This paper covers extension institutional reform initiatives involving both market- and non-market reforms, as well as initiatives for non-farm rural development, with an emphasis at all times on stakeholder, and especially end-user, participation in the approaches employed in these reforms. The initiatives draw on recent agricultural extension reform measures taken in various high-income, middle-income and low-income countries. The focus, however, is on reform measures that promote food security and poverty alleviation among small holders in low-income countries. The initiatives are largely envisaged as an application of the principles enumerated in the FAO/World Bank document on Strategic Vision and Guiding Principles (2000) for promoting Agricultural Knowledge and Information Systems for Rural Development, and other frameworks (Neuchatel 1999) that underline the changing extension environment.
The reform initiatives call for:
(a) pluralism of extension providers, involving coordinated partnerships with non-profit non-governmental organizations,
(b) partnerships involving farmers and farmers organizations, and other private sector extension-providers,
(c) cost recovery options, including those negotiated directly between farmers and extension technicians (which requires human resource development coupled with technical assistance),
(d) decentralization to lower tiers of government,
(e) subsidiarity at the grassroots level.
An additional initiative for non-farm rural development is also included, emphasizing micro-enterprise development.
Global developments require a new vision and the promotion of improved best practices if agricultural and rural extension systems are to be revitalized and made more effective in meeting the diverse needs of the developing countries. The reforms mentioned here are based on an increasingly extensive menu of options that challenge each country and offer FAO important opportunities to promote institutional policy. The immediate challenge is how to help each country to identify the right mix of extension institutional reforms and approaches to be able to operate more effectively in a global agricultural system.