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Case-study 1: The slogan that misfired
Case-study 2: An agent's dilemma
Case-study 3: Credit: asset or liability
Case-study 4: A problem of cattle
Case-study 5: Introducing a cooperative
Case-study 6: The wells that failed


The authors conclude this guide with a number of short case-studies of extension problems and practice. The case-studies are modified versions of a number of studies, which are kept at the Agricultural Extension and Rural Development Centre, School of Education, University of Reading, and are used in the authors" courses. The studies are drawn from different parts of the world and are based on actual situations.

In presenting these case-studies, the authors are not suggesting any models for extension work, or proposing any universally acceptable solutions. The studies are short, and present dilemmas and issues which an extension agent can expect to face during the course of his work. There are no correct answers to the case-studies and they should not be examined with that in mind. They are included in this guide to illustrate common extension situations, which can be critically examined by extension agents who use this text. The case-studies can serve also as a basis for discussion.

The authors believe that the case-studies touch upon many of the aspects and issues about extension that have been raised in this guide. For this reason, they believe that the studies will be a useful appendix and provide an opportunity to relate the content of the guide to actual extension work.

The authors would like to acknowledge material given to them by their colleagues Jancis Smithells and Ken Wilson-Jones in the preparation of these case-studies.


Case-study 1: The slogan that misfired

In a large cotton-growing area of the Near East, the Ministry of Agriculture has been facing problems of how to obtain maximum production. The growers have been following the official advice given (for timely sowing, spacing both within and between the rows, fertilizing and weeding) with good results for years, but they insist on sowing a handful of seeds in each hole instead of the five to ten recommended. In addition, they are unwilling to thin out the number of plants to the three-to-a-hole recommended, even though advice and demonstration on this matter have been going on almost as long as on the other matters. Since this practice reduces not only the yield but also the grade (and hence price and saleability) of the crop, the ministry has embarked on a massive publicity campaign including widespread use of posters and slogans.

One of the posters most favoured by the ministry, produced with the assistance of the local university's art school, clearly shows a large number of people eating from a very small communal bowl of food, all looking rather hungry. The slogan reads: "If too many try to eat from one bowl there is not enough for all - THIN YOUR CROP". Supplementary posters, to reinforce the message, showing, for example, better growth of plants in small clumps rather than in large ones, all carry the same slogan. Large numbers of posters were printed and distributed to agricultural offices, schools, village meeting-places and so on.

Although distributed in good time before the sowing season, the posters seem to have had no effect on farmers' actions. Worse, many of the recipients have not exhibited the posters, and other posters put up have been torn down or even defaced at night. What can be the trouble?

There could be a number of explanations.

1. The people have never been appealed to before by posters and do not understand their use or their message.
2. One of the faces depicted may resemble that of a respected notable.
3. The people are anti-government and see a political purpose in the poster.
4. There may be a deeper reason, which could be found out by investigation.

Fifty percent of the men and 15 percent of the women of the area are literate, and all the schoolchildren can read such a slogan. The people are of Islamic religion, relatively prosperous and not known to be anti-government to any abnormal extent.

Their cash crop is cotton, but they also grow more than their own requirements of grain and vegetables and keep a number of goats, sheep and cattle on the available grazing land. Most cropping is under irrigation. Crop residues and weeds are fed to animals.

Reasons come to mind why the cultivators may sow too heavily (e. g., if the soil forms a hard crust, a group of seedlings will break through more easily than a single one), but the resistance here is more than passive and based on more than technical objections.

Why do you think the local people have been so little influenced by the ministry's campaign, and what mistakes do you think were made? How might the extension service tackle the situation?


Case-study 2: An agent's dilemma

The holdings of most of the farmers in a newly established development area were too small and too badly fragmented to provide them with a decent livelihood. It was therefore decided to make available to them some additional land, on condition that they all agreed to give up their scattered plots for reallocation into larger individual, compact holdings.

The extension agent in that area had the job of introducing the plan, which he did at a meeting of the Development Area Council, on which the farmers were represented. He pointed out to the members of the council that if the farmers accepted the plan they would benefit in many ways: they would have more land; they would no longer have to waste time in going from one small plot to another; they would find a compact farm easier to drain and fence; and they could also make good use of tractors.

The agent then called a meeting of all the farmers. Although he took great pains to explain the plan's advantages very carefully, no one showed any enthusiasm for it. As a follow-up, therefore, he asked several of the most influential of the farmers to see him individually in his office in the hope that, if only he could convince them, they in turn would help to convince others but he failed with them also. They had, they said, farmed their existing lands for years and they intended to go on farming them. They knew exactly what they could produce. As for the new scheme, who knew what land he would get, or what kind of soil?

In the end, the agent had to abandon the scheme. Was it bound to fail, or might he have had a better chance of success if he had approached the problem differently?


Case-study 3: Credit: asset or liability

District X is one of above-average agricultural potential but the people have never shown great interest in production for market and seem to be happy with their traditional, mainly subsistence, cropping.

Their staple grain is maize, but yields are seldom anywhere near the potential, so that long periods of hunger are common in each rainy season immediately before the new harvest. Although this was hunger rather than actual famine, the authorities were concerned and in the early 1960s chemical fertilizers and improved varieties were introduced, with the object of increasing production. In order to make the change attractive, subsidies were offered to make the cost of the inputs acceptable to the farmer, and an encouraging number of farmers began to adopt the new inputs.

However, by the end of the 1960s, the country's economic position forced the dropping of the subsidies with the result that prices of inputs rose and their use dropped. Government feared that the situation would revert to what it had been before.

A new scheme was then introduced by which the Ministry of Agriculture was able to offer credit in what it defined as "low input areas". Under this scheme, fertilizer or seed would be sold to farmers and the cost, plus 15 percent interest, would be recovered at harvest time. The scheme was given publicity by extension staff, who welcomed it as a chance to gain the confidence of farmers who benefited from it.

Results were not encouraging. Some farmers used the inputs as intended but others did not use them at all. Others, it was discovered, sold the inputs for cash to farmers outside the "low input areas". Many were in default at the end of the season, and total production was far below the set target. A review of the system was ordered by the minister.

Why do you think the credit scheme failed? Could the extension staff have done anything to avoid failure?


Case-study 4: A problem of cattle

The people of the Sinkar tribe, occupying large lowland plains in Africa, are very independent and follow a nomadic way of life with their cattle. Their food is milk, or blood and milk, augmented by grain grown by the women at rainy-season camps. They occasionally eat meat at festivals. They are not very interested in cloth and they barter their cattle as exchange for wives and other needs. The result is that few cattle reach the market. Veterinary and other services are provided at government centres, and schools are also available to them. However, they do not change their tribal way of life and cattle numbers have increased alarming by in recent years, so that pasture is seasonally scarce.

Background information

At the last census, tribal population was about 10 000 with 15 cattle per head, or upward of 150 000 cattle. This may be a serious underestimate as the tribe may be trying to evade cattle tax. The tribe's grazing area is about 483 x 80 km (300 x 100 miles), with seasonal availability of water, rather than grazing, as the limiting factor.

Veterinary services are available free for inoculation against certain endemic diseases. Other treatment has to be paid for but is subsidized. Education has to be paid for but children are lost from cattle-herding while at school. Health care is largely free but, like education, is only available at a few centres.

Veterinary effort, by removing the periodical epidemics which used to limit cattle numbers, has permitted a population explosion among the cattle, leading to serious over-grazing around the dry-season watering-points. Control of cattle numbers is now only maintained by seasonal starvation in times and years of drought, and the quality of beef, when it does reach the market, is poor.

There are a number of government cattle-buying points, and seasonal markets may be set up in the field. Prices for cattle are not high, because quality is low, but they are realistic. Cash is paid on the spot.

Of the educated tribesmen, some are in urban or other employment (including government services) while others have returned to rejoin the tribe and resume the nomadic life. They all form a lobby whenever the government tries to constrain tribal life or impose heavier cattle taxes.

The government has its own problems. The land is known to be capable of supporting a far higher population and of feeding the growing cities if farmed in a proper manner. Moreover, the country is in need of both food and export produce. From the politician's and city dweller's point of view, the Sinkar are monopolizing a valuable national resource merely to keep themselves in the manner to which they are accustomed, while others may be starving.

The problem is that the nation is short of meat and other foods. If the lowland plains were not occupied by the nomadic cattle-raising tribes, they could be exploited for cropping or as mixed farming areas.

You are sent as an extension agent to tackle this problem. How would you go about the task? What approach would you take and what kinds of difficulties do you think you might face?


Case-study 5: Introducing a cooperative

Republic X lies somewhere in Southeast Asia. Most of the land is flat and fairly densely settled, especially in the neighbourhood of the capital, and yields paddy and other food and export crops. Although not wealthy, the people are developing at a modest rate and appear to be generally happy.

However, there are also up-country hill areas, more thinly populated, inhabited by aboriginals of the country, whose language and culture are different from those of the rest of the country. Their areas have not been subjected to change and have in fact been rather neglected by government. Forty miles from the main lowland road and its trading centres, a secondary track leads to a village where about 80-90 families (about 600 people of all ages) live largely by subsistence farming. The village enjoys no regular services but there are two village shops, owned by merchants from outside, where they can sell their surplus produce and in return buy tools and other small wants (cloth, salt and non-essentials) for cash and seasonal credit.

An eminent overseas journalist has just visited the village and has written that the people have many complaints. They say that they are all in debt to the outside merchants, who overcharge them for their needs, charge heavy interest for credit, and make over 300 percent profit on the produce (mostly grain) which they buy from the farmers. Moreover, since there is no school, the children and adults are illiterate and unable to keep track of the merchants' records, so they fear that the merchants have been cheating as well.

If true, this report could have political repercussions, so a meeting is held at the provincial capital to consider what might be done in the village, which is typical of so much of the province. At this meeting, the provincial cooperative offlicer suggests that a cooperative society might be set up in the village on the following basis.

- A cooperative assistant, trained for such work, will be posted for six months, free of charge, to the village to set up the society.
- A local committee will be set up to manage the society.
- A contribution to the initial working capital of one year's per caput gross domestic product (currently about US $50) per registered member will be made by the government in order to get things moving.
- After the initial six months, the assistant will be withdrawn but periodic advice, assistance and audit supervision will be given by visiting members of the provincial cooperative office.

This suggestion seems sound to most of those attending the meeting, but the Ministry of Rural Development's representative feels that more facts are required before rushing in with a ready-made solution: a failure could be expensive not only in money but also in terms of popular confidence.

You are the extension agent who is sent to the village to investigate the truth of the report and recommend action to be taken. You may recommend acceptance or rejection of the cooperative as proposed, or any other solution from your own experience.

What do you need to find out and what questions will you need to ask?

Based on what you find out, what do you think your recommendation might be?


Case-study 6: The wells that failed

Virus is a rural community of about 2 000 people which lies in a fertile valley of the same name on the coast, 483 km (300 miles) north of Lima, the capital of Peru in South America. The Peruvian coast is bathed by the cold Humboldt current which, among other things, deprives the coastal region of rainfall and has created a narrow desert literally hundreds of kilometres long. However, intensive agriculture has been practiced in Viru, and in many other villages in the same geographical situation, for thousands of years, thanks to a small river which flows from the Andes and enables irrigation to take place during the rainy season in the highlands (December to May). The water is often insufficient to irrigate all the fields. Yields are frequently low and crops sometimes fail altogether. With a more regular and abundant water supply, the farmers could harvest two crops a year rather than one.

Most of the farmers of Viru are too poor to undertake irrigation projects of their own, but through their political representatives they had been soliciting the Peruvian government for aid for many years. Many promises had been made but few had ever been fulfilled. Finally, the Government decided to drill six wells in strategic parts of the valley. The well-water was to be piped to the village for household needs and to implement a sewage system, and also to augment the supply of water for irrigation at those times when the river would be dry. A geological commission surveyed the area and selected the sites most likely to yield water. The first was on private land near the main irrigation ditch, but before operations could start it was necessary to repair and widen a road to haul the equipment to the drilling site. Although this was a community responsibility under the terms of the agreement and people were available, few offered to help. Indeed, the villagers hardly cooperated with the drilling team at all. Few villagers visited the site and general comments were highly critical of the whole operation. The technicians were somewhat surprised by such hostile attitudes and lack of interest, since the well was not costing the village anything. One well was drilled with considerable difficulty, but the project was abandoned in view of the lack of help and unfavourable response from the people of Viru.

Background information

In order to understand why this happened, it is necessary to explain a few facts about the culture of Viru and about the circumstances that existed at the time the well was being drilled.

The community was split between large and small landowners, and between natives of Viru and outsiders. The village was made up largely of small landowners and sharecroppers, mostly natives of the valley, who depended for their subsistence on small irrigated plots from 1 to 4 hectares in size; some of these farmers also sharecropped on large haciendas outside the village for commercial purposes, paying 25 percent of the crop as rent. The village also included a few large landowners, not all of whom were native-born, some of whom, through unscrupulous practices and unfair dealings, had managed to accumulate landholdings of considerable size. In some cases, these properties included parcels of land which formerly belonged to the community and the church, and which were secured through questionable deals.

National political circumstances had an important bearing on this case. The community was firmly split along political lines. The majority, the small farmers and sharecroppers, supported the governing political party (the liberals), one of whose main policies was to break up the large estates and return the lands to the people. However, the dominant power group, represented by the large landowners and the priest, was violently opposed to the governing party.

Municipal affairs were in the hands of a transitory board, a temporary body made up of outsiders and unqualified local people appointed by the government. The governing party was planning a bill to legalize municipal elections for the first time in Peruvian history and to do away with the old system of political appointees.

The value system of the villagers was such that most believed that natural phenomena, such as water supply from the rivers, were controlled by supernatural forces, as represented by the images of Catholic saints. If crops failed, people were being punished for their sins; if the harvest had been good, it was attributed to the saints, who controlled the weather, the insect pests and the water supply. Having been honoured by religious feasts, the saints were thus favourably disposed toward man.

On the basis of the information given above, why do you feel this well-drilling project failed?

If you had been an extension agent assigned to this scheme, would you have acted differently and, if so, what would you have done?

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