Agricultural Extension: Generic Challenges and Some Ingredients for Solutions
33 Pages Posted: 20 Apr 2016
Date Written: May 1, 1999
The agriculture sector must nearly double biological yields on existing farmland to meet food needs, which will double in the next quarter century. A sustainable approach to providing agricultural extension services in developing countries-minimal external inputs, a systems orientation, pluralism, and arrangements that take advantage of the best incentives for farmers and extension service providers-will release the local knowledge, resources, common sense, and organizing ability of rural people.
Is agricultural extension in developing countries up to the task of providing the information, ideas, and organization needed to meet food needs? What role should governments play in implementing or facilitating extension services? Roughly 80 percent of the world's extension is publicly funded and delivered by civil servants, providing a range of services to the farming population, commercial producers, and disadvantaged target groups. Budgetary constraints and concerns about performance create pressure to show the payoff on investment in extension and to explore alternatives to publicly providing it.
Feder, Willett, and Zijp analyze the challenges facing policymakers who must decide what role governments should play in implementing or facilitating extension services. Focusing on developing country experience, they identify generic challenges that make it difficult to organize extension:
The magnitude of the task.
Dependence on wider policy and other agency functions.
Problems in identifying the cause and effect needed to enable accountability and to get political support and funding.
Liability for public service functions beyond the transfer of agricultural knowledge and information.
Inadequate interaction with knowledge generators.
Feder, Willett, and Zijp show how various extension approaches were developed in attempts to overcome the challenges of extension:
Improving extension management.
Focusing on single commodities.
Providing fee-for-service public extension services.
Establishing institutional pluralism.
Empowering people by using participatory approaches.
Using appropriate media.
Each of the approaches has weaknesses and strengths, and in their analysis the authors identify the ingredients that show promise. Rural people know when something is relevant and effective. The aspects of agricultural extension services that tend to be inherently low cost and build reciprocal, mutually trusting relationships are those most likely to produce commitment, accountability, political support, fiscal sustainability, and the kinds of effective interaction that generate knowledge.
This paper - a joint product of Rural Development, Development Research Group, and the Rural Development Department - is part of a larger effort in the Bank to identify institutional and policy reforms needed to promote sustainable and equitable rural development.
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation