The Historical Development of Extension in LDCs

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The approach to agricultural extension in developing countries has changed considerably over the past five decades and still is undergoing evolution. Cogent summaries of the historical development of extension in these countries have been provided by Antholt (1998) and Picciotto and Anderson (1997). In brief outline, that history runs as follows:

Fifty years ago agricultural extension organizations in developing countries mirrored the administrative traditions of former colonial powers. .. . Like other agricultural support

56. Kevin D. Gallagher, 'Community study programmes for integrated production and pest management: Farmer Field Schools', in M. K. Qamar, 2000, p. 62.

57. John Pontius, Russell Dilts and Andrew Bartlett (Eds), Ten Years of Building Community: From Farmer Field Schools to Community IPM, FAO Community IPM Program, Jakarta, Indonesia, 2000, p. 36.

59. Gerung is a Sub-District of West Lombok District on the island of Lombok in West Nusa Tenggara Province, Indonesia.

60. Quoted in J. Pontius, R. Dilts and A. Bartlett (Eds), 2000, p. 45.

services, extension services were geared to producing and marketing export commodities.. . . extension programs often relied on the proposition that farming productivity was held back not so much by technology and economic constraints as by farmer apathy, inadequate social arrangements, and lack of local leadership (Picciotto and Anderson, 1997, pp. 249-250). .. . there was a high degree of confidence in the ability of Western agricultural technology to solve the needs of the 'hungry, poor and ignorant' in the developing world.. . . The problem of developing agriculture was seen as one of accelerating the rate of growth of agricultural output and productivity via what became to be known as the 'diffusion model' of agricultural development In that model the process was conceived as a hierarchical, unidirectional process; it provided to traditional agricultures new technology, usually from the West, which was delivered to farmers by extension workers in departments of agriculture (Antholt, 1998, p. 355).

In the 1950s and the early 1960s, the agricultural extension service tended to be subordinated to multipurpose rural development programs. Extension agents carried out a variety of functions, ranging from credit delivery and input distribution to sundry coordination duties. And because extension agents were among the few government officials available at the village level, they were often asked to undertake clerical, statistical, or even political chores. Typically the service had only weak connections to agricultural research. Looking back, the rural development movement was the victim of a poor enabling environment for agricultural development. Eventually it fell into disfavor as lack of profitable technical packages and an overly broad agenda led to a thin spread of resources, excessive administrative costs, and slow agricultural production growth (Picciotto and Anderson, 1997, p. 250).

. . . the results of village-level studies in the 1950s and early 1960s documented that peasant farmers were 'poor but efficient', and that lack of profitable technology was a major cause of stagnation. Schultz's pioneering book, Trans forming Traditional Agriculture (1964), drew on these studies to challenge the extension/ diffusion model and urged developing countries and donors to shift their resources from extension to building agricultural research capacity.. . . The diffusion model obscures the fact that farmers are innovators, not just passive receptacles of information.

Unfortunately .. . these legacies . . . generally reinforced the limited, linear, and sequential view of how information and knowledge need to be developed and made accessible to farmers - that is, from basic science to applied science to technological innovations to farmer recommendations. ... in the early 1970s, after the first flush of the Green Revolution, there was a sense among many agriculturalists that there was a backlog of technology yet to be moved to farmers. It therefore followed that it was necessary to increase the intervention capacity of extension through more staff, more training, more buildings, more motorcycles, etc. . . . The aim of the T & V approach was to reform the management of extension systems and turn a cadre of poorly supervised, poorly motivated, and poorly trained field agents into effective technology transfer agents, through fortnightly training of agents, who then made regular visits to farmers, conveying clear extension messages (Antholt, 1998, pp. 355-356).

Yet the degree to which the remarkable food production gains of the green revolution can be attributed to any particular mechanism, such as T & V, has long been disputed.. . . This said, T & V has dominated extension in South Asia and Africa for more than two decades, partly because of the strong support offered by the World Bank (Picciotto and Anderson, 1997, pp. 250-251).

Today, extension is viewed much more broadly, as indicated by comments earlier in this chapter. In addition to being carried out through a variety of approaches and institutions, it is seen to be part of a broader 'agricultural knowledge and information system for rural development (AKIS/RD)', of which other principal components are agricultural research and agricultural education. In this view, knowledge generation and dissemination do not proceed linearly but rather are interactive and are the result of joint efforts among different kinds of participants. The system needs to generate mutual learning and exchanges of information in order for the sector to advance at a satisfactory pace. However, the starting point for designing improvements in the system is a full recognition of its shortcomings that still exist throughout the developing world:61

• Farmers' needs do not sufficiently drive the orientation of research and extension, and labor market requirements are not adequately translated into curriculum design in agricultural training institutions. . ..

• The know-how and technologies that are produced by AKIS/RDs, even when relevant, are not widely taken up by farmers, suggesting a lack of effective transfer. Concerns over cost-effectiveness mean that public research and extension services have trouble ensuring their financial sustainability.

• Public decision-makers are often unaware of the actual results achieved and the long-term resource allocations needed. .. .

• In many settings, the quality of human capital in AKIS/RDs is low, suggesting that investments in human capital formation are inadequate and that the training and educational institutions themselves are insufficiently responsive to changing demands.

• A lack of systematic collaboration among educators, researchers, extension staff and farmers has limited the effectiveness and relevance of support services to the rural sector.

The responses to these deficiencies are diverse and are developed by different kinds of institu tions. The diversity is likely to be a permanent feature of the institutional landscape in agriculture. 'It can ... be reasonably argued that no single approach best suits extension development in all circumstances. . . .'.62

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