There is an absolute need for knowledge in a fastpaced, rapidly changing world, and all available resources must be employed to compete in the 21st century. Globalization of agricultural trade, privatization in agricultural economies, environmental standards, advancements in science, agricultural services and efficiency enhancing information technologies - these and other global drivers make information a prerequisite for action.
The paper reviews the importance of information for development purposes with specific reference to agricultural extension, rural development and food security. The relationship of agricultural extension and non-agricultural extension is defined and the value of communication is proposed for further development as an aspect of extension provision. In particular, the FAO Special Programme for Food Security is highlighted for its contribution to agricultural development, including food security and income generation, when the projects are provided adequate political support, on-site leadership and resources.
Rural development is a complex task. Various pathways out of poverty are discussed and a comprehensive policy and strategy for promoting rural development is defined and advocated. Greater use of communication for rural development is recommended to provide assistance to rural populations. Communication for rural development is often ignored despite its potential for serving both those in rural areas who work the land as well as those who do not.
There is a great call for democratization of the rural sector. Fortunately the importance of stakeholder participation and demand-driven community development projects is finally being recognized and acted upon, as is the potential of rural youth and rural women. In many cases, women do as much ifnot more agricultural and other work than men, and youth are the generation of the future. The paper does not presume to have all the answers, nor cover all the issues involved in agricultural and rural development. It advocates that governments take a renewed and re-envisioned role in rural development and move toward fostering networks of extension related institutions to promote the common good, especially food security and income generation among the poor.
A central assertion is that food security is a public good, as well as a social and economic good. Poverty and food insecurity are terrible burdens to the world. Poverty needs to be greatly reduced. Food security without income generation lacks sustainability.
In sum, the paper recommends a new policy vision, backed by institutional reforms and concerted action. Relatedly, it is recommended that governments move to establish multisectoral networks of agricultural extension/communication services, working with public agencies, private extension providers, and third-sector organizations to combat food insecurity. The attention of ministers and high level functionaries has been drawn to the value of agriculture and the benefit of agricultural extension.
There is an increasing need for governments to adjust and move forward in a highly competitive, market-oriented environment. Not to utilize all available and potential human resources to enter assertively into this new environment is literally to neglect valuable resources that may prove necessary in tomorrow's world economy. For this and the other social and moral reasons mentioned throughout the paper, national action is proposed that will reform and recapitalize agricultural extension, promote communication for rural development, and increase food security.