This new book on Improving Agricultural Extension is the third in a series that was started in 1972. In the first edition of Agricultural Extension: A Reference Manual, Addison H. Maunder authored and edited a wide range of material that first defined "extension" as a field of study and practice, then went on to explain about extension programme development and different extension teaching processes, and ended with a section on extension management. At the time this first volume was written, many developing countries were just in the process of establishing their agricultural extension organizations. Therefore, this first reference manual became both an essential handbook to extension managers and programme leaders, as well as a basic textbook for students preparing to enter the extension profession.
The second edition of Agricultural Extension: A Reference Manual was an edited volume published in 1984. It built on many of the same themes found in the first manual, but gave more attention to the role of extension in agricultural development, especially extension's role in technology transfer. This trend reflected, in part, the concern of many countries and donors with the problem of expanding food production to feed the world's growing population and extension's role in getting improved technology to farmers. By that time, investment in national and international research was expanding, and there was a growing concern about how to get improved technology to nearly 1 billion farmers, more than 90 per cent of whom were small and marginal farmers who live and work in developing countries.
This third volume reflects the continued development of extension within a rapidly changing world. Temporary food surpluses, especially in the industrially developed countries, have shifted the attention of many governments and most donors away from further investments in agricultural sector. Governments are being urged to cut public sector expenditures in agricultural research and extension and to shift more of these costs to farmers themselves. In the case of better-off commercial farmers, the eventual goal is to privatize the technology system while shifting more responsibility for small, marginal, and landless farmers to nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).
For agricultural extension directors to guide their organizations through this demanding and difficult period, they will need to direct their attention to three main issues or concerns. First, they should concentrate the work of extension on those activities where it has a comparative advantage. For example, extension should focus its efforts on those knowledge-based technologies that are central to farmers' concerns and that will maintain the natural resource base. In general, these are subject-matter areas that will not be taken up by the private sector. Examples include dissemination of production management technologies that are specific to different crop and livestock systems; natural resource management technologies, such as soil and water management, integrated pest management, agroforestry, and other technologies associated with sustainable development; and farming systems technologies, including farm management skills, that will enable farmers to improve their efficiency, increase their cropping intensities, and to diversify into more high value commodities.
Second, extension directors must improve management procedures within their organizations. In short, they must (1) do a better job of justifying their annual budgets by detailing programme thrusts and expected impacts, (2) decentralize management decisions to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of extension operations, and (3) monitor, measure, and report on extension's accomplishments, including impacts on agricultural productivity, farm incomes, and natural resource management.
Third, escalating pressures for increased accountability are being fueled by a growing frustration with top-down, bureaucratic behaviour that makes extension appear unresponsive to the needs of its clientele. Therefore, extension leaders, technical specialists, and the field staff must increase farmers' participation in assessing needs, setting priorities, and implementing programmes. An important reason why most farmers, especially small and marginal farmers, are not more fully involved in research and extension programmes is that they are not organized. Therefore, extension should play a more active role in helping farmers get organized into functional organizations, including commodity groups, credit societies, cooperatives, and other types of farmer associations (FAs). Such FAs can increase extension's efficiency in disseminating messages, and these groups become the logical feedback mechanism for input into specific programmes and activities. In addition, representatives of these different FAs should serve on local, district, provincial, and national extension advisory panels to provide formal feedback at different levels in the extension system. In short, getting farmers organized and directly involved in shaping extension policy and setting extension priorities is an essential element in creating a demand-driven extension system that will gain the public's confidence and support.
These current trends and perspectives were used in preparing this new volume on Improving Agricultural Extension: A Reference Manual. In the view of the editors, agricultural research and extension must become more demand driven if these institutions are to maintain or regain the public trust and to compete effectively for public funds. Therefore, the book's first section, Overview of Extension in Agricultural and Rural Development, which is comprised of four chapters, lays out the evolution of agricultural extension over time, outlines different extension approaches that have emerged over the past thirty to forty years, revisits the role of extension in the development process, and summarizes the economic contribution of extension to agricultural and rural development.
The second section, Improving Extension Programmes and Processes, is composed of seven chapters and concentrates on improving extension programme development and delivery. The first chapter in this section concentrates on the needs assessment process, and it is followed by a chapter that outlines different methodologies of rapidly assessing clientele needs using participatory approaches. Chapter 7 deals with the process of developing extension programmes around these identified needs, followed by a chapter on selecting extension content and methods appropriate in meeting these identified needs. Rural women have been routinely ignored by many extension systems; therefore, chapter 9 gives specific attention to organizing extension programmes to reach this clientele group. The last two chapters in this section highlight the need for extension managers to develop a strategic extension plan, including the use of mass media, in organizing extension programmes, and the need to evaluate the impact of extension on improving programme development and delivery.
The third section, Improving Extension Management, is composed of eight chapters and deals directly with improving the organization and management of extension systems. Chapter 12 outlines the importance of extension policy in specifying the mission, goals, and clientele for extension, including how extension will be financed. The next chapter outlines key principles necessary to improve the organization and management of extension. The next two chapters deal with managing extension personnel and the process of professional staff development, and they are followed with a chapter on the process of acquiring and managing financial resources. The need to strive for improved performance and accountability within extension is highlighted in the next two chapters, which focus on the importance of monitoring extension programmes and establishing a management information system to monitor extension resources, activities, and outputs. The final chapter in this third section deals with one of the most persistent management problems confronting most research and extension systems: the need to improve research-extension-farmer linkages.
The final section, Current Trends and Developments, deals with current themes in the field of agricultural extension as we look toward the future and its implications for extension. First, the expanding world's population, including higher income levels among many former developing countries, is increasing the global demand for more and better quality food. This demand, in turn, is putting increased pressure on the planet's natural resources and leading to environmental degradation. Therefore, chapter 20 addresses extension's role in disseminating sustain-able, knowledge-based technologies, such as integrated pest management (IPM). The next chapter recognizes the need for extension (and NGOs) to help organize and empower farmers to solve more of their own problems. In addition, getting farmers organized into commodity and related farmer associations is essential if different groups of farmers are going to become effective in identifying and articulating their needs to the research-extension system.
Chapter 22 looks at the process of privatizing extension as one means of shifting the cost of (research and) extension to farmers as countries progress along the development continuum. In shaping the future of extension, it is important that policy makers differentiate between public and private goods to ensure sustainable development, both in political and environmental terms. The final chapter of this volume deals with the emerging and important role of nongovernmental organizations in the extension process, including their success in organizing small, marginal, and landless farmers, and in addressing problems of poverty alleviation and sustainable development in a world where fewer resources are being invested in agricultural and rural development.
Many people played an instrumental role in preparing this new FAO extension manual. First, we would like to acknowledge the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations for providing financial support for this project, and especially the guidance and assistance of Dr. Tito Contado and Dr. Ronny Adhikarya, Extension, Education and Communication Service, in helping move this project from concept to final publication, as well as in writing their respective chapters. Next, we would like to recognize the contributions of all 38 authors, from 15 countries around the world, who wrote the 23 chapters for this new publication. In addition to the editors, several INTERPAKS staff played an instrumental role in editing and producing the final, camera-ready manuscript. Ms. Sheila Ryan served as technical editor for this book and was instrumental in ensuring quality standards and consistency across the different manuscripts. Ms. Chen Hui served as project manager to keep chapters moving through the writing, review, editing, and formatting process. Finally, Ms. Lori Snipes was responsible for key-stroking and formatting the book for final publication.
To each person involved in the development of this new book on Improving Agricultural Extension, we wish to extend our sincerest thanks. We hope that this third volume builds on the strengths of the past and that it will become a valuable resource to extension professionals in the future as we work together to continue the process of improving agricultural extension to meet the needs of farm families in a rapidly changing world.
Burton E. Swanson, Robert P. Bentz, and
Andrew J. Sofranko Editors,
Improving Agricultural Extension: A Reference Manual
July 30, 1996
Burton E. Swanson is Professor and Director of the International Programme for Agricultural Knowledge Systems (INTERPAKS); Robert P. Bentz was formerly the Associate Director of the Illinois Cooperative Extension Service and is currently Senior INTERPAKS Adviser; and Andrew J. Sofranko is Professor of Rural Sociology in the Department of Human and Community Development at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.