Extension for Community Development: Planning a Forestry Extension Programme


Miyan Rukunuddin Ahmed[1]


Extension is considered as a non-formal educational process. Forestry extension methods disseminate necessary knowledge and technology to desired target groups. Forestry extension is an important vehicle for expansion of forest resources in the country, and a tool for forest resources conservation and development. Planning forestry extension is a prerequisite for a successful forestry conservation and development programme. A participatory planning process - i.e. people (beneficiaries) must actively be involved in planning and managing the programme - should be undertaken for a forestry extension programme.

There are two approaches that could be used for forestry extension, namely top-down approach and bottom-up/participatory approach. The bottom-up approach is a two-way information flow system that considers prior consultation with target beneficiaries about their needs/problems and aspirations for effective planning. On the contrary, the top-down approach is simply a one-way information delivery system that reinforces the hierarchical relationship between the extension agent and the client. The planning of a forestry extension programme consists of six steps, namely: policy and resource analysis, assessment of clientele needs, formulation of objectives, designing of programme/project plan, implementation of programme, and evaluation of results/outcomes.

To support local and national development efforts on forestry extension, development support communication (DSC) resources should be developed. These include manpower trained in communication, communication facilities and equipment, communication materials, communication budget, and mass media generation. Planning forestry extension is important for a successful forestry development programme in the country in an efficient, timely and cost-effective way. The government forest department should encourage a bottom-up approach to forestry extension to ensure people’s participation in forest extension and development. Institutional capacity building, DSC, and continuous extension training programs for forest department personnel can be ensured through effective planning of the forestry extension programme.


Extension is generally viewed as a non-formal educational process aimed at creating desired changes in the knowledge, attitude, skills and behavior of relevant clienteles. Roling (1988) defines extension as a professional communication intervention deployed by an institution to induce change in voluntary behaviors with a presumed public or collective utility. Forestry extension could be defined as a system of non-formal education designed to develop among forestry public favorable attitudes toward, and desired capabilities for, forest conservation. (Rebugio 1978). It is an important tool to expand forest resources in a resources poor country, to protect its dwindling forest resources, and to ensure optimum use of forest resources. Forestry extension should stem primarily from the need to maintain both efficiency and equity in forestry development. Forestry extension (transferring technologies) is the "means" to achieve the "ends" i.e. the adoption of forestry technologies by the villagers for their socio-economic uplift/improvement This article presents the conceptual issues of forestry extension, planning process and development of forestry extension program. It discusses the structure of forestry extension program and probable strategies to effective extension program in Bangladesh.

Planning Forestry Extension Program

Planning is a process of decision-making in that it seeks to provide answers to problems like: What is to be achieved? Who will be responsible for achieving it? How will it be achieved? What resources will be needed? etc. Planning is generally regarded as a method for delineating goals and ways of achieving them (Ahmed 1991). The result of the process is a document known as plan or program. Planning is a pre-requisite for any kind of development program to:

For forestry extension program development, participatory planning process should be encouraged where local users take part in decision-making. Simply "informing" people does not incite participation, people must be actively involved in planning and managing as well as having a stake in the benefits if they are to be encouraged to participate (Falconer 1987). Here the bottom-up approach of forestry extension should be followed. Extension programs must be developed through a process of "planning from below" involving the intended beneficiaries at all stages (Clark 1982). Participatory planning process can ensure the innovation or program is appropriate and meets peoples’ needs. The planning process provides a framework within which an extension worker can translate decisions into action and assess what has and has not accomplished (Magno 1986).

Adoption of Appropriate Extension Strategy

Policies of forestry extension program

It may be desirable to establish clear policies regarding the following issues prior to starting the planning of new forestry extension programs (Clark 1982):

With the adoption of new forestry policy of Bangladesh in 1994, people’s participation is encouraged as one of the strategy of forestry development in the country.

Approaches of forestry extension program

There are two approaches that could be used for forestry extension namely: top-down approach and bottom-up/participatory approach. Bottom-up approach is important for any effective implementation of forestry extension program. In bottom-up approach the target beneficiaries are consulted prior to program planning - their needs, problems and aspirations are taken into consideration in the planning. The comparative advantages and disadvantages are discussed below.

Top-down approach: The top-down approach is simply one-way information delivery system. The way flow of information reinforces the hierarchical relationship between the extension agent ant the client. It also foresters and encourages superior attitudes on the part of extension agents. De Vries (1980) summarizes this in examining the assumption of underlying the traditional top-down extension approach.

This approach is also known as "blue-print" or "pre-determined" approach. Since this is a government program, there is a danger that people/villagers may not fully understand and support.

Bottom-up approach or Participatory Approach: The organization must not be used just to sell the government’s viewpoints. Rather, activities should be designed to reflect the needs, aspirations, problems and cultural transitions of the people, as perceived by themselves so that they become motivated in sound forestry activities (Clark 1982). In contrast to conventional extension (top-down), the bottom-up approach is characterized as follows.

An example of "participatory" planning exercise of a forestry extension activity would be the establishment of village forest nurseries in consultation with the villagers prior to actual establishment (Magno 1986).

Program Planning Process

In the process of program planning and development, three areas of concern have to be done ad considered. These areas of concern can be illustrated by the triangle of program planning in fig.1.

Fig. 1: Model of program planning process

The planning process in forestry extension consists of six steps or stages. The feedback system in the planning process is an integration of the decision model for goal-oriented communication and andragogical process model for decision-making and designing of extension activities. Fig.2. discusses the functions and analysis of resources under six stages in planning process. These steps are:

Policy and resource analysis

Assessment of existing policy in forest development and conservation as well as utilization of forest products is, therefore, an essential part of the planning of extension program. The nature of these policies determines to a certain extent the goals or objectives of extension programs (Oliver 1985). Thus the assessment of existing policies as well as organizational resources, and including the media system must be considered as essential step of the planning process or method. Existing government resources policy should be analyzed - land use plan, land tenure system, budgetary arrangement, and so on (Ahmed 1991). The factual information like human and physical resources, technology, cultural aspects, etc. should be collected and analyzed.

Assessment of needs/analyze clientele behavior

Needs of individuals for consideration in planning activities can be viewed from the standpoint of personal development. Accordingly, program planners must have a clear understanding of the present behavior of the clientele as well as the knowledge, values, attitudes and interests that shape these behaviors. For instance what do they need to enable them to participate effectively in community activities like forest conservation or reforestation? These needs could be assessed in cooperation of the clientele themselves, the community leaders or knowledgeable persons from other government agencies. Assessment of communities’ basic needs/demands and/or ecological requirements should be studied through participatory action research and participatory evaluation. Problem diagnosis, analysis, and alternative solutions should be discussed.

Formulation of objectives

The project objectives are the ultimate outcomes in which the project should result. Thus, a project objective may be stated as "stopping shifting cultivation"; "establishing a community forest with the help of the people"; or "enhancing the effective ness of the people in the production of their daily needs"; etc. Properly stated, these objectives/intended effects will provide direction to program planners, implementers, evaluators and the clientele themselves. Thus specific objective must be stated in concrete and measurable terms (Oliver 1987).

Designing of program/project plan

Designing the forestry extension project/program is the application phase of the planning process. Once objectives are formulated, it is necessary to carefully consider how to achieve these objectives. It is necessary to undertake courses of actions for specific problem to tackle during the period, and solutions/strategy of implementation.

Implementation of program

The implementation of forestry extension project can be seen as a sub-system of the planning or decision-making process. All previous stages of the process are repeated in the implementation phase. Thus a forestry extension project is woven out of a complex set of policy analysis, needs assessment, objectives setting, designing and monitoring. Implementation method should chalked out in the plan - how the plan will be executed or by whom? No matter how well your forestry extension program is thought of, it is of no value/use unless carried out (Magno 1986).

Evaluation of results/outcomes

Evaluation is the integral part of the forestry extension planning. Its purpose is to ascertain the effectiveness with which the objectives both project and specific objectives have been attained. Evaluation of program efforts is likewise essential to long-term assessment of the program and the identification both of needed adjustments and new directions for the future.

Fig. 2: The Planning or Decision-Making Process Model (after Oliver 1985).

Enhancing Institutional Capacity

Forest Department needs to establish forestry extension capability. Virtually most of the existing forestry staff had no formal training or experience in extension, it needs an in-service training in extension for existing staff. This strategy must also aim at making trainers out of those initially trained in order to build into the program a multiplier effect for spreading extension capability among staff (Manandhar et al. 1982). Extension and related subjects must be integrated into the whole forestry staff training system. A training wing of social forestry and extension is to be established within the Forest Department. Training needs may be like knowledge, attitude and skill for extension service. The key units and staff identified were at: (i) National level, (ii) Forest Divisional level and (iii)Thana level.

Development Support Communication

Development Support Communication (DSC) may be broadly defined as an organization’s planned use of information and communication resources to help achieve its goals. Forestry Extension wing and Mass Communication cell may perform DSC function for the development activities of the forestry sector.

Goal of DSC practices

The main objective of a DSC program is to support local and national development efforts or programs/projects like forestry extension program, social/community forestry, etc.

DSC resources

Role of DSC

A DSC capability within an organization like the proposed social forestry and extension wing for the improvement of the effectiveness of its program by helping to change the knowledge, attitudes and behavior of its personnel and its intended beneficiaries. Through the use of appropriate messages and communication methods, a good DSC program can help to:

Characteristics of Sound Program Planning for Forestry Extension

Magno (1986) summarizes the following characteristics of sound program planning for forestry extension.


Planning forestry extension is important for successful forestry development program in the country in an efficient, timely and cost-effective way. Bottom-up/participatory approach should be adopted in extension of forestry ensuring active people’s participation in project selection, design and implementation. Institutional capacity building, DSC, and continuous extension training programs for forest department personnel are needed for better forestry extension service. An effective planning process for forestry extension can equip the country’s forestry department with necessary technology, knowledge and strategies for forestry expansion, development and conservation.

Literature Cited

Ahmed, M. R., 1991. Planning and designing social forestry project. In Ahmed, M. R. (ed.) Social Forestry and Community Development, pp. 109 - 116. FAO, FTPP.

Clark, G. C., 1982. Policies, design and organization of forestry extension programmes. In 123 - 128. Report of the FAO/SIDA Seminar of Forestry Extension, FAO, Rome, Italy.

De Vries, J., 1980. Extension or dialogue. Journal of Adult Education, 2(8)

Falconer, J., 1987. Forestry Extension: A review of the key issues, SF Network Paper 4e, ODI, London.

Magno, V. C., 1986. Forestry Extension Handbook. Field Document-2, MOA- Forest Department and FAO, Dhaka.

Manandhar, P. K., E. Pelink, R. H. Gecolea, 1982. Extension and training components of community forestry development in Nepal. In 99 - 120. Report of the FAO/SIDA Seminar of Forestry Extension, FAO, Rome, Italy.

Oliver, J. D., 1985. Planning and Implementation of Forestry Extension Programs. Paper presented in Special training course on Forestry extension agents in reforestation and watershed management of Sri Lanka,

Rebugio, L. L., 1978. Forestry Extension in the Philippines: A brief review. Forestry Occupancy Management and Extension Seminar, Maddela. Philippines.

Roling, N., 1988. Extension Science, Information Systems in Agricultural Development. Cambridge University Press.

[1] Professor, Institute of Forestry and Environmental Sciences, Chittagong University, Chittagong 4331, Bangladesh. Email:miyanahmed@hotmail.com; mrahmed@unity.ncsu.edu