Numerable changes and forces shaping the world these days also are impacting or have the potential to affect what constitutes agricultural extension, as it is currently carried out. The effects are both positive and negative, especially as extension in some parts of the Asia and Pacific region has no clear identity or solid base; or where extension struggles to respond to the shifting world, new government dynamics and stakeholders' needs as a result of globalization, liberalization, decentralization, privatization, natural disasters, Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) and breakthroughs in information, communications, genetic engineering and biological technologies - to name a few of the "forces of change."
Of particular concern is that extension's potential is unknown and unutilized in some areas and that in many places technology transfer and adoption has not met the needs of target beneficiaries - despite the efforts in research and development. Other concerns centre on the limited priority and resources, both at the international and national levels, accorded to extension, as well as the lack of gender understanding and equality in the content of research, in the staff of extension offices and in approaches to farmers. The forces of change - and the need for change - require greater investigation and implementation of new approaches to agriculture extension.
The Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific (RAP) of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) last organized an expert consultation relating to agricultural extension in 1996. Because of the rapid challenges confronting the world and more specifically, the Asia and Pacific region, and in light of the recent recruitment of an officer to address agricultural extension concerns for FAO-RAP Office, the need for a contemporary meeting seemed paramount. Its purpose was to bring experts together to review the status of agricultural extension, examine problems, needs and opportunities and to discuss strategies to address these issues both nationally and regionally, including a possible role for FAO.
The Expert consultation on agricultural extension, research-extension-farmer interface and technology transfer took place at FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, Bangkok, from 16 to 19 July 2002. The consultation participants represented Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Thailand, plus seven resource persons and four observers from the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization-Regional Centre for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture, the International Training Center on Pig Husbandry in the Philippines and Kasetsart University in Thailand.
Presentations and discussions during the three-day Consultation addressed i) globalization, liberalization and the changing demands and role for agricultural extension; ii) new horizons and extension modalities for research-extension-farmer-market-civil society linkages; iii) information and communication opportunities for technology transfer and linkages; iv) gender dimensions in agricultural extension and technology development and transfer; and iv) policy, institutional and human resources development.
The Consultation's participants drafted several recommendations for future direction, including: documenting participatory methods to better link farmers, extension personnel and researchers; documenting successful cases of farmers bringing about innovation and change; enhancing knowledge-based skills and developing professional human-centred and resource-based agricultural extension services. The recommendations all require a repositioning and retooling of extension professionals, especially in the ICT environment and which are also priorities. After dividing into groups to analyse the Consultation's themes, the participants identified the priorities and presented frameworks for projects that ultimately will address the recommendations coming out of the meeting, for which FAO should take leadership to ensure appropriate attention. These frameworks are included in the Annex of this report.