The main objective of the Professional Development training is to provide targeted skills development training to address skills gaps and needs identified by DARD Officers.
Over 50 officers throughout the country including Provincial Agriculture Officers (PAO), Assistant Agriculture Officers (AAO) and Technical Officers learned a lot of important information to equip them do their work better.
This is the first time an integrated program to meet the training needs of extension officers has been delivered in partnership with the VSP.
The training is very important for DARD, its future and the future of agriculture extension services in Vanuatu.
During the workshop, the Extension Officers have identified many challenges and difficulties in implementing their program activities in their areas and important priorities that need to be addressed.
These priorities include basic computing skills, report writing, communication skills and at a more senior level, leadership and management skills.
The participants from each province and island have different situations but similar difficulties were faced.
Some of the challenges raised by extension officers during the training were accessibility of finance on time to implement activities, number of AAOs according to population size of an area, means of mobility or transportation, staff welfare and regular visits by PAOs.
The Extension Officers had the opportunity to undergo sessions on basic computing skills facilitated by Ituani Vocational Skills Centre, an accredited training provider and the leadership, coaching and mentoring training for senior officers was facilitated by Mereana Mills, Executive Director for Solution Seeker, Vanuatu.
Some of these skill gaps include planning and management, project management, product development meeting consumers need, communications, monitoring and evaluation and learning methodologies.
The agriculture sector has become increasingly important for national development for maintenance of social well-being, as a foundation of culture and livelihoods and as an engine for economic growth.
Despite this importance, the development of this important sector has yet to reach its full potential.
The professional development of staff, in their roles as advisers and coaches, will give them the skills and knowledge to address these issues as part of their work advising the farmers.