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The marketing/asks of an extension officer can be conveniently divided into three stages.
The first stage is research and analysis. Put more simply this means finding out the problems and opportunities of horticultural growers in the area. It involves talking to growers and traders, finding out prices, understanding how the marketing system works and investigating how the farmers can increase their income by selling crops. This chapter covers the research which can be undertaken and the methods of analysing the situation.
The second stage is deciding what to do and, more importantly, getting agreement from those involved on the best course of action. Obviously, correct decisions are dependent on how thoroughly the first stage has been carried out. Deciding what to do is discussed in Chapter 4.
The third stage is converting the plan into action. This stage will involve not only providing marketing advice to farmers, but also to the businesses in the production/marketing chain. The different roles that the extension officer can take on are discussed in Chapter 5.
The research and analysis phase of the work can itself be easily divided into three steps.
The first involves carrying out an investigation of the area/region/country. The work will need to cover everything from crop production to transport links to the market. The extension officer should attempt to find comparative advantages in his area and identify problems which need to be overcome.
The second step is to find out from the market what product or products are wanted and in what form. The work involves market research and is concerned with finding out the customers' (both traders and consumers) requirements.
The third step covers understanding how the marketing system works, who is involved and how it wants to be serviced.
It is very important to take notes during the research phase. Questionnaires and checklists of questions will assist in carrying out the work systematically and reduce the chances of not asking a critical question.
The objective is for the extension officer to thoroughly familiarise him or herself with both the problems (or constraints) as well as the opportunities (or main selling points) of the area. Set out below is a checklist of most of the important questions that should be answered.
It is very important to speak to farmers. In particular the extension officers should ensure they meet average and small farmers. Generally farmers have a good understanding of their problems and are delighted to have an opportunity to talk. The extension officer's role is to listen and learn. He or she should try to understand how farmers might react to new ideas and which farmers are likely to be most positive. The extension officer should find out where farmers meet to discuss matters and whose opinions they particularly respect.
At the end of this stage the extension officer should have a clear idea of the crops, the marketing system, the individuals and the problems of the area. He or she will also have some idea of some possible solutions which are worth investigating. The break-even price of delivering produce to the most likely markets should have been calculated.
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