Polish/American Extension Project, 1990 - 1996
From 1990 to 1996, NIFA collaborated with 31 land-grant universities to assist the Polish Ministry of Agriculture in restructuring and reorienting its agricultural extension system at the national, provincial, and local levels. More than 100 university extension personnel, most on 6-month assignments, served in Poland on this project during this period of tremendous change and uncertainty. By the time the project finished, two-person teams from the United States had served in 42 of Poland's 49 provinces.
Using a training-of-trainers approach, the project emphasized the skills and knowledge required to succeed during the transition to a market economy, focusing on such areas as business planning, farm management, and marketing. Other programmatic areas included leadership development, extension methodology, agro-tourism, and youth development.
The project was deemed a success for several reasons, including the determination and receptiveness to new ideas of our Polish counterparts. Other contributing factors included:
- The approach was flexible and based on local needs—U.S. extension personnel were required to develop a joint plan of work with their Polish counterparts and implement activities on a collaborative basis.
- The project stressed demand-driven programming at the local level, and U.S. teams worked in the field rather than in Warsaw.
- The 6-month assignments allowed adequate time to train Polish extension staff to train others.
- There was excellent collaboration among USDA agencies working in Poland, such as the Economic Research Service, Agricultural Marketing Service, National Agricultural Statistics Service, and the Foreign Agricultural Service's Cochran Program.
- The U.S. Land-Grant University System proved to be a tremendous resource, and the caliber of extension personnel was often recognized as the key factor in the project's success.