International Outreach - Extension Practices

Resources about global agricultural extension and outreach strategies involving participatory approaches.


General Extension Approaches

Global review of good agricultural extension and advisory service practices.  Swanson, B E. 2008. FAO Publications.
National goals for agriculture and natural resources management include food security, improving rural livelihoods to reduce poverty and food insecurity, and sustainable use of natural resources. To reach these goals, extension staff should regularly consult farmers, researchers and industry representatives to develop strategic plans that identify specific market opportunities for products with potential for local economic and ecological success. Agricultural extension and advisory systems worldwide have undergone major changes in the past two or more decades, mainly due to: 1) the Green Revolution that increased the world’s food supply; 2) growth of the commercial farm sector; 3) trade liberalization leading to rapidly developing global food system; the expanding role of transnational life science companies in developing proprietary agricultural technologies; and 4) the expansion of bio-energy industry in many leading to increasing staple food costs. Due to increasing use and demand for natural resources, there is an urgent need to educate all types of land users about sustainable ways to use natural resources, especially those considered public goods. Agricultural extension and advisory services are concerned with (1) transferring technologies associated with production systems; (2) enhancing the skills and knowledge (i.e. human capital) among all farmers so they can select the most appropriate mix of enterprises; and (3) use the most efficient agricultural practices and sustainable natural resources management. This is achievable if farmers organize into groups (i.e. social capital) to increase market access and more effectively articulate their goals and needs to policy makers, researchers and extension providers.
Key words: agricultural extension, advisory services, globalization, human capital, social capital, food security

Strengthening agricultural extension and advisory systems: procedures for assessing, transforming, and evaluating extension systems.  Swanson, B. E and R. Rajalahti. 2008.  World Bank, Agriculture and Rural Development Discussion Paper 45.
This publication provides information on how to transform and strengthen pluralistic agricultural extension and advisory systems in moving toward the broader goal of increasing farm income and improving rural livelihoods. The focus is primarily on the technical knowledge, management skills, and information services that small-scale farm households will need to improve their livelihoods in the rapidly changing global economy. Also included is information on how extension should help all types of farmers in dealing with escalating natural resource problems, including climate change. The book provides a comparative analysis of different extension strategies, organizational models, institutional innovations, and resource constraints and how an extension system might be transformed and strengthened through specific policy and organizational changes as well as needed investments.
Key words: pluralistic agricultural extension, rural livelihoods, extension strategies, extension models,

SARD. 2007. Scaling-up of good practices. Sustainable Agriculture and Rural development (SARD) Policy Brief 21.
Agriculture and rural development programs may reach fewer people, have minimal impact on poverty, and are not sustainable if people abandon promising approaches introduced by projects, owing to the inaccessibility of spare parts, lack of capacity to maintain and repair, and insufficient resources for purchase and maintenance. Prior to scaling-up, actors must identify Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development (SARD) good practices that can be replicated within similar or different contexts. Good practices are often those that multiple stakeholders with different perspectives agree on their cost-benefit ratio, ecological, economic and social sustainability, and poverty reduction impact. A SARD good practice is one that is beneficial to the environment, profitable for farmers and communities, socially and culturally appropriate, and productive over the long term. It must be effective, efficient, easily replicated under similar constraints, responsive to real local needs and adaptable to other local conditions. Scaling-up efforts are more likely to succeed when multiple stakeholders are already engaged in effective partnerships or networks, informal groups are present and active, or rural people are involved in local and national decision-making processes. Supportive policies, clear and secure land tenure systems, and high literacy rates are also important. Scaling-up can take place through horizontal expansion of small-scale success, or through a vertical uptake of micro-level good practices into macro-policies and institutions.
Key words: sustainability, collaboration

Modernizing national agricultural extension systems: a practical guide for policy-makers of developing countries.  Qamar, M. K. 2005. FAO publications.
Agricultural Extension can be defined as providing need- and demand-based knowledge and skills to farm households (men, women and youth) in a non-formal, participatory manner, aimed at improving quality of life. Extension is essential for research and development, but agricultural research agendas may remain largely academic unless extension workers provide input about farmers’ identified and unsolved problems. To effectively serve the farming communities, applied research institutions need extension services that work in a field problems-oriented mode, and in turn extension services need the backstopping of strong applied agricultural research institutions.  Some researchers believe that good technology will automatically be adopted by farmers; therefore there is no need for extension. However many ‘good technologies’ sit on shelves for years, demonstrating that good technologies must first travel between relevant research institutes and the farmers’ fields to increase their chances for adoption. The growing trend of various departments involved in agricultural and rural development creating their own extension services, puts a large number of extension workers in the field and creates more demand for farmers’ time and confusion due to duplication or conflicts of technical advice. More pluralistic agricultural extension creates the need for effective coordination among various agencies, a responsibility that governments should take up. Extension should evolve towards empowering farmers through active participation in decision-making, working through farmers’ groups, preparing and delivering client-oriented messages, gender sensitivity, and research-extension-farmers linkages. Advanced information technology is also a key ingredient in agricultural development. The main goal is to harness relevant information technology without compromising the unique local factors like indigenous communication patterns or ecological conditions.  However, information technology should not be considered a replacement of the need for the human element of extension agents.
Key words: agricultural extension, participatory rural appraisal (PRA), technology adoption, holistic approaches

A new extension vision for food security challenge to change.  Rivera, W. M. and M. K. Qamar, 2003. Food and Agriculture Organization of The United Nations. Rome.
This publication offers a vision comprising policy directions recommendations for transformation of agricultural extension services as they prepare to provide meaningful support to food security initiatives, as viable partner to fit in a pluralistic, multi-disciplinary and integrated effort involving many sectors, both public and private. Its contents that focuses on extension reform that will spearhead community development have been drawn from a major paper, “Agricultural Extension, Rural Development and Food Security Challenge”, 
Key words: agricultural extension services, food security initiatives, multi-disciplinary, public and private sector

Agricultural and rural extension worldwide: options for institutional reform in the developing countries. Rivera W. M., M. K. Qamar and L.Van Crowder. 2001. Food and Agriculture Organization of The United Nations, Rome.
This paper outlines institutional reforms (extension and non-market) that emphasize stakeholder participation and have the potential to improve efficiency and effectiveness of extension efforts. It emphasizes how Agricultural extension cannot operate in isolation but as parts of a broader knowledge system, the Agricultural Knowledge System (AKS), which comprises of three pillars: – research, extension and agricultural higher education. The three pillars involve complementary investments that should be planned and sequenced as a system rather than separate entities. Success is only possible with strong cross-institutional linkages between AKS systems and their clientele.Agricultural extension needs to expand its focus to non-farm microenterprise development initiatives as a way of improving livelihoods because most rural people depend upon multiple sources of income. Agricultural extension services should go beyond providing technical support, and provide market extension and advice on importance of farmer organizing into farmers’ associations. Approaches to extension should change in response to the changes in the global environments in the recent years which includes globalization, involvement of non-governmental agencies in extension and rural-urban dynamics brought about by technological advances.
Key words: Institutional reform, participatory approach, agricultural knowledge systems

Agricultural extension generic challenges and some ingredients for solutions. Feder, G., A. Willett, and W. Zijp. 1999. The World Bank Development Research Group Rural Development and Rural Development Department.
Agricultural extension faces great challenges. The agriculture sector needs to nearly double biological yields on existing farm land to meet gross food needs that will also double in the next quarter century. To help meet this challenge, the role of extension is clear - there is a great need for information, ideas, and organization. About 80 percent of the world's extension is publicly funded and delivered by civil servants, providing a diverse range of services to the general population, commercial producers, and disadvantaged target groups through a variety of approaches. Budgetary constraints and concerns about performance are pressuring these services to show the payoff to investment in extension and explore alternatives to public provision. This paper analyzes the key challenges facing policymakers who must decide what role governments should play in implementing or facilitating extension services, and to what extent. Our focus is on international, primarily developing country, experience. The core of the paper identifies a number of generic challenges inherent in the nature of extension that make its organization difficult - the magnitude of the task, dependence on wider policy and other agency functions, problems in tracing cause and effect, and consequently, difficulties in obtaining political support for funding, accountability, liability to public service functions beyond agricultural knowledge and information transfer, fiscal sustainability, and interaction with knowledge generation. Subsequently, we identify a range of innovations that have emerged in order to overcome the generic difficulties. These include improving extension management, decentralization, single commodity focus, fee for-service public provision, institutional pluralism, empowerment and participatory approaches, privatization, and interconnecting rural people and the use of appropriate media.
Key words: extension policy, sustainable agriculture, ecological resources conservation, human capital

Participatory Action Research (PAR)

Participatory learning and action: community-based adaptation to climate change.  Reid, H., M. Alam, R. Berger, T. Cannon, and A. Milligan. 2009.The International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), Nottingham, UK
Participatory Learning and Action (PLA) is an umbrella term for a wide range of approaches and methodologies, including Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA), Rapid Rural Appraisal (RRA), Participatory Learning Methods (PALM), Participatory Action Research (PAR), Farming Systems Research (FSR), and Méthode Active de Recherche et de Planification Participative (MARP). The common theme is the full participation of people in the processes of learning about their needs and opportunities, and in the action required to address them. This issue is divided into three sections: the first section includes reflections on participatory processes and practice in community-based adaptation to climate change; the second section focuses on participatory tool-based case studies and the third section, participatory tools.
Key words: participatory action research, collaboration, participation

Learning in sustainable natural resource management: challenges and opportunities in the pacific. Keen, M. and S. Mahanty. 2006. Society & Natural Resources: 19: 497-513

The importance of learning in natural resource management (NRM) is being recognized by an increasing number of scholars and practitioners. A learning approach to NRM applies principles and theories of adult, organizational and social learning, and is underpinned by three core elements: systems thinking, negotiation, and reflection. By combining learning theories with concepts from adaptive management, comanagement, and participatory resource management, this article explores how the explicit inclusion of learning principles and processes can strengthen community-based natural resource management. Case studies from the South Pacific are used to draw out lessons for the wider application of learning approaches to NRM.
Keywords: collaborative learning, collaborative management, negotiation, participation, participatory resource management, reflection, social learning

An Overview of the methodological approach of Action Research. In Richardson, R. (Ed.), Theory and Practice of Action Research. O’Brien, R. 2001. João Pessoa, Brazil: Universidade Federal da Paraíba.
This article defines action research, providing an overview of its processes and principles and when it is appropriate to use.  Action research simultaneously contributes both to existing practical concerns/problems of people and furthers the goals of social science.  Therefore, there is a dual commitment to study a system and concurrently to collaborate with members of the system in changing it in what is together regarded as a desirable direction. What differentiates action research from other types of research is its focus on turning the people involved into researchers; the research takes place in real-world situations, and aims to solve real problems and the initiating researcher, has to make no attempt to remain objective, but openly acknowledges their bias to the other participants. Models of the action research process are cyclical in nature with four, sometime five stages: plan, act, observe and reflect or diagnosis, action planning, taking action, evaluation and specifying learning.
Key words: participatory action research, social science, collaboration, real problems


The role of action research in environmental management in: Working together for environmental management: the role of information sharing and collaborative learning.  Allen, W. J. 2001. PhD dissertation (Development Studies), Massey University, New Zealand.
Chapter 3 outlines the concepts of action research and describes the differences between action research and mainstream science. Action research approach emphasizes collaboration, which enables mutual understanding and consensus, democratic decision making and common action. Within this broad definition there are four basic themes: 1) collaboration through participation; 2) acquisition of knowledge; 3) social change; and 4) empowerment of participants. Action researchers are responsible for developing a learning environment which challenges the status quo and generating better alternatives to improve their future. The CRASP definition of action research has been used as: Critical collaborative enquiry by Reflective practitioners, who are Accountable in making the results of their enquiry public, Self-evaluative of their practice, and engaged in Participative problem solving and continuing professional development.
Key words: action research, collaboration through participation, acquisition of knowledge, social change


Participatory action research: strengthening farmer organizations and agency-farmer relations in selected irrigation systems in the Philippines. Wijayaratna C. M., and M. D. M. Valdez 1996.   Colombo, Sri Lanka: International Irrigation Management Institute.
This book describes how rice production increased in the Philippines through improved varieties, fertilizer application, increases area under irrigation mainly driven by national investment in irrigation systems and later on spearheaded by partnerships between farmers and the government institutions. The transformation continued with the government launching farmer-run Irrigation Associations that were capable of managing the operation and maintenance (O & M) of irrigation systems. This participatory approach reduced O & M costs because farmers partially or fully managed the irrigation systems; improved equitable distribution of water and reduced internal conflict. The comprehensive research aimed at improving production included the analysis of system performance (e.g. production and water distribution); organizational variables (member characteristics and their value systems); environmental variables (social, economic and political environment) and system related variables (e.g. management of cropping calendar). Through collaboration they streamlined the organizational structure and defined and implemented the action plans. The participatory approach resulted in improved rice production, uptake of new technology and more sustainable irrigation system.
Key words: participatory action research, collaboration

Forestry extension. An international journal of forestry and forest industries 47. Dembner,S. A.(Ed)1996. Rome.
Although this publication touches on extension methods in general, this summary focuses on the e first two chapters because they discuss the transformation from top-down approach towards participatory approach. The first chapter by Anderson and Farrington titled "Forestry Extension: facing the challenges of today and tomorrow" discusses how forestry extension methods are evolving away from the traditional, top-down approach towards a more participatory approach. This chapter emphasizes both the content (technology and its transfer) and the process (problem-solving capacity building) i.e. the function of technology transfer should complement human development. Therefore forestry extension is a systematic process of exchanging ideas, knowledge and techniques leading to mutual changes in attitudes, practices, knowledge, values and behavior aimed at improved forest and tree management. Forestry extension should respond to both external and internal forces including: 1) international agenda focusing on sustainability, biological diversity, intersectoral linkages and participation; 2) political landscape evolving towards decentralization; and 3) demographic changes such as population growth and displacement and rural-urban migration that redefines the client base. The second chapter by Enters and Hagmann titled "One-way, two-way, which way? Extension workers: from messengers to facilitators, contrasts extension approaches in Thailand and Zimbabwe" first discusses the unsuccessful top-down approach used in Thailand in the 1980s where researchers developed conservation technologies in isolation. Farmers temporarily adopted the technologies while they were offered incentives, but stopped practicing the conservation approach when incentives were terminated. The main reason being that some components of the new approach were counterproductive and increased labor demand. In the 1990s Zimbabwe started pilot activities based on active farmer participation in research and extension and showed potential for increasing adoption rates and, thus, improving natural resource management and food security. The concept of participatory innovation development and extension was based on dialogue, farmer experimentation and strengthening of the organizational capacities of rural communities. The key step was adopting participatory rapid appraisal (PRA) tools, introduced in the form of training for transformation (TFT), a training program based on raising awareness through participatory, dialogue-based education, aimed at empowering local people for self-reliant development.
Key words: participatory approach, training for transformation (TFT), participatory rapid appraisal (PRA)

Local knowledge and rangeland resources management

Using participatory workshops to integrate state-and-transition models created with local knowledge and ecological data. Knapp C. N., M. Fernandez-Gimenez, E. Kachergis, and A. Rudeen, 2011. Rangeland Ecology & Management, 64:158-170.
State-and-transition models (STMs) depict current understanding of vegetation dynamics and are being created for most ecological sites in the United States. Model creation is challenging due to inadequate long-term data, and most STMs rely on expert knowledge. There has been little systematic documentation of how different types of knowledge have been integrated in STMs, or what these distinct knowledge sources offer. We report on a series of participatory workshops where stakeholders helped to integrate STMs developed for the same region using local knowledge and ecological field data. With this exploratory project, we seek to understand what kinds of information local knowledge and ecological field data can provide to STMs, assess workshops as a method of integrating knowledge and evaluate how different stakeholders perceive models created with different types of knowledge. Our analysis is based on meeting notes, comments on draft models, and workshop evaluation questionnaires. We conclude that local knowledge and ecological data can complement one another, providing different types of information at different spatial and temporal scales. Participants reported that the workshop increased their knowledge of STMs and vegetation dynamics, suggesting that engaging potential model users in developing STMs is an effective outreach and education approach. Agency representatives and ranchers expressed the value of both the local knowledge and data-driven models. Agency participants were likely to critique or add components based on monitoring data or prior research, and ranchers were more likely to add states and transitions based on personal experience. As STM development continues, it is critical that range professionals think systematically about what different forms of data might contribute to model development, how we can best integrate existing knowledge and data to create credible and useful models, and how to validate the resulting STMs.
Key words: collaboration, coproduction of knowledge, knowledge integration, participatory modeling, rangeland, stakeholder participation, traditional knowledge

The role of local knowledge in state-and-transition model development. Knapp C. N., M. E. Fernandez-Gimenez, and E. Kachergis. 2010. Rangelands: 32:31-36.
People who interact with rangelands on a regular basis gain practical insights about how rangelands work by living on and working with them. This local knowledge is refined over time as individuals see the way the land responds to weather, management, and disturbances. Local knowledge (LK) is a type of knowledge “integrally linked with the lives of people, always produced in dynamic interactions among humans and between humans and nature, and constantly changing.” LK could inform rangeland science and management to a much larger degree, but it often contributes little because the people who gain it are scattered across the landscape and there have been few attempts to systematically document and incorporate their knowledge into research or broad-scale management plans. State-and-transition models (STMs) developed for ecological sites offer an ideal opportunity to integrate LK into durable and adaptive management tools.
Key words: local knowledge, adaptive management


Agricultural Innovation Systems (AIS)

Innovation systems in agriculture and rural development. Beshah, T. 2009. International Livestock Research Institute.
Innovation system - a network of organizations focused on bringing new processes and new forms of organization into social and economic use, together with the institutions and policies that affect their behavior and performance (The World Bank 2007). The concept views innovation not as mere technologies or products but as the process through which knowledge is generated, crafted from various sources and put into use. Innovation may address new creations of social and economic significance, improvements in technical and managerial issues, institutional and policy aspects.
Key words: Agricultural innovation systems, institutional transformation, policy changes


Strengthening agricultural innovation capacity: are innovation brokers the answer? Klerkx L., A. Hall and C. Leeuwis. 2009. United Nations University (UNU)
This paper examines the role of innovation brokers in stimulating innovation system interaction and innovation capacity building, based on Dutch agriculture. It concludes that innovation brokerage roles are likely to become relevant in emerging economies and that public or donor investment in innovation brokerage may be needed to overcome inherent tensions regarding the neutrality and funding of such players in the innovation system. The Dutch experience suggests that innovation brokers need to be contextually embedded, and are unlikely to become effective through a centrally-imposed design. Hence, we conclude that stimulating their emergence requires a policy that supports institutional learning and experimentation. In the evaluation of such experiments, it is important to note that innovation brokers tend to play intangible roles that are not easily captured through conventional indicators.
Key Words: Innovation Broker, Institutional Learning, Innovation Systems, Capacity Strengthening

Innovation system approach to agricultural development: policy implications for agricultural extension delivery in Nigeria. Agwu, A. E., M. U. Dimelu, and M. C. Madukwe. 2008. African Journal of Biotechnology 7: 1604-1611.

A sustainable and dynamic approach to agricultural development has remained of great concern to the government and priority for discourse in the policy arena. Past efforts have concentrated on investment in research and development which was established on the consensus that the application of science and technology is responsible for the structural transformation required to propel the agricultural sector. Public research and extension institutions are projected as the sole source of innovation/knowledge requisite to trigger development in the agricultural sector. Several other relevant macroeconomic and meso level factors such as policy and legislative framework and nature of human capital, physical infrastructure, finance and investment climate and system for facilitating information and knowledge flows were not considered as important. The emerging reforms and changes in knowledge structure of agriculture explicitly indicate that the traditional agricultural research and extension system alone cannot sufficiently address the challenges of the new trends. Innovation system approach offers a holistic and, multi-disciplinary approach to innovation and processes, incorporating emerging reforms and approaches for agricultural development. This paper concludes that government, policy makers, and administrators should invest and promote researches in sectors/sub sectors of economic and food security importance, using this analytical framework. Government should encourage and facilitate farmer and private sector innovative strength by enacting favorable polices (patenting and reward system) that will act as incentives. Institutional context of any innovation should be sufficiently analyzed by policy makers as requisite to promoting such innovation, while extension workers should build such information in technology packages to farmers.
Key words: Agricultural innovation system, linkages, research – extension – farmer – input system, holistic, multidisciplinary.

The agricultural extension system and the "New American Farmer": the opportunities have never been greater. Ikerd, J. 2008. Presented at National Association of County Agriculture Agents Conference, Greensboro, NC, July 17, 2008.

The author reiterates the need for the approach to extension to change in response to the changing environment as was stated in the publication Vision for the Future: A Strategic Plan for Agriculture, by USDA (1994). The need for changes is a result of the emergence of a new kind of American farmer – who is organic, biodynamic, holistic, alternative, ecological, practical, innovative and all fit under the conceptual umbrella of sustainable agriculture. However agricultural sustainability is threatened if agriculture development is driven solely by the economic bottom line. Agricultural sustainability humanity depends on the farmers’ willingness and ability to balance their legitimate individual economic needs with their social and ethical responsibilities for the well-being of others, both of current and future generations. Agricultural Extension has a tremendous opportunity facilitate sustainable agriculture movement, by understanding that sustainability requires paying particular attention to the needs of specific natural ecosystems and communities in which they are located i.e. needs are inherently site-specific, and that individuals have unique abilities, aspirations, and social and ethical values.
Key words: agricultural sustainability, site-specific needs, holistic

Challenges to Strengthening Agricultural Innovation Systems: Where Do We Go From Here? Hall, A. 2007. Presented at FarmerFirst Revisited: 20 Years Onconference at University of Sussex, UK.
This paper discusses the challenge and potential ways of strengthening agricultural innovation systems (AIS). He talks about how despite the available information about agricultural innovation, very limited institutional and policy changes have been implemented. The paper also stresses the point that AIS should not be seen as another aspiring alternative model, but more as a framework because it does not do is make prescriptive recommendations for example: “for innovation to take place one must have a system with one private sector actor, one research actor, one banker, one policymaker and one farmer — all with pre-specified roles.” What is does is recommend a flexible framework, such as requirements for a coordinated networks of actors relevant to specific challenges or opportunities, and locations, supporting policies and ways of working specific to those challenges, opportunities and locations. For the way forward, he suggests creating a multidisciplinary and more coordinated effort in developing innovation practice and policy learning.

Key words: Agricultural innovation systems, institutional and policy change, innovation narratives, collective intelligence, self-reflection

Enhancing agricultural innovation: how to go beyond the strengthening of research systems. World Bank (2006). Economic Sector Work report. The World Bank: Washington, D.C. pp.149.
The paper first states some of the changes that have occurred in the context for agricultural development that increased the need to evaluate agricultural innovation. The changes are: 1) markets, not production, increasingly drive agricultural development; 2) production, trade, and consumption environment for agriculture and agricultural; products is growing more dynamic and evolving in unpredictable ways; 3) knowledge, information, and technology increasingly are generated, diffused, and applied through the private sector; 4) exponential growth in information and communications technology has transformed; the ability to take advantage of knowledge developed in other places or for other purposes; 5) the knowledge structure of the agricultural sector in many countries is changing markedly; and 6) agricultural development increasingly takes place in a globalized setting. The paper defines an innovation system as a network of organizations, enterprises, and individuals focused on bringing new products, new processes, and new forms of organization into economic use, together with the institutions and policies that affect their behavior and performance. It emphasizes that the innovation systems concept embraces not only the technology development but the totality and interaction of actors involved in innovation, i.e. that it extends beyond the creation of knowledge to encompass the factors affecting demand for and use of knowledge in novel and useful ways. The results show that many agricultural systems did not use the agricultural innovation systems approach.

Key words: Agricultural innovation systems, innovation capacity analysis, innovation system diagnosis, innovation system intervention