Agricultural extension is the application of new information and scientific research to agricultural operations through farmer training. Educators from a variety of disciplines, including agriculture, agricultural marketing, health, and business studies, organize a greater range of communication and learning activities for rural residents under the umbrella of “extension” today.
There are extension practitioners all around the world, who typically work for governmental organizations. They are represented through several professional networks, publications, and organizations.
International development organizations like the World Bank and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations generously finance agricultural extension agencies in poor nations.
History of Agricultural Extension
The location and timing of the first extension activities are unknown. The creation of agricultural regulations, the recording of practical expertise, and the dissemination of farming guidance by Chinese officials began at least 2,000 years ago, it is known. For instance, the instruction of crop rotation and drainage to farmers was coordinated by the minister in charge of agriculture under one of the Zhou dynasty monarchs around 800 BC. The minister also constructed grain storage facilities, leased farm equipment to farmers, and distributed free food during famines.
Events that happened in Ireland in the middle of the 19th century are thought to be the origin of the contemporary extension service. A devastating famine struck Ireland between 1845 and 1851 as a result of fungal infections decimating the potato crop. The British government set up trips for “practical teachers” to train small farmers how to grow alternative foods in remote places. Government representatives in Germany became interested in this plan and set up their network of mobile teachers. By the end of the 19th century, Italy, France, the Netherlands, and Denmark had all adopted the concept.
The Universities of Cambridge and Oxford coined the phrase “university extension” in 1867 to refer to instructional initiatives that expanded the institution’s reach beyond the campus. Yet, the majority of these early activities had little to do with farming. The phrase “extension service” was not used to describe the kind of work that we now recognize by that name until the early 20th century, when colleges in the United States began giving talks to farmer’s groups and performing demonstrations at agricultural exhibitions.
The Smith-Lever Act of 1914 established a system of cooperative extension to be run by those universities to inform the public about current developments in agriculture, home economics, and related fields. In the United States, the Hatch Act of 1887 established a system of agricultural experiment stations in conjunction with each state’s land-grant university. Bill Wick created the first marine advisory program in Oregon utilizing the Extension model in 1966, the same year that the National Sea Grant College Program was founded. Bob Jacobsen, who was described as “an agricultural agent with hip-boots,” was the first Marine Extension agent.
Four Paradigms of Agricultural Extension
Announcement of a farmer’s meeting conducted in Philadelphia, Mississippi, on January 24, 1929, by a county agricultural agent.
Any specific extension system can be explained in terms of both the means and the ends of the communication. Paternalistic systems and participative programs are not always effective at educating people, nor are they always compelling. There are instead four possible combinations, each of which stands for a different extension paradigm:
- Technology transfer (persuasive + paternalistic): The “Training and Visit” approach, which was implemented throughout Asia in the 1970s and 1980s, brought back the technology transfer (persuasive + paternalistic) paradigm that was common during colonial times. Top-down strategies are used in technology transfer to give farmers precise advice on the procedures they should implement.
- Advisory work (persuasive + participatory): Under the current paradigm, government agencies or for-profit consulting firms reply to farmers’ questions with technical advice. It can also take the shape of initiatives run by NGOs and donor organizations that promote specified technological bundles through participatory methods.
- Human resource development (educational + paternalistic): The early days of extension in Europe and North America, when universities provided training to rural residents who were too impoverished to attend full-time courses, were dominated by this paradigm. It is still present in the outreach initiatives that institutions worldwide engage in today. Although top-down teaching strategies are used, students are still required to choose how to use their newfound information.
- Facilitating empowerment via education and participation: This paradigm uses techniques like farmer-to-farmer interactions and experiential learning. Through participatory processes, knowledge is learned, and participants are urged to take charge of their learning. Projects utilizing Farmer Field Schools (FFS) or participatory technology development are the most well-known examples in Asia (PTD).
There is substantial debate over whether the term “extension,” as well as its definition, truly includes all four paradigms. Some experts think the phrase should only be applied to persuasion strategies, while others think it should only be applied to educational endeavors. According to Paulo Freire, the words “extension” and “participation” are mutually exclusive. These conflicts have philosophical justifications. But, from a practical standpoint, communication procedures that adhere to each of these four paradigms are currently structured in one part of the world or another under the moniker of extension. All of these activities are thought to be represented by agricultural extension pragmatically, if not ideologically.