Environmental Economics & Policies; Agricultural Research; Health Monitoring & Evaluation; Enterprise Development & Reform; ICT Policy and Strategies; Decentralization; Agricultural Knowledge and Information Systems
Summary: 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. The authors 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: a) The magnitude of the task. b) Dependence on wider policy and other agency functions. c) Problems in identifying the cause and effect needed to enable accountability and to get political support and funding. d) Liability for public service functions beyond the transfer of agricultural knowledge and information. e) Fiscal sustainability. f) Inadequate interaction with knowledge generators. The authors show how various extension approaches were developed in attempts to overcome the challenges of extension: 1) Improving extension management. 2) Decentralizing. 3) Focusing on single commodities. 4) Providing free-for-service public extension services. 5) Establishing institutional pluralism. 6) Empowering people by using participatory approaches. 7) 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.
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