8. Extension and special target groups
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Extension and rural women
Extension and rural youth
Extension and the landless
Rural extension is concerned with the whole farming family, and extension programmes should cater for the needs and interests of the different members of the family. The present guide deals with extension in general and the principles and approaches it suggests should be relevant to all rural extension work. However, as was suggested in earlier chapters, different members of the family and of the community face their own particular obstacles and have their own special needs which should be taken into account in extension programmes.
In this final chapter, three special groups will be examined briefly- women, rural youth and the landless . The kinds of problems and issues which may arise with them both in agricultural and non-agricultural extension work will be identified. It should be stressed again that the basic content of the guide is relevant to extension work with all members of the farming community. It is felt, however, that these three groups do present particular problems for extension, which it would be useful to identify.
Extension and rural women
Agricultural extension services often relate more specifically to farmers (who are usually assumed to be men) and their various problems in the utilization and management of farm resources. Conversely, non-agricultural extension programmes are frequently directed toward women and seek to improve the use of resources within the home and family, or the care of the family's children. This common division, however, is not always appropriate. Many women are farmers in their own right, either because there is no man living with the family throughout the year or because women in some societies have their own land and their own crops for which they are responsible. Even where the head of the household is a man, women may do more than half the farm work.
In addition, therefore, to any agricultural extension programmes designed for rural women, it is important for agricultural extension to work with women, as well as men, to bring them the support, knowledge and skills they need to improve their activities. In fact, over the past decade there has been an increasing concern to examine the role of women in rural development, to understand the particular contribution that women can and do make to this development, and to implement programmes and projects designed to improve women's lives. Until recently rural women have been neglected both in terms of our understanding of the particular kinds of problems that they face and also in extension action directed toward their problems. Most extension agents are men, and they perhaps lack a basic understanding of a woman's position in rural society. This position can be understood better by first considering the three basic roles of rural women.
- Economic, as producers of food and other goods for the family economy, and as a labour force for economic activities.
- Domestic, with responsibilities as wives and housekeepers to care for and manage the household economy.
- Reproductive, as mothers with responsibilities to reproduce family labour, care for children and look after their upbringing.
It is important for an extension agent to be aware of these three main roles which rural women have to assume, since they influence women's ability to participate in extension activities. They also indicate the kinds of extension support which would be of use. In rural areas, women often do a lot of work producing the family's main food crops. They are also responsible for storing and cooking the family's food, managing the domestic economy and supervising other economic activities, such as vegetable gardening or raising chickens, which are designed to increase the family's food resources. Moreover, they bear children and often have almost total responsibility for their care and upbringing. Rural women work very hard for long hours, usually for little reward, and are often neglected by extension services.
It is important for the extension agent to try to understand why there is often so little contact between his service and rural women. He should begin by analysing the situation and understanding the obstacles which prevent women becoming more involved in extension activities, and should take them into consideration when planning these activities. Recent studies on rural women have suggested a whole range of obstacles which rural women confront and which impede their greater involvement. These obstacles can be summarized as follows:
Cultural. Cultural obstacles are bound up in local customs and religious practice. In some societies, women are prohibited from conversing directly with non-family men. In others, custom forbids them to meet in public places, while in many, women are openly discouraged from participating in non-domestic activities.
Domestic. Domestic burdens are a severe handicap to women getting more involved in extension. Women have a full-time job contributing to the domestic economy and caring for and managing the family household.
Status. Women are generally accorded a lower status than men and are not encouraged or expected to play an active role in extension activities. Poor rural women find it almost impossible to break out from their ascribed status in order to have some voice in development.
The agent faces a difficult task in trying to incorporate women effectively into extension activities. But such is the importance of women's contribution to rural development that an extension service must work with women as much as possible. The agent must never consider rural women as inferior to men. They are not, but they do possess a different range of skills and abilities. Where possible, the agent should try to deal with both women and men at the same time. For example, he should encourage women to attend meetings and demonstrations; but women have different areas of responsibilty and the agent should direct his extension activities toward these responsibilities. It is imperative, however, that the agent study and understand the position of women in his extension area, and be sensitive to their particular needs and problems before embarking on any projects.
Although the agent should incorporate women as much as possible in his general extension activities, there will also be a need for projects formulated especially to support women's roles in rural society. Such projects could include:
Organization projects to build up and support
local organizations representing women's interests and to
encourage their activities, e.g., women's clubs or groups.
Production projects directly designed to assist those agricultural activities which are the responsibility of women, e.g., food crop production.
Health care projects to train the women and provide the facilities required for family health care, e.g., nutrition.
Income projects designed to help women to supplement their income, e.g., vegetable growing or handicrafts.
It is true that to date, men, as heads of families, have received the greater part of extension support, while women have benefited less and have been rarely encouraged to play an equal part in extension activities. But it is widely recognized that women do make a vital contribution to rural development and that extension should support this contribution. The real obstacles that women face must be understood, and extension agents, where possible, should seek out ways of channelling extension resources into activities which directly involve women.
Extension and rural youth
A large percentage of the population of many countries is under 18 years of age and the majority of the overall population lives in rural areas. It follows that young people make up a considerable portion of any rural population. These young people represent the farm families of the future, and it is essential that extension do something toward preparing them for that future. The alternative is for large numbers of young people to continue to drift away from rural areas and into the towns. For these reasons, extension agents should make a special effort to interest young people in their extension work; they should visit schools to talk about extension and should arrange tours of farm projects for young people to see what is going on.
When talking of rural youth, both boys and girls are intended. Although there are no strict definitions, practice has shown that the boys and girls referred to are between 12 and 18 years of age. Many countries now have special extension efforts directed at these young people. Examples include the Village Polytechnics in Kenya, the Jamaican Youth Corps and the Youth Voluntary Service in India. The spirit of these programmes is to "catch them while they are still young", to show concern for the future of young people, and to try to get them started and established in the rural area.
Rural youth presents the extension worker with a number of particular problems. The agent must first try to understand these problems and how they affect young people's chances of self-improvement before embarking upon any youth-oriented extension activities. Extension experience with youth in different parts of the world has revealed the following kinds of common problems:
Motivation. As young people see the neglect and backwardness of the rural areas, they lose inspiration and often see little hope for their own futures.
Training. Many young people will have been formally educated but still lack the skills required to make a living in the rural areas. Often youth is ill-prepared and ill-equipped for the demands of rural development.
Involvement. Often young people feel isolated and unable to get involved in local rural development activities. They have no representation and no means of making their voice heard.
Opportunities. There are too few programmes which attempt to reach young people, or projects which seek to integrate the youth into rural development activities.
Obviously an agent will not be able to solve all these types of problems immediately but he can at least determine to give youth extension activities priority in his extension programme. He should make and maintain contact with the youth in his area, and he should quickly give some thought to developing stimulating extension activities for them. These activities often take the form of a club for young people, with specific projects particularly for their benefit.
Clubs for rural youth
Clubs have long been used by extension as a means to involve young people in rural development to propose projects for their benefit. The most widespread are the 4H Clubs (hands, health, head and heart) which began in the United States and which have now spread to many countries. In other countries similar clubs, such as the 4K in Kenya and the 4S in Panama, have been formed with the intention of bringing extension into closer contact with rural youth. These clubs are important as a first step to bring young people together; they give them an outlet to express their views and problems, and form a base from which to build for the future. Through them, young people also become used to working with the extension services, and they establish a relationship which will develop when they form their own farm families and need extension assistance.
When the extension agent considers forming a club for youth in his area, he should give the project a lot of thought and be mindful that these clubs have three main purposes.
Educational. In a variety of ways, both formal and informal, a club can be the means whereby young people can socialize and train for future life. Specific skills, leadership qualities and a general understanding of the problem of rural development can all be useful objectives of the club.
Economic. More particularly, a club can be used to instruct the youth in different aspects of agricultural practice, farm management or home economics. The club can also undertake specific projects designed to provide income for the youth.
Recreational. Not all the activities of the club should be serious. It should also encourage recreational activities and social events, e.g., sports, day-trips and even dances. In this way, the young people will enjoy the club, and will see it as an important part of their leisure time.
The agent should consult people locally before he forms a club, and ensure that it has the support of parents He should also find a meeting-place and allocate some resources for its functioning. The agent's work with a club is very similar to his work with farmers' groups, and similar issues arise (see Chapter 5).
Two important aspects are the selection of a club leader and the internal organization of the club. Often the club leader will be a local, progressive farmer or even a teacher. The leader is not a member of the club and his task is to help to guide and support the club's activities. The leader (or leaders) will manage the club, help in the selection of projects and generally work in an advisory role to the club members. As the club develops, young people will need to be involved in its organization. This could be in the form of a committee of members, with a chairman, treasurer and secretary as committee officials. It is important for the agent to encourage the club to adopt an internal organization to provide some structure for discussion and for project work.
Projects with rural youth
Project work, either with the clubs or with rural youth in general, is the means by which young people can learn to do something instead of just listening to talks or lectures. The agent should encourage project activities with young people and allocate part of his local budget for such activities. These projects can be on an individual or a club basis, and should not be too ambitious initially. In terms of the approach to project work and to the steps involved in planning and implementation, the agent can consult other sections of this guide (see particularly Chapters 1 and 7).
A useful way of beginning project work is to take young people on a visit to a farmer, or to other agricultural projects, where they can see a particular activity for themselves. Local farmers are often most willing to collaborate with a group of keen club members. In addition, the agent could arrange for talks by other local people, or demonstrations to explain a project to them. It is important for the agent to be enthusiastic about project work and to try to involve youth in discussing and deciding what projects to undertake. Examples of youth projects that have been undertaken successfully in different parts of the world include poultry keeping, rabbit keeping, vegetable growing, handicrafts, fish-pond farming and home improvement.
Essentially, project work should be a learning experience. The projects are not only to provide useful additional income or food supplies, but should also be educational and a way of equipping young people with skills and knowledge useful for the future. It is important that the projects succeed, since failure could easily lead to early disillusionment. The extension agent, therefore, should give as careful attention to youth work as to more general extension work since he is really preparing and building for the future.
Finally, if an extension agent is to work with rural youth, he should have general sympathy with their views and ideals and feel at ease working with them. It might be better, therefore, for the younger agents in an extension service to take on the responsibilities of youth extension work. Young people will need to identify with the agent and be prepared to work with and trust him if extension work is to succeed.
Extension and the landless
In many areas where extension agents work, there will be farm families who are landless. The term landless includes not only people who have no land at all, but also families whose landholding is insufficient even for subsistence farming. Both these types of family are obliged to sell their family labour in order to make a living. It is not possible in this guide to give facts and figures on landlessness worldwide. The evidence is, however, that landlessness is quite common and increasing in many parts of the world, and it presents extension with a particular set of problems.
So far in this guide when extension and farmers have been discussed, and new technology, ideas and practices referred to, it has usually been assumed that farmers have access to the means (such as land) to take advantage of such innovations. Yet in many parts of the world a lot of farm families do not have direct access to the means of using the agricultural innovations suggested by the extension service. The question "What is extension's responsibility toward these families" must, therefore, be asked. These families present extension agents with an enormous challenge, which they can begin to confront if they try to understand the characteristics of landless families.
- The landless lack an economic base on which to build any kind of future.
- They are dependent upon others for their livelihood, under conditions over which they have little control.
- The landless family's livelihood is precarious.
- They have little contact with extension or other government services.
- They have no influence over the decisions that affect their family's livelihood.
- Few organizations represent their interests.
It is not difficult to see that the above present a formidable challenge to extension agents who find landless families in the areas where they work. The agent will already have to implement policies and programmes; meet targets in order to achieve rural development objectives; give priority to increasing the productivity levels of existing resources; and work with the farmers who have the means to produce more: Nevertheless, where possible, extension services in general (and agents in particular) should give some thought to the plight of the landless. It will be a question of how much time the agent will have to devote, and how many resources he can allocate to efforts to improve the livelihood of the landless.
The agent should at least take time to study the problems of the landless in his area and be continually alert to ways in which he might make an impact on these problems. In several parts of the world - Nepal, Bangladesh and Peru - extension services have tried to tackle the problems of the landless. These efforts have been based on three main activities:
Organization. The extension agent encourages the
formation of some kind of organization to represent the interests
of the landless, and supports such organizations as he would
support a farmers' group. Given the above characteristics of
landless families, however, the agent must be prepared to devote
a lot of time before any organization takes shape.
Resources. Where possible, the agent should try to make resources available to the landless to improve their smallholding or, if land becomes available, to help them to obtain the use of it. Small stock-raising projects will also provide some income, as will craft production projects with other members of the family.
Motivation. The landless often lack the will or the motivation to try to improve their circumstances. The extension agent can offer his support, show that he wants to give them some help, and generally try to encourage their interest in activities to improve their lives.
It would be wrong to suggest that an extension agent can solve the fundamental problems of the landless. The root causes of the situation of the landless lie in the rural society as a whole, and only when rural changes occur will the livelihood of the landless improve. The extension service and the agent must not turn away from a farm family merely because it does not have the resources to adopt new ideas immediately; extension is for the whole rural population. The agent must come to understand the structural obstacles which prevent the development of the landless, and he must try to tackle these obstacles whenever possible. Most of all, he must recognize the existence of the landless and offer extension's support in securing a more secure livelihood for them.
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