The modernization and reform of national agricultural extension systems is a major undertaking requiring careful analysis of the situation, comprehension of national policy on rural and agricultural development and food security, the leaderships vision of development for the country over the next 20 years or so, and finally taking bold policy decisions some of which may have political implications, cost considerable amounts in terms of time, money and energy, and require effective monitoring of progress. It is therefore of paramount importance that the policy-makers first have a look at the existing national agricultural extension system to determine whether the system needs to be reformed or not. A quick review of various aspects of extension should be sufficient.
The following simple framework contains a set of statements for key aspects of the extension system, which are to be marked as true or false. If false is marked for most of the statements, then the extension system is a good candidate for reform and possible restructuring. The marking results will also help to make a decision about which aspects to concentrate on while reforming the system. However, it should be noted that while this framework provides a useful guide, it should not be considered as a substitute for a thorough examination and analysis of the situation involving field observations and discussions with all stakeholders.
The Ministry of Agriculture runs only main agricultural extension services, and none of the technical departments within the Ministry has its individual extension workers in the field. (True/False)
There is an inter-disciplinary committee or unit at the national level, which is responsible for overall coordination, policy advice, and monitoring and evaluation of extension activities. (True/False)
The country does have a national policy on extension. (True/False)
The extension services are fully decentralized, with all key decision-making including financial aspects carried out at district or lower level. (True/False)
The government policy encourages non-public institutions, NGOs, the private sector and farmers organizations to become involved in the delivery of extension services, in addition to those delivered by the government department of extension. (True/False)
The basis for staff rewards and accountability is objective, based on the performance of each extension worker. (True/False)
The extension professional staff enjoys the same level of salaries, benefits, career development, opportunities of in-country and overseas studies and training, adequate operational budget and physical facilities such as proper housing, availability of transport, etc. as enjoyed by the professional staff of other disciplines, notably of researchers. (True/False)
The extension staff at all levels is given frequent opportunities for receiving in-service training to update their technical knowledge and skills. (True/False)
Extension staff does not feel constrained by logistic difficulties and a lack of sufficient incentives. (True/False)
The pre-service academic programmes in agricultural extension that the would-be extension staff attends at the academic institutions are not just theoretical but of great practical value, and that is why new extension workers feel very confident while talking to experienced farmers. (True/False)
Monitoring, evaluation and impact assessment of extension programmes are carried out on a regular basis. (True/False)
The main funding source for agricultural extension services is not limited to the government and, sometimes, donor-funded projects; there are other sources of funding for extension activities. (True/False)
The technical subject-matter staff is not concentrated (60% or more) at the central and provincial level. (True/False)
About 75% or more of the total staff, including field extension workers, is based at district, sub-district and lower levels. (True/False)
The technical subject-matter specialists and field extension workers all combined include at least 20% female staff. (True/False)
The extension staff is mainly accountable to farmers whom they are supposed to serve, and not just to superior officers within the bureaucracy. (True/False)
Female extension agents making use of women community development groups
The Extension, Education and Communication Service of FAO designed a case study to assess the female extension agents perceptions of the usefulness of women's community development group models for delivering extension messages, as compared with the traditional model of contacting individual farmers and farm women. The women community development groups were formed under the IFAD-financed Neelum and Jhelum Valley Community Development Project in the Pakistan-administered Kashmir region. The rationale for adopting this extension modality was that it minimizes the negative effects of constraints such as limited mobility and personal safety and security of female extension agents, and maximizes the convenience of client coverage, access to technical information and coordination of extension services.
Conclusions based on the views and opinions of the administrators, extension assistants and the community development group members affirmed the usefulness and desirability of the community development group model for sustainable development, although some limitations were identified.
FAO. 2003. Extension through womens community development groups: a case study of female extension assistants in Azad Jammu & Kashmir, by K. Qamar and K. Ijaz. Rome.
The main sources of improved agricultural technologies and recommendations are not just national agricultural research institutes and research stations; there are many other technology sources used by the extension workers. (True/False)
Main methods used by the extension services are not limited to traditional method-and-result field demonstrations, farm visits, home visits, individual farmer contact, group farmers contacts, mass media, published materials, but they also use innovative extension modalities. (True/False)
The extension services do not follow any single imported extension methodology only because it was well known or promoted by any major donor through projects (such as Training & Visit system or Farmer Field School) or because it was being practiced in other countries; the extension services use several original extension methodologies suiting different micro-climate zones of the country, and they have been developed locally based on the social, economic, geographical and agricultural conditions of each climatic zone. (True/False)
The extension services have developed and apply modern information technology tools such as ITC, Internet, etc. (True/False)
The preparation of periodic extension programme plans is not usually done by extension staff at central or provincial level in spite of the fact that they are the ones most aware of farmers needs as well as of the available budget within which the extension programme is to be prepared. (True/False)
These are farmers groups at village level whom extension workers involve actively in preparing plans for agricultural extension services, which are then passed on to higher authorities for funding and eventual service delivery. (True/False)
Extension workers do not pay most of their attention to male farmers, nor do they give preference to visiting big farmers, but visit women farmers on an equal basis, if the country has any. (True/False)
The extension services approach is neither supply-driven nor technology-driven but is demand-driven and human-focussed. (True/False)
The main mandate of extension is not only transfer of improved agricultural technologies to farmers, with some non-extension duties, but also includes non-agricultural educational messages such as environment, population, food security, HIV/AIDS, etc. (True/False)
Operational funds for field extension activities are always sufficient and extension staff never complains about shortage of funds. (True/False)
Transport facilities for the field extension staff are adequate to enable the staff to move from village to village to contact farmers. (True/False)
The number of farmers and the geographical area to be covered by each field extension worker are not too large for one person, and farmers do not complain that the extension worker does not visit them often. (True/False)
Operational linkages between extension and agricultural research and other relevant institutions such as those dealing in farm inputs, credit, marketing, etc. are indeed strong. (True/False)
The extension staff has a definite say in ensuring timely supply of farm inputs to farmers, needed for adoption of extension advice based on the recommendations of researchers. (True/False)
Improved agricultural technologies are always tested by extension workers for their environment-friendliness before they are recommended to farmers for possible adoption. (True/False)
The extension services make use of modern information technology, as far as possible, in support of extension activities (True/False)