A sound agricultural policy is indispensable

• Extension consists of 'facilitation' as much if not more than 'technology transfer'. Extension is too often merely seen as a vehicle for spreading scientific and technical progress and technology transfer. But this is a narrow and highly unsatisfactory definition. The dissemination of knowledge is not a one-way street from scientists to producers. Farmers' own knowledge must be collected, analyzed, capitalized on, propagated and disseminated. Producers need more than just technical information. There is rarely a 'one size fits all' solution to address the mix of technical, economic, commercial, social and environmental aspects that farming problems consist of.. . . producers must themselves be able to analyze the constraints, seek out and test solutions, and make choices from an array of existing service providers.

The essence of agricultural extension is to facilitate interplay and nurture synergies within a total information system involving agricultural research, agricultural education and a vast complex of information-providing businesses. . ..

Therefore, agricultural extension activity facilitates:

— Direct exchanges between producers as a way of diagnosing problems, capitalizing on existing knowledge, exchanging experiences, disseminating proven improvements, and even fashioning common projects.

— Relations between producers and service providers (including public extension services). Extension is advisory, not prescriptive. This requires extension workers to be 'actors in' not 'instruments of' extension. Trust must be established between the customer-small farmer and the advisor. Solid technical expertise remains essential but the abilities of extension workers must go beyond that. Extensionists must nowadays be adept in participatory techniques, and resourceful in drawing on a mix of communication methods and technologies. They must think in terms of market opportunities, increasing producer incomes and total farm management. . .

• Producers are clients, sponsors and stakeholders, rather than beneficiaries of extension. Extension activities are more effective when farmers are directly involved in defining, managing and implementing them. When farmers fund or purchase training services the impact is significantly better than when they attend training entirely designed and funded by someone else.

This happens when: - Farmer organizations manage their own technical services.

— Producer groups and private ... or public . .. service centers work together on a contract basis.

— Producers can target funding on problemsolving for their specific needs.

• Market demands create an impetus for a new relationship between farmers and private suppliers of goods and services. A major theme in agricultural development is the gradual transition from low-productivity subsistence farming to specialized production based on comparative advantage.. . . Small farmers must produce a sufficient range of competitively priced outputs in the right quantity and quality at the right time. This move from subsistence to commercial farming is consumer, rather than producer-driven.

Because input suppliers and produce buyers are business people, they must have their fingers on the pulse of demand and offer suitable products and services. Without inputs or markets, extension service recommendations are a dead letter. .. . Impartial and unbiased marketing and technical information are essential if producers are to be enabled to respond to market conditions. An extension activity which delivers that advice and facilitates balanced relations between producers and private business is a development-nurturing source of security for producers.

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