Agricultural extension

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This article is about the general concept of agricultural extension. For agricultural extension in the United States, see Cooperative extension service.

Agricultural extension is a general term meaning the application of scientific research and new knowledge to agricultural practices through farmer education. The field of 'extension' now encompasses a wider range of communication and learning activities organized for rural people by educators from different disciplines, including agriculture, agricultural marketing, health, and business studies.

Extension practitioners can be found throughout the world, usually working for government agencies. They are represented by several professional organizations, networks and extension journals.

Agricultural extension agencies in developing countries receive large amounts of support from international development organizations such as the World Bank and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

Extension terminology[edit]

Extension began in Dublin, Ireland in 1847 with Lord Clarendon's itinerant instructors during the great famine.[1] It expanded in Germany in the 1850s, though the itinerant agricultural teachers Wanderlehrer and later in the USA via the cooperative extension system authorized by the Smith-Lever Act in 1914. The term was later adopted in the United States of America, while in Britain it was replaced with "advisory service" in the 20th century. A number of other terms are used in different parts of the world to describe the same or similar concept:

  • Arabic: Al-Ershad (“guidance”)
  • Dutch: Voorlichting (“lighting the path”)
  • German: Beratung (“advisory work”)
  • French: Vulgarisation (“popularization”)
  • Spanish: Capacitación (“training” "capacity building")
  • Thai, Lao: Song-Suem (“to promote”)
  • Persian: Tarvij & Gostaresh (“to promote and to extend”)- ترویج و گسترش

In the US, an extension agent is a university employee who develops and delivers educational programs to assist people in economic and community development, leadership, family issues, agriculture and environment. Another program area provided by extension agents is 4-H and youth activities. Many extension agents work for cooperative extension service programs at land-grant universities. They are sometimes referred to as county agents, extension specialists or extension educators.

Extension is constantly evolving and the availability of rapid sharing have seen new platforms like Digital Green and PlantVillage

Extension meeting[edit]

  • These are the meetings which are held to make farmers aware of latest agriculture information. These meetings are considered as a link between farmers and researchers. “The Extension meeting is an opportunity for sharing and learning the latest research and trends in gaining innovative ideas for reaching new volunteers, investigating best practices for developing and retaining current volunteers, and strengthening volunteer management efforts. Meeting participants will gather tools and skills through interactive sessions and networking with colleagues and develop plans to utilize new resources in their own programs.” First, one needs to decide if a meeting is necessary. Before scheduling or attending your next meeting, clearly define the objectives for yourself or the group if you are the person responsible for the meeting. To help you think through your objectives, ask yourself the following four questions: v Why am I scheduling or attending this meeting? v What do I want to accomplish or gain? v What information will be exchanged or decisions made? v Who will be attending that I need to meet or gain their support? Purpose of Meetings The primary reason for holding meetings is to allow the Committee to make decisions. However, meetings also serve a range of other important functions, providing a forum where: · Meeting members are regularly brought together to focus on their roles and responsibilities, identify problems and plan for the future. · Members are encouraged and motivated. · Ideas are shared and discussed and then discarded, improved or implemented. · Tasks are allocated and reported on. · Regular updates about relevant issues are provided. · Members can get to know each other, professionally and personally. Meeting Structure Meetings can vary markedly from Committee to Committee. Some are quite formal, adhering to strictly defined rules and ensuring all members are addressed by their correct titles ("President Smith," "Madam Chair," and so on). Others are far less formal – usually it will depend on the make-up and function of the Committee, how it was set up and how it has evolved. Ø Meetings can be held in a club room, or in a more social setting such as a member's house or even a local restaurant. Ø Decisions may be made through a range of means, by formal voting or a more informal show of hands or verbal agreement. Ø Some meetings are held behind closed doors and are subject to strict rules of confidentiality; others are fully open to the public. Even open meetings may sometimes move into confidential mode. Rules for Meetings Just as the object of a game gives direction to its players, traditional principles of a democratic meeting guide group members when they gather: · Every member has rights equal to every other member. · The will of the majority must be carried out. · The minority must be heard, and its rights protected. · Only one topic will be considered at a time. In order to play a particular game, certain rules for that game must be followed. "Parliamentary procedure" is a set of rules for meetings which ensures that the traditional principles of equality, harmony and efficiency are kept. Robert's Rules of Order, the best-known description of standard parliamentary procedure, is used by many different organizations as their rule book for conducting effective meetings. Understanding Leader Responsibilities In addition to preparing the agenda and adhering to procedures (such as starting and stopping times), the leader performs a number of tasks to ensure meeting effectiveness. The leader’s responsibilities include the following: · Have materials ready and know what needs to be said. · Speak clearly. · Be confident and enthusiastic. · Assign someone to take attendance and minutes. · Encourage input from everyone. · Keep everyone focused on the specific item of discussion. · Make sure everyone understands what has been decided. · Close on a positive note. Understanding Member Responsibilities Just as the leader has specific responsibilities, so do the other members of the group. Members can do several things to improve meeting efficiency: · Be prepared to report or discuss meeting topics. · Stay focused on the discussion. · Demonstrate loyalty to the group by sacrificing, compromising, and accepting group decisions. · Be active listeners. · Support colleagues and demonstrate that their contributions are appreciated. · Practice confidentiality. · Criticize ideas, not individuals. · Feel free to disagree during the discussion, but support the group decision once a consensus has been reached. If a member cannot support the final decision, she or he should ask that the minutes reflect that a minority report will be filed. How to Organize For a Meeting The time you spend before will result in major benefits later by efficiently using the meeting time, accomplishing objectives, and avoiding the need for follow-up meetings. When deciding to hold a meeting, you should also decide who should attend and what is the purpose of the meeting? v To help in planning meetings, below is a checklist of major elements essential for meeting effectiveness. A. Purpose: Define the purpose or objective of the meeting (e.g., to reach consensus on how volunteer leaders should allocate their time). B. Participant: Who needs to attend this meeting to accomplish the purpose? C. Structure: How should the meeting be organized to best accomplish the purpose? Some techniques may include: guest speakers, videos, brainstorming sessions, panel sessions, discussion groups, demonstrations, etc. D. Location and Time: Select a meeting place that best matches the participant's needs, the objective, and the meeting structure. When planning where to meet, give consideration to size, comfort, accessibility, adequate parking, room acoustics, equipment needs, etc. Choosing a meeting time depends on the availability of participants and meeting facilities. E. Agenda A meeting agenda should be prepared and distributed to participants at least three days prior to the meeting day. An agenda is crucial to meeting success in three ways: Ø It clarifies the objectives so people understand the meeting purpose and tasks Ø Distributing the agenda prior to the meeting helps participants plan and prepare to make an effective. How to Run Effective Meetings The meeting leader or facilitator is responsible for setting the meeting tone, keeping the discussion on track, and making sure everyone has a fair chance of being heard. The leader or facilitator should also summarize relevant points and tie things together when the discussion jumps around between interrelated topics. Although a well-planned meeting will significantly reduce surprises and meeting confusion, there is no guarantee everything will run smoothly, even with the best planning. Here are some suggested guidelines on how to run effective meetings: I. Begin on time and end on time If you begin a meeting five to seven minutes after it was scheduled, you are starting late. Starting a meeting late sends the message that it's okay to be late and it shows a lack of respect and appreciation for those who make the effort to arrive on time. Some people may have back-to-back meetings. Ending on time shows respect for participants’ valuable time. However, no one ever complains if you are fortunate enough to end early. II. Use the Agenda Review the agenda with participants at the beginning of the meeting and ask them if any changes need to be made on time allocations or discussion content. Post the agenda on an easel pad and tape it to the wall, this way everyone can refer to the agenda when discussion seems to be getting off track. III. Use an Ideas Bin A "bin" consists of blank sheets (one or two) torn from an easel pad and taped to the wall. Any idea that is unrelated to the current topic is written on the easel pad paper (i.e., placed in the bin). The bin serves two valuable purposes: v It stores valuable ideas for consideration at an appropriate and convenient time. v It allows discussion to stay focused on the agenda topic. Using the bin is an effective way to keep discussion focused and it helps people hold onto their thoughts and ideas without being disruptive to the meeting. Explain the use of the bin at the beginning of the meeting. During the meeting the team leader or the facilitator should record bin items as they come up, or participants should record their own bin items when they feel discussion is getting off track. IV. Establish and Use Ground Rules Ground rules are explicit rules that the group agrees to follow to help them facilitate productive discussions. Whether the group formulates the ground rules or the meeting leader/facilitator presents them, all group members should reach consensus on following the ground rules. The ground rules should be written down on easel pad paper and taped to the wall for everyone to see. Ground rules lay out the expectations of "the way things should be done at meetings." Ground rules are used to facilitate group interaction, not to restrict it. The group can change the ground rules or add new ones based on group needs. V. Control dominating individuals Make sure each individual has a fair chance of expressing ideas and opinions. Do not let one person dominate the discussion. This may require the leader or facilitator to directly call on the quiet member and ask them for their opinion or for any ideas they would like to share. VI. Bring Food Food energizes and motivates people more effectively than any other meeting tactic. Although many people still prefer the standard coffee and donuts, alternatives such as fruit, juice, and bran muffins can be provided. For afternoon meetings, cookies, hard candy, fruit, and cheese are several suggestions. VII. Summarize Conclude the meeting by summarizing the discussion, decisions made, tasks delegated, deadlines, and any action required by participants. Depending on the time available, either address bin items or place them on the agenda for the next meeting. Include in the summary any review plans for follow-up or the need to schedule any succeeding meetings. It is far easier to schedule the next meeting while everyone is at the table then it is to wait and contact each participant individually.


Agricultural extension meeting in Sweden village in 1800s

Origins of agricultural extension[edit]

It is not known where or when the first extension activities took place. It is known, however, that Chinese officials were creating agricultural policies, documenting practical knowledge, and disseminating advice to farmers at least 2,000 years ago. For example, in approximately 800 BC, the minister responsible for agriculture under one of the Zhou dynasty emperors organized the teaching of crop rotation and drainage to farmers. The minister also leased equipment to farmers, built grain stores and supplied free food during times of famine.[2]

The birth of the modern extension service has been attributed to events that took place in Ireland in the middle of the 19th century.[3] Between 1845–51 the Irish potato crop was destroyed by fungal diseases and a severe famine occurred (see Great Irish Famine). The British Government arranged for "practical instructors" to travel to rural areas and teach small farmers how to cultivate alternative crops. This scheme attracted the attention of government officials in Germany, who organized their own system of traveling instructors. By the end of the 19th century, the idea had spread to Denmark, Netherlands, Italy, and France.

The term "university extension" was first used by the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford in 1867 to describe teaching activities that extended the work of the institution beyond the campus. Most of these early activities were not, however, related to agriculture. It was not until the beginning of the 20th century, when colleges in the United States started conducting demonstrations at agricultural shows and giving lectures to farmer’s clubs, that the term "extension service" was applied to the type of work that we now recognize by that name.

In the United States, the Hatch Act of 1887 established a system of agricultural experiment stations in conjunction with each state's land-grant university, and the Smith-Lever Act of 1914 created a system of cooperative extension to be operated by those universities in order to inform people about current developments in agriculture, home economics, and related subjects.

Four generations of extension in Asia[edit]

Agricultural extension meeting in Nepal, 2002
Agricultural extension meeting in Laos, 2006

The development of extension services in modern Asia has differed from country to country. Despite the variations, it is possible to identify a general sequence of four periods or "generations":[4]

  • Colonial agriculture: Experimental stations were established in many Asian countries by the colonial powers. The focus of attention was usually on export crops such as rubber, tea, cotton and sugar. Technical advice was provided to plantation managers and large landowners. Assistance to small farmers who grew subsistence crops was rare, except in times of crisis.
  • Diverse top-down extension: After independence, commodity-based extension services emerged from the remnants of the colonial system, with production targets established as part of five-year development plans. In addition, various schemes were initiated to meet the needs of small farmers, with support from foreign donors.
  • Unified top-down extension: During the 1970s and 1980s, the Training and Visit system (T&V) was introduced by the World Bank. Existing organizations were merged into a single national service. Regular messages were delivered to groups of farmers, promoting the adoption of "Green Revolution" technologies.
  • Diverse bottom-up extension: When World Bank funding came to an end, the T&V system collapsed in many countries, leaving behind a patchwork of programs and projects funded from various other sources. The decline of central planning, combined with a growing concern for sustainability and equity, has resulted in participatory methods gradually replacing top-down approaches.

The fourth generation is well established in some countries, while it has only just begun in other places. While it seems likely that participatory approaches will continue to spread in the next few years, it is impossible to predict the long-term future of extension. Compared to 20 years ago, agricultural extension now receives considerably less support from donor agencies. Among academics working in this field, some have recently argued that agricultural extension needs to be reinvented as a professional practice.[5] Other authors have abandoned the idea of extension as a distinct concept and prefer to think in terms of "knowledge systems" in which farmers are seen as experts rather than adopters.[6]

Aspects of future extension education:

  • Evolution of extension system and operationalisation of approaches
  • Future extension education initiatives
  • Collegiate participation of farmers
  • Web enabled technology dissemination
  • Developing cases as tools for technology dissemination
  • Agriculture as a profitable venture
  • Scaling up of group mobilization
  • Micro-enterprises promotion

Several of the institutional innovations that have come up in response to the weaknesses in public research and extension system have given enough indications of the emergence of an agricultural innovation system in India. This has resulted in the blurring of the clearly demarcated institutional boundaries between research, extension, farmers, farmers' groups, NGOs and private enterprises. Extension should play the role of facilitating the access to and transfer of knowledge among the different entities involved in the innovation system and create competent institutional modes to improve the overall performance of the innovation system. Inability to play this important role would further marginalize extension efforts.

Communication processes[edit]

The term "extension" has been used to cover widely differing communication systems. Two particular issues help to define the type of extension: how does communication take place, and why does it take place.[4]

The related but separate field of agricultural communication has emerged to contribute to in-depth examinations of the communication processes among various actors within and external to the agricultural system. This field refers to the participatory extension model as a form of public relations-rooted two-way symmetric communication based on mutual respect, understanding, and influence between an organization and its stakeholders.[7]

Agricultural communication can take three modes—face-to-face training, training "products" such as manuals and videos, or information and communication technologies (ICTs), such as radio and short message System (SMS). The most effective systems facilitate two way communication and often combine different modes.[8]

Four paradigms of agricultural extension[edit]

Any particular extension system can be described in terms of both how communication takes place and why it takes place. It is not the case that paternalistic systems are always persuasive, nor is it the case that participatory projects are necessarily educational. Instead there are four possible combinations, each of which represents a different extension paradigm, as follows:[4]

  • Technology Transfer (persuasive + paternalistic). This paradigm was prevalent in colonial times and reappeared in the 1970s and 1980s when the "Training and Visit" system was established across Asia. Technology transfer involves a top-down approach that delivers specific recommendations to farmers about the practices they should adopt.
  • Advisory work (persuasive + participatory). This paradigm can be seen today where government organizations or private consulting companies respond to farmers' inquiries with technical prescriptions. It also takes the form of projects managed by donor agencies and NGOs that use participatory approaches to promote predetermined packages of technology.
  • Human resource development (educational + paternalistic). This paradigm dominated the earliest days of extension in Europe and North America, when universities gave training to rural people who were too poor to attend full-time courses. It continues today in the outreach activities of colleges around the world. Top-down teaching methods are employed, but students are expected to make their own decisions about how to use the knowledge they acquire.
  • Facilitation for empowerment (educational + participatory). This paradigm involves methods such as experiential learning and farmer-to-farmer exchanges. Knowledge is gained through interactive processes and the participants are encouraged to make their own decisions. The best known examples in Asia are projects that use Farmer Field Schools (FFS) or participatory technology development (PTD).

There is some disagreement about whether or not the concept and name of 'extension' really encompasses all four paradigms. Some experts believe that the term should be restricted to persuasive approaches, while others believe it should only be used for educational activities. Paulo Freire has argued that the terms ‘extension’ and ‘participation’ are contradictory.[9] There are philosophical reasons behind these disagreements. From a practical point of view, however, communication processes that conform to each of these four paradigms are currently being organized under the name of extension in one part of the world or another. Pragmatically, if not ideologically, all of these activities are considered to be represented in agricultural extension.

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Trager, J. (1996) The Food Chronology, Aurum Press, London
  3. ^ Jones, G.E. and Garforth, C. (1997) The history, development, and future of agricultural extension in Swanson, B. “Improving Agricultural Extension: A Reference Manual (3rd Edition)” FAO
  4. ^ a b c NAFES (2005) Consolidating Extension in the Lao PDR, National Agricultural and Forestry Extension Service, Vientiane
  5. ^ Leeuwis, C. and van den Ban, A. Communication for Rural Innovation: Rethinking Agricultural Extension (3rd Edition), Blackwell Publishing
  6. ^ Roling, N. and Wagemakers, A. Editors.(1998), Facilitating Sustainable Agriculture: Participatory learning and adaptive management in times of environmental uncertainty, Cambridge University Press
  7. ^ Encyclopedia of public relations, by Robert L. Heath, 2005. Retrieved October 7, 2009.
  8. ^ International Finance Corporation (2013). Working with Smallholders: A Handbook for Firms Building Sustainable Supply Chains.
  9. ^ Freire, P. (1969) Extension y Communicacion, translated by Louise Bigwood & Margaret Marshall and re-printed in 'Education: The Practice of Freedom' (1976), Writers and Readers Publishing Cooperative

External links[edit]