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II. Global developments necessitating reforms in extension

Agricultural extension organizations, like most other disciplines and institutions, are not immune to various developments taking place around them. Some major developments and their influence on various aspects of extension are mentioned in this section.

Globalization and market liberalization

Globalization aims at creating more interaction and linkages among countries in trade, information flow and finance, encouraging open competition through removal of trade and other national safeguard barriers, supposedly under fair and relatively equal conditions for producers of goods and services no matter which country they live in, thus making it possible to mutually benefit from international contacts and opportunities. The controversy, however, lies in the uncertainty of fair and equal conditions for all producers, irrespective of the advantages, disadvantages, potentials and risks of globalization. Under present conditions, the developing countries cannot compete with the developed nations in the international market in terms of production, quality and exports because of a number of factors such as lack of resources, lack of technology, weak rural institutions, poor infrastructure and communication facilities, etc. The main message transmitted in the by-now familiar demonstrations at economic summits is that globalization will make rich countries richer and poor countries poorer. The WTO conference held in September 2003 in Cancun, Mexico saw serious disagreement between rich and poor countries on agricultural issues, and the event ended in miserable failure. Apart from politics, the phenomenon of globalization will certainly bring both risks and opportunities to the farming communities of less-developed countries. The communities, therefore, must be educated and prepared to modify their agricultural operations within the context of globalization, a responsibility which, by and large, the national agricultural extension systems will have to bear, and they must prepare themselves in time to meet the challenge.

Market liberalization is an integral part of globalization. This calls for removal of trade barriers, tariffs and other regulatory measures that are usually put into force by countries to protect their own industries and products, and to discourage the inflow of articles produced elsewhere in the world. Liberalization asks for the opening of markets, called deregulation, so that goods may move freely between countries. It also advocates the removal of artificial price controls and of public support to the farming sector in the form of farm subsidies so that the market can realistically determine the price of various commodities and products on the basis of their demand, supply and quality, and the consumers can then freely make a choice concerning what is best for them. However, at present, heavy government subsidies in rich countries give a huge advantage to their farmers over the small and poor competitor farmers of less-developed countries, threatening their very survival. For example, small farmers in Mali who have been growing cotton for centuries as their main source of the income may be wiped out if cotton, produced at a low cost in developed countries as the result of government subsidies, continues to be dumped and sold cheaply in the Malian market. Both commercial and subsistence farmers in developing countries are bound to be affected, directly or indirectly, sooner or later, by market liberalization, and national agricultural extension services should be knowledgeable enough to educate the farmers in how to properly enter a liberalized market.

Extension in a small island country

The Extension, Education and Communication Service of FAO conducted a study in Samoa to find the agricultural extension and training needs of farmers in small islands; the conclusions and recommendations were as follows:

  • Farmers are facing problems of pests and diseases and a lack of planting materials, especially for taro. However, advisory officers have not received sufficient agricultural training to enable them to solve the problems. The recommendation, therefore, is that the Ministry of Agriculture, Forests, Fisheries and Meteorology review its training programme for advisory officers, in order to provide the necessary skills.

  • The Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) is the main approach the Ministry’s advisory service has been using for extension purposes. Farmers seem to be very satisfied with this method. The recommendation is that the advisory officers be given training in cultural protocols (to ensure village support in PRA exercises), communication skills (to facilitate discussions during PRAs), and analytical skills (to conduct in-depth analysis of farmers’ problems for identifying long-term solutions).

  • The Ministry’s research units need to reduce the high mortality rate of crop resources for trials and on-farm demonstrations in the interest of using limited resources wisely.

  • Gender equity must be addressed, as the number of women farmers is increasing. The recommendation is to provide higher education to women in agricultural subjects, and encourage them to accept positions as advisory officers.

FAO. 2005. Agricultural extension and training needs of farmers in the small island countries: a case study from Samoa, by M.K. Qamar and S.S. Lameta. Rome.

Millions of subsistence farmers produce barely enough for their own consumption; in a very favourable cropping season, they may produce a bit of surplus to be sold at market. However, today there is an all-out force aimed at commercialization of farming even on a small scale. There are both ethical and technical questions, about whether it makes sense to let the subsistence farmers continue as they have been doing for generations, or to allow their operations to be transformed into agri-business, rural enterprise, rural industries or other commercial ventures, or whether very poor farmers of remote, marginal areas should be encouraged to migrate elsewhere because investing in development for them is not cost-effective. These questions are valid in light of the evidence that rural poverty has persisted, if not worsened, and in many countries; and that rural young people, unlike their parents, are less inclined to stay in villages to continue farming. Appropriate agricultural policies and land consolidation laws will be required if privately owned and cultivated small units of land are to be combined or merged to create larger, commercially viable plots. The agricultural extension services will have to come up with the strategies that could help subsistence farmers in organizing themselves for commercializing their operations profitably, without losing the pride of land ownership.

A global debate is raging on the issue of producing and consuming genetically modified organisms (GMOs). There are various positions which represent different points of view. On the one hand, all possible means should be used to feed increasing populations, but on the other hand, biodiversity must be protected, and people must be alerted about the health risks to humans and livestock potentially resulting from genetically modified diets. In this debate, the most ignorant are the farmers in developing countries who are growing food for millions of people. No agricultural extension services so far have felt the need to educate farmers about this controversial but important subject. Since biotechnology is not yet widespread in developing countries, there is no urgency to start any special extension programmes. But this is precisely the time when necessary steps should be taken for preparing training courses and teaching materials both for extension workers and farmers.


Many services that were managed in the past by governments are now being managed and delivered by the private sector, especially in developed countries. Many developing countries are following the suit. The underlying reason is dwindling budgets of public institutions, which makes them relatively inefficient and less productive, causing not only financial loss to the government but also creating discontent among people. The private sector, on the other hand, has generally more resources, innovative ideas, and a motive for profit and is thus keen to offer efficient and better services to its clientele.

In recent years, several multilateral and bilateral donors have encouraged the privatization of national extension services. Many arguments are put forth in favour of privatization, e.g. public extension systems have failed or are at best unsatisfactory; since farmers profit from extension advices and the government budgets for public services are decreasing, the cost of delivering advice should be recovered by charging a fee from the farmers; the private sector is actively involved in selling farm inputs and machinery, thus why should it not handle the task of advising farmers on agricultural matters; healthy competition among service providers will lead to better quality and lower costs for services; it is prudent to consider financing and delivery of extension services as separate functions, to be performed by two different sectors, i.e. public and private. The trend to privatize extension services will certainly shake the traditionally friendly and informal relationship between government extension staff and the subsistence farmers in developing countries, because until now the farmers have never been asked to pay for extension advice. Apart from the question of whether total, partial or no privatization of extension is needed in developing countries, the national extension services and their clientele should be well versed in the pros and cons of this major issue.

Several developed countries have fully or partially privatized their agricultural extension services in a variety of ways. Terms like outsourcing, cost-recovery, and contracting out are related to the drive for privatization. Costa Rica has a unique system under which the government provides farmers with extension vouchers which can be used for getting extension advice from private specialists. In England, the public extension service has evolved over time into a private consulting practice. The positive result is enhanced efficiency of staff, and the negative effect is the deprivation of small farmers of extension services as the result of their inability or unwillingness to pay. It is also said that the government has taken over some previously privatized advisory functions because of dissatisfaction with the private sector. In Holland, about 60% of the extension budget comes from farmers, while the remaining 40% is provided by the government. The benefits include increased efficiency, improved quality, client-orientation, job satisfaction for staff, and expanded marketing opportunities for farmers. The problems faced include loss of government authority, the government’s inability to keep financial promises, and weaker communication with the stakeholders because of creation of competition among them. In Albania, the private sector entrepreneurial initiatives to create a long-term relationship with farmers have proved to be successful. The extension services in Nicaragua are both decentralized and semi-private. Bulgaria privatized a number of state farms to be used as demonstration farms, with an objective of establishing private extension service. Since the experiment was not successful, the government decided to establish a National Agricultural Advisory Service (NAAS) with external financial assistance. The NAAS is now being reviewed, with FAO assistance, for possible reform in order to meet new learning needs of farmers, as the country is scheduled to join the European Union in 2007 or soon thereafter. Estonia has both a public extension advisory service for poor farmers and a private service for better-off farmers. Uganda is experimenting with the privatization of extension through the creation of a pool of private extension specialists out of its existing public extension service; registered farmers’ associations could call upon this pool through bidding for providing services related to selected enterprises, and pay for the services from the funds given to them by the donors through decentralized government units. It is indeed a bold experiment, but the sustainability of this arrangement remains to be seen after the donors’ funding runs out.

In Israel, the efforts to even semi-privatize national extension services have not met with success. The government is still responsible for providing extension advice, but encourages privatization through the standing practice of growers to contribute portion of their income to research and development including extension, public and private partnership in financing and operating units within the extension service, payment for services by commodity production and marketing boards beyond a basic extension package, the provision of more intensive extension activities at the request of needy growers, special agreements with commodity farmers’ organizations, extension staff working on their day off in exchange for direct payment from farmers, provision of equipment like mobile phones to extension advisers by growers associations, and direct payment by farmers for participation in training activities.

The advocates of privatization of extension services believe that farmers should pay for the extension advice. However, there is genuine fear that the zeal for privatization would deprive small farmers from benefiting from the services. The small farmers either do not believe that the extension advice is worth paying for, or they simply cannot afford to pay. The common wisdom would dictate that in developing countries, commercial farmers and large cooperatives should pay for extension advice, while the government should continue providing free-of-charge extension services to small producers. Measures are also needed to protect the farmers from exploitation by the private sector.


The spread of privatization has shifted many sectors of public services from the government to private companies. Government monopoly is not the most favoured option in the developed countries, especially in matters of development when competent non-public institutions are present in the country. The modality of using more than one organization, whether public or non-public, for delivering extension services to farming communities, is gaining popularity. The obvious rationale is the pooling of all available resources in order to alleviate pressure from low budgets and staff in the ministries of agriculture, as well as to let the farmers benefit from a variety of sources. Many developing countries are already practising pluralism in extension. In Zimbabwe, many NGOs, private companies and semi-autonomous bodies are to be found engaged in delivering extension advice to farmers. Bangladesh’s national policy on agricultural extension recognizes, for the first time, the need for partnerships with NGOs and the private sector under a decentralized extension system. In Honduras, where extension services are being privatized and small farmers are unable to pay, 70 NGOs reach about 50,000 farmers living mostly in remote areas. In Indonesia, some projects have not only encouraged NGOs and the private sector, but also agricultural research institutes, agricultural universities and farmers’ associations, to participate in the delivery of extension services.

The main challenge in installing a proper pluralistic agricultural extension mechanism is the effective coordination among various agencies, the absence of which could lead to conflicting technical recommendations and creating confusion among the farmers. The governments should take the responsibility for coordination, technical supervision and quality control.

Decentralization and devolution

Decentralization and devolution have been adopted in many countries and the trend continues. The main rationale for the move is that decentralized administration shifts decision-making authority to lower administrative and political level units, which – being physically close to people – are supposedly in a better position to plan and implement development programmes with the active involvement of participants. The concept is sound, but its implementation in developing countries has so far not been smooth for various reasons. For example, some central governments are reluctant to relinquish their control over decision-making, especially in financial matters; there is weak capacity of the decentralized units in running government affairs; and the unwarranted interference of local politicians in technical matters in which they are not competent hinders implementation.

Decentralization has, in many instances, placed agricultural extension responsibility in the hands of the ministry of local government. Although decentralization is good in principle, the initial stage shows quite a bit of setback for extension. In case of Philippines, for example, the interference of municipality-level politicians has compromised the effectiveness of extension programmes to the extent that persons without diplomas in agriculture have been recruited against agricultural extension vacancies. Also, the career development opportunities of extension staff have been adversely affected. The latest thinking is that since the municipalities are not viable economic units for delivering extension services, the extension responsibilities should be moved back to the provincial level. In Indonesia, extension services have been marginalized because most district governments have certain priorities, irrespective of national policy, which could generate quick revenues, and agricultural extension which, unlike estate crops or livestock, generally gives a long-term return, is not considered as a priority. United Republic of Tanzania’s decentralized extension service at field level suffers from lack of operational budget. In Kosovo, where the government comprises UNMIK (United Nations Interim Administration in Kosovo) expatriates, the decentralized government units do not want to do much with the central government. In Uganda, some district authorities have preferred to spend the extension budget on constructing feeder roads, leaving extension staff without salary for several months.

One reason for this “institutional chaos”, which applies to many countries passing through decentralization and devolution, is that the central government did not adequately prepare itself or the local governments in advance before embarking on decentralization. Decentralization is truly a double-edged sword, and if not handled properly, could cause more harm than good. As more and more countries come under decentralization, their extension services are going to face the problems of marginalization and lack of professional identity unless they are prepared well in advance for this critical administrative, technical and physical transition.

Extension needs of farmers with physical disabilities

A study was conducted by the Extension, Education and Communication Service of FAO in the Islamic Republic of Iran in order to identify the extension and training needs of farmers with physical disabilities (FPD). One difficulty encountered in conducting the study was to locate farmers with physical disabilities, because they are not concentrated in any one place but rather scattered in a large number of villages, some of them afar from one another. Some of the key conclusions drawn and recommendations made were as follows:

  • There are no special extension and agricultural training programmes meant for FPDs. The recommendation is that the government consider FPDs as a special client target group for extension purposes.

  • FPDs have gained agricultural skills and experience, directly or indirectly, from their relatives, friends and neighbours.

  • Some FPDs suggested that farming inputs be delivered and extension training be conducted at their farms or homes.

  • The FPDs pointed out that training alone will not be enough unless accompanied by farming tools, equipment and machinery especially meant for the people with physical disabilities.

  • The relatives of the FPDs said that they should be provided with financial support and credit to enable them to provide necessary training to their relatives with physical disabilities.

  • The FPDs did not want the extension workers to treat them as a special group but as normal farmers.

  • Active farmers with physical disabilities, have a strong tendency to emphasize their motivation, abilities and capabilities rather than their disabilities, when talking to extension workers.

  • Difficulties in moving, loading and transporting inputs and products were the most important effects of the farmers’ disabilities. In spite of this, the FPDs were generally engaged in field activities involving moving, loading and transporting. The recommendation is that the extension workers carry out surveys to select the farm activities that best fit the physical capabilities of FPDs, and should then assist those farmers in engaging in such appropriate farm practices.

  • Fish farming, hatching, apiculture, sericulture, floriculture and poultry production are among the “light” farming activities that are extensively practised by able-bodied farmers, but FPDs are less frequently engaged in them. It is recommended that extension workers make special efforts for FPDs to engage more in these activities.

FAO. 2003. Addressing extension and training needs of farmers with physical disabilities: A case study of the Islamic Republic of Iran, by M.K. Qamar and I. Shahbazi. Rome.

Client participation in decision-making

Civil society advocates ever more strongly the reasons why democracy, participatory decision-making, transparency in government affairs and good governance are necessary for eradication of poverty and hunger, uprooting corruption, relatively equal distribution of benefits among various sections of society, welfare of disadvantaged and vulnerable groups, optimum utilization of human and physical resources, sustainable livelihoods, and overall human development. Even the economic aid given by bilateral donors to poor countries, in many instances, has depended on the government’s records on human rights and good governance. A large number of strategies have evolved during recent years, which supposedly ensure participatory decision-making and involvement of all stakeholders in joint planning and implementation. All grassroots-level service institutions have been influenced by these conceptual thrusts.

The powerful trend towards empowering farmers through active participation in decision-making has led to various emphases in extension, such as working through farmers’ groups, preparation and delivery of client-oriented messages, observance of gender sensitivity, and research-extension-farmers linkages. Certain participatory tools like PRA (participatory rural appraisal) and KAP (knowledge, attitude and practice) survey have also been developed.

Indonesia has successfully established new institutions called Agricultural Technology Assessment Institutes at provincial level, bringing together farmers, researchers and extension specialists. In Pakistan, groups of highly motivated small farmers established under FAO Special Programme on Food Security have been taking decisions in matters related to group cash savings, quality seed, fertilizer, water-management, cultural practices, farm machinery, income diversification and marketing of produce. The pilot experiment has proved to be so successful in terms of yield increases that the government has embarked upon replicating the approach in thousands of villages. In the northern region of Pakistan, FAO has introduced a demand-driven, bottom-up, gender-sensitive extension service that involves men and women villagers’ groups in preparing grassroots demand-for-services plans. In Argentina, one main factor for success of a federal programme for small- and medium-size farms is the involvement of all stakeholders in major decision-making. Similarly, Jordan’s extension service has established Close Contact Groups of farmers while United Republic of Tanzania has formed Participatory Farmer Groups of men and women farmers. In the Philippines, where extension services have been devolved, an FAO project has assisted citizens in outlining a methodology for participatory, grassroots extension programme development and in preparing an extension delivery partnership mechanism that involves stakeholders such as extension staff, farmers, NGOs, private sector, research institutes and academic institutions.

A nationwide strategy

“Extension reform requires policy vision and determination, and a nationwide strategy that holds promise of implementation. Whether to decentralize, privatize, or institute contractual arrangements with the private sector (including venture capital companies, NGOs, rural producer organizations, and extension advisory service firms), or to promote end-user financing (or co-financing) of extension, these are country-specific questions that will require systematic analysis and preparation, and involve gradual change, system coordination and system oversight. Within the framework of such a policy vision, a multi-media communication strategy will also need to be designed and implemented”.

FAO. 2003. A new extension vision for food security: Challenge to change, by W.M. Rivera and M.K. Qamar. Rome.

Natural and man-made disasters

Human miseries are unfortunately on the rise in an age of civilization and scientific progress, some man-made and some natural disasters. There are conflicts, wars, droughts, famines, storms, earthquakes and epidemics, all of which take an enormous human and physical toll and disrupt the normal course of life. There has been a steep increase in the number of countries afflicted by human-induced disaster, i.e. from an average of 5 in the 1980s to 22 in 2000, mainly because of armed conflicts. Between 30 and 40 countries were engaged in conflict at the end of the twentieth century, adversely affecting thousands of millions of people. Farmers of some countries like Afghanistan cannot farm because of the land mines in their fields. Basic farming ingredients like seed, water and soil are not readily available. Extension services have dissipated and the farmers have no source of technical advice. Infrastructure has been damaged, making the transportation and delivery of farm inputs impossible. Although food aid agencies and NGOs have been active in disaster-hit areas, food handouts work only up to a limit.

In recent years, weather-related and other natural disasters have risen from 10 to 18 incidents per year. In 1998 alone, some 32 000 persons were killed and 300 million were displaced from their homes and livelihoods. The tsunami of December 2004 killed hundreds of thousands of persons in a number of countries and wiped out or seriously damaged farming infrastructure in the coastal zones. The very strong earthquake that mainly struck the Pakistan-administered Azad Jammu and Kashmir region in October 2005 killed over 50 000 persons, mostly small farmers of the mountainous villages, and destroyed physical infrastructure and livelihoods.

In some countries like Bangladesh and the Caribbean where huge storms hit every year, extension services are being trained to provide assistance in post-disaster situations, but it is true that agricultural extension services have yet to play a significant role in the rehabilitation of agricultural operations after the disasters. It is realized that extension services cannot face such colossal challenge by themselves, but they should work in collaboration with relevant institutions and help the rural population in growing food for survival using whatever resources are available. A comprehensive response from national agricultural extension systems is still awaited.

Information technology revolution

We are in the midst of an information technology revolution which has virtually shrunk the world and has affected almost every walk of life. Information technology is indeed a tremendous power that could be harnessed by organizations for the benefit of humanity, and extension services should not hesitate to utilize this power. They can exploit this potential to strengthen their own capacities and to educate the rural populations who enjoy access to media. The extension organizations in developing countries have two major problems when it comes to having face-to-face contacts with the farmers and researchers: first, physical distances and the second, lack of transportation facilities. The new information technology could bypass these physical barriers to a great extent through the development and application of appropriate, interactive information mechanisms.

Advanced information technology is already making headway in the area of rural and agricultural development. A number of developing countries such as Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Viet Nam and Mali, are experimenting with telecentres, which have already exhibited their benefits in several Western European countries. Virtual linkages are being established for bringing research and extension together, and one example is the VERCON (virtual extension, research and communication network) tool, which FAO has introduced in Egypt and Bhutan. Under an FAO project in the Philippines, the Internet and interactive e-mail facilities have been established at municipality level for supporting decentralized extension staff. Expert systems are also being developed to compensate, to some extent, for the too-rare visits of subject-matter specialists to farmers’ fields. The use of cellular phones is by now a routine practice and the equipment is used for rural development projects in Bangladesh. Over 30% of extension staff in Estonia use the Internet. One can find programmes like “virtual gardens” and “virtual farms” on the Internet. The main issue is how the powers of advanced information technology can be harnessed for the benefit of both extension agents and farmers without compromising the importance of unique local factors such as indigenous communication patterns, and also without considering information technology as replacement for the extension agents, which remains a much-needed and –appreciated human element.

Rural poverty, food insecurity and HIV/AIDS epidemic

There have been internationally renewed calls, the latest coming through the Millennium Development Goals, for eradication of rural poverty and hunger, and for support to vulnerable groups such as the rural landless, women and youth. The number of poor has gone up in recent years. Moreover, even though there is enough food produced for everyone in the world, there are still over 800 million people – almost one in seven persons – who do not have enough to eat. Hunger, poverty and vulnerability are inter-linked. While the world celebrated the new millennium, 13 million people reached the brink of starvation in the Horn of Africa, and European farmers and their livestock industry were hit by mad-cow and foot-and-mouth diseases,. followed by the avian flu epidemic in some Asian countries and which has now spread to Europe. In 2005, when the G-8 leaders were pledging billions of dollars for development of Africa, a vast famine struck Niger, killing thousands of persons including many children.

According to the estimates from the UNAIDS/WHO AIDS Epidemic Update (December 2004), 37.2 million adults and 2.2 million children were living with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) at the end of 2004; 3.1 million died that year alone from AIDS. The overwhelming majority of people with HIV (some 95% of the world total) live in the developing world. Sub-Saharan Africa is by far the worst affected region in the world by the AIDS epidemic. The region is home to just over 10% of the world’s population, but has over 60% of all people living with HIV. An estimated 3.1 million adults and children became infected with HIV during the year 2004. Around 1.2 million people in Asia acquired HIV in 2004, bringing the number of people with HIV to an estimated 8.2 million. Alarming figures have been reported for other regions of the world. There are indisputable, negative effects on the workforce resulting in the loss of trained, skilled and experienced workers in all disciplines. Farm labour, plentiful in the past, is rapidly diminishing. As studies such as those carried out by FAO in Malawi, Uganda and Zambia show, the epidemic has also affected agricultural extension organizations in the sense that not only there have been deaths and long absenteeism among the staff, but the old, traditional extension approaches have also been rendered unsuitable. This is due to the fact that the labour-intensive cropping patterns have been changed as a result of the weakening physical condition of farmers and lack of farm labour and the emergence of “new farmers” comprising the elderly, widows and young children; the unsuitability of current farm tools; and the unsuitability of existing rural credit approval criteria. Extension organizations in the countries affected by HIV/AIDS, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, must create new extension strategies supported by modified farming systems and appropriate farm tools.

New anti-hunger initiatives are under way, especially since the 1996 World Food Summit in Rome, involving all the institutions that deal with rural populations. Similarly, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) has been launched. It would be difficult for agricultural extension services in frequent contact with rural people to remain isolated from these international efforts against rural poverty, food insecurity and the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Extension services must develop capacity and suitable extension educational strategies and tools to effectively participate in the efforts against these human miseries. FAO has produced useful materials to be used by field extension workers in educating farmers in mitigation of the spread of HIV infection.

Integrated, multi-disciplinary, holistic and sustainable development

The global preference for multi-disciplinary, integrated and holistic approaches to development is now an undisputed fact. The rationale is that simultaneous, multi-sector development is more meaningful than individual sector development. More and more organizations are revising their structure in favour of this choice. The “integrated rural development approach” which was applied during 1960s in many countries is returning in a revised form, including elements of bottom-up planning, participation by stakeholders, emphasis on eradication of rural poverty, and gender-sensitive approaches. Many multilateral donors have adopted a programme approach, abandoning the old project approach. FAO has run an integrated programme in Namibia, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe, with as many as six technical components including research and extension. The sustainable livelihoods concept also promotes holistic development. The Neuchatel Initiative Group comprising major donors interested in reforming national agricultural extension systems has been exploring the role of extension in a wider rural and agricultural development context. FAO and the World Bank have been working jointly on AKIS/RD (Agricultural Knowledge and Information Systems for Rural Development), which is aimed at increasing cooperation and joint operations between research, extension, education and farmers. FAO has conducted studies on AKIS/RD in ten countries, in various regions of the world, which were later analysed and synthesized with the objective of learning lessons and making recommendations for bringing AKIS/RD actors closer to one another.[1]

There still exists a temptation among various agricultural line departments to maintain individual extension services, but as problems with this approach have been observed and well-documented, extension services are being unified in a multi-disciplinary manner in the interest of optimum utilization of resources and an efficient bureaucracy. Indeed, the farmer’s time cannot and should not be wasted through individual visits of many extension agents, each representing a different agricultural discipline. The creation or strengthening of multi-disciplinary subject-mater specialists’ teams during decentralization of extension services in a number of countries is a popular move. FAO has provided technical assistance to Uganda in the integration of agro-forestry and HIV/AIDS education in the agricultural extension programmes, thus making the extension approach multi-disciplinary. In Iran, FAO, while assisting the government in restructuring the national extension system, has recommended the placement of multi-disciplinary teams of subject-matter specialists at district level, the composition of each district team to be determined by the technical needs and priorities of the particular district. Thus the districts in coastal zones will have a fisheries specialist, and those with dominant livestock activities will have a livestock specialist. In Indonesia, both agriculture and forestry extension have been placed under a single extension service assisted by a World Bank-financed project. The same has been done in Lao People’s Democratic Republic. In the Philippines, extension service covers both agriculture and fisheries under the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act. Under a project funded by the Asian Development Bank, Viet Nam’s extension services are being reformed, and one of the reform measures will include unification of the present extension services.

Possible extension related strategies to face the challenge of HIV/AIDS

  • Formulation of a national policy on AIDS and extension

  • Preparation of extension staff

    - Revision of pre-service and in-service training curricula

    - Fast-track training of extension staff

    - Revision of extension strategies and technical messages

    - Preparation of multimedia extension materials on HIV/AIDS

  • Possible actions in the field

    - Institutional partnerships

    - Anti-AIDS extension campaigns

    - Preparation of rural leaders for collaboration

    - Extension-HIV/AIDS specific studies

    - Inter-country extension networks on HIV/AIDS

FAO. 2003. Facing the challenge of an HIV/AIDS epidemic: agricultural extension services in sub-Saharan Africa, by M.K. Qamar. Rome.

The promotion of sustainable development asks for the integration of certain non-agricultural but very relevant elements into extension messages. FAO has been assisting Egypt in integrating population and environment education messages into ongoing agricultural extension programmes. Similarly, Pakistan has been provided assistance in preparing extension services to play a key facilitation and participatory role in educating rural people in managing natural resources properly. FAO’s integrated pest management programme (IPM) has been promoting biological control of insect pests for years, thus discouraging excessive application of chemical pesticides.

[1] W.M. Rivera, M.K. Qamar, H.K. Mwandemere, Enhancing coordination amongAKIS/RD actors: An analytical and comparative review of country studies on agricultural knowledge and information systems for rural development, Rome, FAO, 2005. See to consult this publication online.

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