Communication Knowledge

June 2003

Innovations in agricultural extension in India

by Rasheed Sulaiman V
National Centre for Agricultural Economics and Policy Research
Indian Council of Agricultural Research

Part 2 of 2

1 2


During the Xth Plan, (2002-2007), the Department of Agriculture and Co-operation of the Ministry of Agriculture, propose to implement a restructured centrally sponsored scheme to support extension programmes of states (Box 3) . This new scheme is an instrument to operationalise the reforms as conceived in the Policy Framework for Agricultural Extension (Annexure 1) . The salient features of the programme are as follows.

Box 3: Central government support to extension in X Plan

  • Each state prepare a state extension work plan (SEWP), comprising a mix of ongoing extension programmes from the IX plan and a set of new initiatives.
  • SEWP is an annual proposal of extension strategies, activities and investments prepared by the state centering around reforms envisaged in the PFAE
  • The expenditure for implementing the programmes in the SEWP would be shared between the centre and the state in the ratio of 90: 10.
  • No funds would be provided for vehicle, major civil works and staff salary. Funding for core establishment and infrastructure (for ATMA like model) has to be borne by the states
  • SEWPs to have three important aspects-
    • Public sector reforms
    • Promotion of private sector initiatives
    • Promotion of media and IT applications
  • Public extension system would be re-organised in a new structure (ATMA model) which facilitates a participatory mode of extension delivery, which is farmer driven and farmer accountable.
  • Size of funding would be proportionate to reforms proposed, its coverage and state's commitment
  • 25% of the total SEWP allocation must reflect direct support to women farmers.

The success of these initiatives would essentially rests on:

  1. the quality of the state extension work plans and
  2. how far the learning from implementation of previous programmes influences the development of interventions in the SEWP.

Keeping in view the considerable variation in capacity of state DoA in developing well informed work plans, it would be ideal to facilitate the development of SEWPs. The learning from the implementation of earlier innovations should be a part of the planning exercise. An analysis of the merits and gaps in implementation of these innovations is indicated in Tables 1 and 2.

Table 1 Centrally driven innovations - an analysis

Innovations Merits Gaps Crucial factors for success

Agricultural Technology Management Agency (ATMA)

A registered society
Integration of activities of all allied organisations
Set local research and extension priorities through SREP and BAP
Farmer representation at diffferent levels
Promotion of FIGs and SHGs
Enhanced IT application

Provided much needed flexibility and funds to quickly respond to farmers needs

Better technology adoption and promoted diversification to other crops and enterprises in few cases

Wide variation in performance across districts

Require strong commitment from state government to internalise and put to practices these new concepts

Need to understand the reasons for wide variation in performance before expanding the "model"

This new approach was donor funded with adequate funds for operations, but need to understand how the new model would work with inadequate state resources

Principles behind the apparent success needs to be understood

Agri-Clinics and Agri-business Centers

Support to 57 training institutions to provide training on the concept and operation of agri-clinics to agricultural graduates

Wide interest in this scheme 15609 graduates has applied for training, of which 2853 have completed training

Only 235 agri-clinics/agri business centres initiated so far

Though most of these initiatives are classified as success stories. There is a need to understand in detail, the constraints and opportunities of this scheme and what are the emerging revenue models in this scheme

Need to learn from the progress so far to guide future interventions

Table 2 State level innovations- An analysis





Crucial factors for success

Group Approach

Moving from individual to group approach

  1. commodity groups

  2. general purpose groups

  3. working with existing groups formed for different purposes

Extension worker able to contact more number of farmers

Can perform a large number of functions if motivated and assisted properly

Not much impact

Lot of potential for extension to work with groups formed by other department and programmes

Make the system more farmer accountable provided the representatives of the group are involved in decision making on extension and development

DoA staff lack skills in group formation, conflict resolution, entrepreneurship development, market development etc.

They also do not have enough time to attend to the needs of groups

Success in the case KHDP, UPSLRP, and in some cases with women programmes and ATMA

Adequate skills within the organisation

Partnership with NGOs

Involvement of groups in more number of activities (access to credit, other inputs and value addition, group marketing etc) lead to sustainability

Contact centres below the block level

Office of DoA at the grassroots level

Kerala - 1 for 1.3 villages (avg.)
Maharashtra - 1 for 44 villages (avg.)
Karnataka - 1 for 36 villages (avg.)
Rajasthan - 1 for every 9 villages (avg.) functioning once a week

Farmers can contact the DoA staff by travelling less distance

Most of the contact is for getting subsidised inputs or seeds

Though agricultural officers are better qualified to solve specific technical problems, they don't have adequate time for field visits

Contact centres to act as bridging organisations that provide a wide range of services including diagnostic and testing services, training, market information and market development services

Towards more intensive trainings

Market Committees

Seed farms and Horticultural nurseries

Zonal Research Stations

More number of farmers assembled at one place and opportunity to interact on messages

Land and infrastructure could be used for demonstrations and hands on training with little additional support

Lecture and discussion by experts to a large group of farmers

Reluctance to post or redeploy staff for exclusively leading and co-ordinating this activity

Need a specific team to lead and co-ordinate this activity

Should have the flexibility and funds to identify the training needs and design and implement specific training programmes

Increasing role of Private and NGO sectors

Contracting extension of certain specific areas to NGOs

Contracting implementation of certain programmes to NGOs

NGO-GO partnerships (UPSLRP, IFAD project in Tamil Nadu)

Emerging extension models by private agri-business companies

Public-private sector partnerships

In distant and remote areas, where the vacancies in DoA are more, NGOs could be assisted to provide extension services

NGOs have more flexibility and skills and can implement programmes effectively

NGOs skills in group formation and management successfully complemented the implementation of programmes

Provide a wide range of services to farmers including extension and are often paid services

Can assist in contract farming operations

Both contribute to the costs and manpower of extension

Improve the operational budget for public sector extension

They were provided limited freedom to innovate better institutional arrangements and were constrained to implement all the schemes of the DoA

Apparent reluctance of GOs to participate wholeheartedly with NGOs

Restricted to few districts and crops at present, but growing at a rapid pace

Less enthusiasm and appreciation of these models within public sector at the ground level

Training in exension management to focus on the role of private and NGO sectors in development, value of partnerships and skills on working in teams

Public sector organisations to facilitate, monitor and learn from these initiatives

Para Extension Workers (PEWs)

PEW selected from each village

PEWs selected from the agricultural committee of the village

PEW selected by a SHG/FIG of farmers to represent the group

Farmers can contact the PEW to get information on programmes and messages transmitted through meeting /training

More accountable to the group and when properly trained can be very effective in transferring technology and helping farmers to access a wide range of services

Implemented in certain cases as substitutes for grassroot level DoA staff

Inadequate training (mostly one day pre-kharif and pre-Rabi) to PEWs and they neither have the competence nor interest to train fellow farmers

Found in only few cases of externally funded projects

PEWs should not be viewed as substitutes of public sector staff. With or without PEW, effective extension service depends on better qualified, well trained and motivated extension staff at field level

PEWs need to be assisted with more knowledge intensive and quality practical training

They should be selected by a farmer SHG /FIG

Women in Agriculture

Village based and institutional training mostly on technologies related to production of crops

Forming farm women SHGs

Improved farm women's access to information and technologies and increased adoption of technologies and allied enterprises

Post harvest value addition and enterprise development as an important activity in one case (ANTWA-Phase II)

Narrow focus on crop production , other identified training needs (related to food and nutrition, animal husbandry and poultry development) ignored during implementation

Poor marketing facilities and lack of follow-up support led to poor adoption of many enterprises promoted

Limited skills of DoA to implement a broader agricultural development agenda for farm women

Farm women programmes should look beyond crop production

Partnership with other organisations and working with existing groups of rural women promoted by other programmes is important

Women SHGs need to be supported with opportunities to increase income by way of developing micro-enterprises

Enlarged extension role by SAUs

Noticed in 2 cases

Multi disciplinary teams at each district involved in diagnostic field visits, training and adaptive research

Support the DoA in diagnostic field visits and in conducting extension and training programmes

Opportunity for SAU staff to get more familiar with field problems

Lead to better appreciation of each others effort and improved research-extension linkages

Noticed only in the case of 2 SAUs

Need to be provided with adequate funds for field visits and this activity to be recognised as an important contribution within the University

Increasing role of PRIs and farmer representatives

Gram sabhas / committees of farmers/ farmer representatives scutinises proposals for agricultural development

Administrative control of field level staff with the PRIs

Facilitate development of need based and location specific programme development

More transparent and democratic selection of beneficiaries for implementation of programmes

States vary widely in the capacity of farmers/peoples representatives in influencing positively the planning and implementation of programmes

Efforts to improve the capacity of peoples representatives in planning and implementation of programmes

Information Technology and Media

Use of internet

  • to disseminate market information
  • to provide information related to weather, technologies etc
  • to provide all other information needs of rural families

Use of video media to telecast live interactive programmes

Widely used to provide market information

Several initiatives are emerging

Widely used by TV channels

Price information (though important) alone not sufficient to realise better prices by farmers

Efforts at consolidating, processing and adding value to raw information and re-packaging the same in local language in an attractive format are lacking at present

Though a potentially promising area for public-private partnerships, efforts are lacking

Developing appropriate programme modules is equally or more important than providing hardware and connectivity


Post T & V public sector innovations in agricultural extension in selected states are summarised in Annexure II. Following lessons could be learnt from an analysis of these innovations.

  1. DoA and other line departments still face several constraints in providing adequate extension support to farmers.

  2. Implementation of a large number of central and state sector schemes with specific targets to achieve, consume a major share of block and village level officials' time. Very little attention could therefore be paid for diagnostic field visits, advice on technological options and strengthening the capacity of farmers (mobilisation of farmers and supporting farmers groups).

  3. Technology dissemination continues to be understood as the main extension role and other support needs of farmers (Box 3) that became very important in the last one decade remain unattended.

  4. Box 4 : Emerging support needs of farmers

    Due to the changing nature of agriculture, extension support must address a broader range of aspects including:

    1. What technological options can be used profitably in his/her situation keeping in view the potential resource constraints in terms of land, capital, labour and knowledge?
    2. How to manage various technologies? (How to make optimal use of new inputs on the farm?)
    3. How and when to change farming systems? (diversifying from crop production to mixed farming or vegetable or animal production)
    4. For which type of products is there a good demand in the market?
    5. What are quality specifications for the produce and how to achieve them? (e.g., for export markets, organic farming)
    6. How, when, where, and under which conditions to buy inputs and sell products?
    7. How to make decisions collectively on resource use and marketing?
    8. How to find quickly the most relevant and reliable knowledge and information?
    9. What are the feasible off-farm income generation options available for members of the farm family and how could they depend on them?
    10. What are going to be the implications, if input subsidies are phased out and or if the trade in agricultural products is liberalized?
  5. To provide these wide range of support, DoA need to partner with other organisations in the public and private sector having these expertise. But line departments such as DoA generally work in isolation and partnerships are rare.

  6. The centralised planning and implementation of extension programmes and the associated bureaucratic procedures leave practically very little flexibility to the block and village level functionaries to modify programmes based on farmers' needs.

  7. ATMA could successfully solve these problems as it is free from many bureaucratic and time consuming procedures and this provided ATMAs the much-needed flexibility to quickly respond to demands from the field. Mechanisms such as SREP, FAC and block action plans supported with adequate funds contributed to making ATMA demand driven. But performance of ATMA varies widely across states and districts and the reasons behind this differential impact need to be understood.

  8. The DoA poorly serves tribal and remote areas and special efforts are needed to fill vacancies in these areas. Special and innovative extension programmes need to be developed with participation of farmers for these areas.

  9. Group approach has a number of advantages. But FIGs/SHGs of farmers need institutional support (be if from NGOs, financial institutions, agri-busineess firms, market committees, or government technical agencies) and they also need to be provided with opportunities to enhance their capacity to address management, legal and social issues. How the DoA would support SHGs/FIGs in these aspects is not yet clear.

  10. There is an increasing attention to the potential role of para extension workers. How successfully these PEWs transfer the skill to other farmers is not clear. PEWs representing a SHG/FIGs of farmers may perhaps be more accountable to fellow farmers than those selected by a few farmers in a village or nominated by the government.

  11. Farmers are generally willing to pay for quality extension services provided they are convinced of the benefits. Private extension delivered as part of a wide range of services is attracting more farmers at the moment.

  12. Technology backstopping provided as part of a wider basket of agricultural production and marketing assistance is more efficient.

  13. Though ICTs offer many options for improving extension efficiency, organisations in the public sector are yet to exploit its potential. With infrastructural and hardware deficiencies getting sorted out, the challenge seems to be in producing content relevant to specific locations in the regional language, value addition to raw information and in developing systems at local level that ensure access to all farmers.

  14. The Policy Framework for Agricultural Extension of the Ministry of Agriculture suggests ways for improving the performance of extension. Though the broad contours of policy changes suggested are well considered and relevant, the PFAE underplays crucial implementation problems of introducing reforms. Some of the reforms have been a part of the extension practice for about a decade. There is a need to learn lessons from the implementation of these reforms, to guide policy changes at the national and state levels.

  15. Keeping in view the wide diversity in terms of agro-climatic conditions, socio-economic conditions of rural producers and infrastructure for agricultural development, a country-wide model for agricultural extension would be counter productive. HRD efforts should concentrate on enhancing the capacity of officials and peoples representatives at the block, district and state levels in developing innovative extension strategies appropriate to local conditions.



Annex I

Policy Framework for Agricultural Extension

The document's main provisions include:

At the policy level

Institutional restructuring

Financial reforms

Strengthening research-extension linkages

Capacity building and skills upgrading

Mainstreaming women in agriculture

Use of media and information technology

Financial sustainability

Changing role of government

Source: Policy Framework for Agriculture Extension, (2000) Department of Agriculture and Co-operation, Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India

Annex II

Innovations in Indian agricultural extension-a state-wise analysis



Andhra Pradesh

ATMA in 4 districts,
Farmers Clubs in every village (currently more than 25,000)
Active SAU extension - DAATTC in each district (22)
Agricultural Market Committees (286) supporting extension
Women in Agriculture programme in collaboration with APWCFC in 12 districts - value addition and agro-processing to gain more importance

Himachal Pradesh

ATMA in 4 districts


RMKs at the hubli level (745)
Internet access at hubli level
Women and Youth Training and Extension Project (WYTEP) in all districts


Group approach
Field office at every panchayat (1.3 villages)
Advisory committees at panchyat and district level
Kerala Horticultural Development Programme (KHDP)
SHGs of fruit and vegetable growers in PTD, extension, credit management and marketing and as shareholders of the transformed KHDP, organisations named as VFPCK

Madhya Pradesh

Active role of PRIs in agricultural extension
Private extension policy and initiation of public-private partnerships in 1 district, more companies to initiate such efforts
Para workers (kisan bandhus)-about 50,000
Interactive video for technology dissemination (350 SATCOM centres)
Women in Agriculture programme-MAPWA in 15 districts


ATMA in 4 districts
Merger of field extension machinery
Agri-poly clinics at taluka level (365)
Active role of PRIs in agriculture
Office of DoA at circle level


ATMA in 4 districts
Active SAU extension-Farm Advisory Services in every district
Contract farming and increasing role of private extension service providers


Contracting extension to NGOs
Para Extension workers
Group approach (kisan mandals)-33688
Office of VEW at the VEW circle
Advisory Committee of farmers (Kisan Salahkar Committee)

Tamil Nadu

Women in Agriculture (TANWA) in all districts


Promotion of organic farming
Active role of NGOs in implementation of agricultural programmes

Uttar Pradesh

Para Extension Worker (PEW) in every panchayat-more than 50,000
UPSLRP- PEWs and FIGs in soil reclamation
NGOs in mobilising and organising communities
Farmer- led extension (kisan mitras)


  1. In 28 ATMA districts (4 districts each in 7 states, namely Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkahnd, Maharashtra, Orissa, Punjab, Jahrkhand) several innovations promoted under ITD component of ATMA are being tried, It include, SREP, integration of functioning of line departments, Block technology teams, farmers advisory committee, FIGs etc
  2. This classification excludes the initiatives of private sector, NGOs, farmers organisations, media and agri-business firms


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