What is extension? Traditionally extension has been an approach where information from researchers has been transferred to farmers through extension personnel. The information flow in that case was top down (from researchers to farmers). The assumption was that farmers lack knowledge and hence minimal feedback from farmers back to researchers was necessary. Over the years extension has evolved from such top-down approaches to more two-way approaches which include participatory extension, farmer field schools, etc. In some cases extension is now termed “communication for development” which emphasizes the importance of dialogue and feedback.
Why is extension important? Extension can help farmers adopt new technologies, improve marketing, and better management skills. Effective agriculture extension empowers farmers. However the success of extension, especially in introducing new technologies, depends on how well it addresses the farmers’ needs, and to what extent farmers participate in deciding their destiny. Thus, it is crucial that we review our extension approaches as we introduce new technologies to communities.
Participatory extension approaches used to promote agriculture innovations. With participatory extension methods, farmers are involved in problem identification, and the extension agent serves as a facilitator, guiding them through problem-solving strategies. Active farmer participation is encouraged from the assessment stage, through evaluation and promotion of an innovation. There are many variations of this approach, including farming systems research, participatory technology development, look and learn visits, participatory rural appraisal, farmer field schools, farmer to farmer extension, and lead farmer approaches. In this paper we discuss some of the most important strategies to create effective extension services. These include facilitation though question-posing, developing an effective training curriculum, and conducting regular farmer visits after training. We also describe tools that can enhance extension such as farmer field schools, farmer to farmer training, field days, radio programming, etc.) Related issues include the use of incentives in promoting new technologies, and staffing for effective extension.
- Published: 2017
- Publisher: Canadian Foodgrains Bank