Extension Knowledge

Posted March 1996

Strategic Extension Campaign: Increasing Cost-Effectiveness and Farmers' Participation in Applying Agricultural Technologies

by Ronny Adhikarya,
Extension, Education and Training Methodology Specialist
Agricultural Extension and Education Service (SDRE)
FAO Research, Extension and Training Division
based on "Strategic Extension Campaign: a participatory-oriented method of agricultural extension" (FAO, 1995)


A "Strategic Extension Campaign" (SEC) methodology developed by FAO has been introduced in Africa, the Near East, Asia and Latin America. This methodology emphasises the importance of people's participation (i.e. of intended beneficiaries such as small farmers) in strategic planning, systematic management and field implementation of agricultural extension and training programmes. Its extension strategies and messages are specifically developed and tailored based on the results of a participatory problem identification process on the causes or reasons of farmers' non-adoption, or inappropriate practice, of a given recommended agricultural technology or innovation. The SEC technology transfer and application approach is needs-based, demand driven, and has a problem-solving orientation.

The SEC programme follows a systems-approach which starts with a farmers' Knowledge, Attitude and Practice (KAP) survey. The results are used as planning inputs and bench-mark/base-line for summative evaluation purposes. In addition, a series of practical and participatory workshops are conducted to train extension personnel, subject-matter specialists, trainers and farmer leaders together in the skills of extension programme planning, strategy development, message design and positioning, multi-media materials development, pretesting and production, as well as management planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation. One of the strengths of this approach is in orienting and training relevant extension personnel to apply a systematic, rational, and pragmatic approach to planning, implementing, managing, monitoring and evaluating the routine programmes of an agricultural extension service.

Empirical evaluation studies of SEC methods applied to specific FAO-supported extension activities have reported positive changes in farmers' knowledge, attitudes and practices vis-a-vis the recommended technologies as well as significant economic benefits. The activities included rat control in Bangladesh and Malaysia, pest surveillance in Thailand, weed management in Malaysia, maize production in Zambia, and population education in Malawi, Jamaica and Morocco.

This SEC method has been replicated with FAO assistance in many countries in Asia, Africa, the Near East and the Caribbean, with topics ranging from line sowing of rice, maize production and cocoa cultivation to tick-borne disease control, contour tillage, population education and ploughing with draught animal power. In addition to various SEC replications within a country, the multiplier effects of its method are felt beyond national boundaries. For example, extension specialists from Ghana, Malawi, Ethiopia, France, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines who were trained by FAO and have implemented SEC programmes have served as consultants/resource persons to train their counterparts, and/or assisted in similar SEC replications, in Sri Lanka, Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, China, Liberia, Zambia, Malawi, Kenya, Uganda, Morocco, Tunisia, Rwanda, Burundi, Guinea, Jamaica and Honduras.

The usefulness of SEC

The strategic extension campaign (SEC) is not an alternative to the conventional extension programme or activity. SEC is, and should be, an integral part of the programmes of an agricultural extension service. The effectiveness and efficiency of such a service could be increased due to SEC's problem-solving orientation, participatory planning approach, intensive training of extension personnel, multi-media materials development, and extension management, and monitoring and evaluation procedures. Its activities should be carried out by extension personnel and in support of the Ministry of Agriculture policies, strategies and priority programmes. The strategic extension campaign is useful and important to an agricultural extension service because:

Participatory planning approach

This participatory-approach extension method is responsive to intended beneficiaries' agricultural development problems and information needs because its extension objectives, strategies, methods, messages, and multi-media materials are specifically developed based on survey results of their knowledge, attitude and practice (KAP) vis-a-vis the recommended agricultural technologies.

Such a participatory approach in planning SEC activities increases the degree of relevance, and thus acceptability, of extension messages or recommendations among intended beneficiaries who are consulted during the planning process regarding their priority concerns and needs. It does not assume the target beneficiaries (i.e. farmers) to be ignorant or requiring all the information there is to know. Rather, it tries to understand and assess farmers' indigenous knowledge, values and belief system on farming practices which may be good, need to be improved, or perhaps need to be discouraged. In short, it follows the well-known principles of rural reconstruction: "start with what people already know", and "build on what they already have".

Needs-based and demand-driven

In order to make the best use of available extension resources, SEC activities concentrate on meeting the information, education and training needs of intended target beneficiaries. Rather than providing them with the spectrum of information and skills related to a given recommended technology, SEC activities are geared at narrowing the gaps between knowledge, attitudes, and/or appropriate practice levels of the target beneficiaries vis-a-vis the technology recommendations. Furthermore, the focus of the SEC activities is to create a demand (through information and motivation approaches) and/or to satisfy the demand (through education and training) among the intended target beneficiaries for the necessary relevant knowledge and skills for adopting the recommended technologies. Such a method needs to apply bottom-up and participatory planning procedures which will give high priority in meeting the interests and needs of the target beneficiaries. Tailoring the SEC messages and activities to the specific needs of the intended beneficiaries would not only increase the chances of success but also would increase the efficiency in resources utilization.

Strategic planning and integrated systems approach

The SEC method advocates an integrated and holistic approach in extension strategy development, programme planning and management, training, media and/ or materials development, and monitoring and evaluation. To ensure its relevance to audience needs, and to utilize its resources efficiently, it relies heavily on both quantitative data and qualitative information obtained from target beneficiaries (i.e., farmers) to assist in problem analysis, objective formulation, strategy development, and management planning. It applies a strategic planning approach in programming and managing its activities, to achieve maximum outputs or results using minimal inputs or resources in the shortest time possible. SEC activities such as surveys, strategy and management planning, multi-media materials design and development, training, field implementation, monitoring and evaluation are integrated as a system which is also an integrated part of a larger extension programme which has linkages with relevant agencies/units dealing with research, inputs/supplies, training, marketing, etc.

Human and behavioural dimensions

In order to minimize heavy "technology-bias" of many extension activities, the SEC method gives adequate considerations to human behavioural aspects, such as socio-psychological, socio-cultural, and socio-economic factors which may facilitate or impede adoption, or continued practice, of recommended technologies by farmers. Without sufficient understanding of their positive or negative attitudes and behaviour towards a given technology, the "technology transfer" process would be slow and ineffective, especially if the extension emphasis is on appropriate "technology application" by farmers. There is considerable evidence to suggest that non-adoption of a recommended agricultural technology or innovation is often related to, or caused by, non-technological factors, such as social, psychological, cultural and economic problems.

The SEC method gives due attention to human and its environmental factors which may influence important decision making process related to agricultural technology adoption and practices. It employs a behavioural science analysis, based on a participatory needs assessments and problem identification of the target audience, in developing appropriate strategies and tactics to overcome or minimize human-related constraints affecting the agricultural technology transfer and application process.

Problem-solving orientation

The SEC is particularly distinguished in that it normally focuses on specific issues related to a given agricultural technology recommendation. Its main aim is to solve or minimize problems which caused non-adoption of such a recommendation by intended target beneficiaries (e.g., farmers). Unlike more conventional extension programmes or activities, it does not "extend" the whole gamut of information on the recommended technology package. Instead, it selects, prioritizes, and utilizes only the most relevant and necessary information or facts which can maximize the effectiveness of extension efforts to minimize or solve the identified problems of non-adoption of a recommended technology. It stresses on the need to provide strategic, critical and/or "quality" (rather than large "quantity" of) information, which must also include non-technological information as the reasons for non-adoption of agricultural technologies are often related to socio-psychological, socio-cultural and socio-economic factors. Appropriate human behavioural science principles are thus applied to extension problem-solving and in information positioning and utilization, which is responsive rather than prescriptive in nature.

The segmentation or classification of extension problems, objectives, strategies and information needs according to a target audience's levels of knowledge, attitude and practice (KAP) in regards to a given recommended technology is not only conceptually important, but practical and useful as well. Problems related to low knowledge level require different solutions than those related to attitudinal problems. Similarly, strategies for changing negative attitudes on a recommended technology are likely to be different that those for solving incorrect practices in technology application or convincing people to try and practice a recommended technology. The implications of the different KAP levels would greatly influence the development of problem-solving strategies, message design, selection of multi-media mix (including when and how to utilize group and interpersonal communication channels, such as extension workers), and materials development. Application of a behavioural modification approach using information based on the KAP levels of the target audience for message development, media selection and materials development alone could significantly increase the cost-effectiveness of extension activities.

Cost-effective multi-media approach

One of the most common problems or constraints of a national extension service is the shortage of field extension personnel to reach large number of farmers in widely spread geographical areas with inadequate transportation facilities. Moreover, extension workers are usually overburdened with unnecessarily heavy work-load which includes almost everything that has to do with farmers at the village level. Such an over-reliance on extension workers is neither technically sound nor operationally efficient. Some extension functions for certain purposes such as awareness creation, information delivery, motivational campaigns, etc. can be more effectively and efficiently performed by other means, channels, or non-extension groups, under the coordination and supervision of extension workers.

Extension workers' work-load could be reduced by mobilizing appropriate rural and community-based resources, including the increasingly accessible and low-cost mass communication channels (i.e., local radio stations, rural press, folk/traditional media, posters, flip-charts, silk-screened printed materials, audio-cassettes, slide-tape presentations, leaflets, comics, etc.) to disseminate standardized and packaged extension messages, as well as in utilizing local volunteers (such as school teachers and children, local/religious leaders, etc. to serve as "intermediaries" in reaching farmers. Such an approach does not imply that extension workers can or will be substituted by these community-resources. Rather, it is a rational approach of using available resources most effectively and efficiently for certain tasks, such as the need to use extension workers for educational or instructional purposes which requires two-way interactions, field demonstrations, group discussion, etc., which cannot be done as effectively by mass communication channels.

The SEC method employs a multi-media approach whereby cost-effective combination of mass, personal and group communication channels (including extension workers and trainers) and materials are efficiently utilized to reduce extension cost and efforts, and to increase its effectiveness in dealing with larger number of target audience more rapidly.

Specific extension support materials and training

Most extension services in developing countries suffer from the lack of relevant and practical extension and training materials to support field activities of their extension workers. Many extension workers rely primarily on their inter-personal communication skills, and thus their time and/or presence during farmers' meetings may not be utilized as effectively and efficiently as it should be.

Providing specifically designed and relevant extension/training support materials to extension workers will not only facilitate their tasks and reduce their heavy work-load. It will also ensure a certain degree of quality control in the delivery of technical information or extension message contents. Experience has also shown that extension workers' motivation, enthusiasm, confidence, and credibility would increase if they are given relevant and attractive multi-media support materials which they could use to improve the effectiveness of their extension and training work.

In SEC activities, extension workers are provided with pre-tested extension and training support materials whose messages are specially designed and developed on the basis of the extension programme's problem-solving oriented strategy plan. Furthermore, these extension workers are also given special training to ensure their understanding of extension strategies, message contents, and management/implementation plan, as well as to when, with whom, and how they should utilize the various multi-media support extension and training materials.

Built-in process documentation and evaluation procedures

The advantage of employing a Knowledge, Attitude, and Practice (KAP) survey, as one of the tools for participatory problem identification and information needs assessment, is not only limited to obtaining specific base-line data and inputs for planning extension strategies and improving its management operations. It also provides a bench-mark information/data for the purpose of qualitative evaluation, in terms of changes in the levels of KAP over-time. In addition, the SEC activities have built-in evaluation procedures, in the forms of formative evaluation (e.g., pretesting of materials and Management Monitoring Survey) and summative evaluation (e.g., Information Recall and Impact Survey), for which data/information from the target beneficiaries is essential. It uses various participatory-approach evaluation methodologies including among others, quantitative survey, focus group interview, pretesting, recall tests, content analysis, field monitoring, and/or cost-benefit analysis.

Another important aspect of SEC is that it does not only provide empirical evaluation results, but it also usually includes a step-by-step documentation of its operational process through summary briefs as well as more detailed printed, audio and/or visual reports/presentations. Such a process documentation and evaluation results have proved to be instrumental for facilitating SEC replications and in obtaining necessary policy, institutional as well as financial support.

Applicability to other extension programmes

Most, if not all, of the important principles and techniques employed in planning, implementing, and managing SEC activities are applicable for developing and implementing any extension programme. The SEC's process, operational phases, and implementation steps are essentially similar to that of a regular (but well-designed) extension programme. SEC could thus be considered as a "microcosm" of an agricultural extension programme. It may be safe to assume that if SEC activities can be carried out successfully in a campaign context, which has a very short time period, then SEC processes, methods, and techniques, either partially or holistically, can be incorporated effectively into a regular and institutionalized extension programme which has a longer time span.

Given appropriate training on various SEC principles and techniques, and through direct involvement in undertaking a planned SEC programme, trained extension staff could help in applying a systematic, rational, and pragmatic approach to planning, implementing, managing, monitoring and evaluating regular/routine programmes of an agricultural extension service. As indicated in a number of SEC evaluation studies, many extension staff who had been trained and implemented SEC activities, have continued to utilize their skills in developing and implementing other institutionalized extension programmes for various agricultural technologies. Some have replicated the complete SEC process, while others applied only certain SEC principles or techniques. These efforts have been appreciated and welcomed by many senior officials of the Ministry of Agriculture where SEC activities were undertaken, as they could see its concrete outputs, results and impact.

"Strategic Extension Campaign: increasing cost-effectiveness and farmers' participation in applying agricultural technologies" is available here in Portable Document Format (.pdf): View (with Acrobat plug-in) Cover/preface (230K) or download via FTP: Cover/preface and Main document (4.3MB). Main document also available in five smaller parts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

SD Homepage Back to Top FAO Homepage