoods of millions of rural farmers in 20 of the world’s poorest nations, UC Davis’ College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences is partnering with a consortium of five other research universities and several private organizations to modernize and strengthen the agricultural extension systems in those countries.

The new $9 million, five-year Modernizing Extension and Advisory Systems project, led by the University of Illinois and funded by the United States Agency for International Development, will identify the activities and investments needed to make improvements in the target countries.

“This is a critically important opportunity to improve the agricultural extension systems in Africa, Asia and Central America so that they can effectively meet the information and training needs of small farmers,” said Jim Hill, a Cooperative Extension plant scientist and associate dean of international programs in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at UC Davis.

Hill noted that the consortium initially will concentrate on helping farmers with limited resources in the 20 countries recently designated in the U.S. government’s Feed the Future program. However, other developing nations can engage the consortium through their respective USAID missions.

Consortium partners will work to identify emerging market opportunities, while using the land and labor resources in these countries to more efficiently serve their markets. The extension efforts also will emphasize sustainable practices for managing natural resources.

The consortium partners will help train local extension workers so that they, in turn, will be able to draw on the expertise of the most innovative and successful local farmers and provide other farmers with information and links to markets.

“Extension has long been an overlooked opportunity in many countries,” said Mark Bell, who is the director of the International Learning Center and is helping lead UC Davis’ contributions to the project.

Partnering in the consortium with UC Davis and the University of Illinois are Michigan State University; Cornell University; University of Florida; North Carolina A&T University; Catholic Relief Services; Cultural Practices, LLC; International Food Policy Research Institute; Winrock International; Sasakawa Africa Association’s Sasakawa Africa Fund for Extension Education; and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa.