Editorial Articles


Volume-52

Agricultural Extension Services

Pankaj Kumar Ojha,
 Priyanka Kumari & Kalyan Ghadei

The main objective of Agriculture Extension Services (AES) is to transmit latest technical know-how to farmers. Besides this, the AES also focuses on enhancing farmers’ knowledge about crop techniques and helping them to increase productivity. This is done through training courses, farm visits, on farm trials, kisan melas, kisan clubs, advisory bulletins and the like.
Agricultural Extension services or agricultural advisory services  aim at implementing and directing the programmes and projects for change in the agricultural sector collaborating with the farmers. Extension services are carried out by extension workers or extension agents. They always play a crucial role in promoting agricultural productivity, enhancing food security, improving rural livelihoods and promoting agriculture as an engine of pro-poor economic growth.
Objectives of Agricultural Extension services
The Objectives of Agricultural Extension services are:
*To transmit the latest technical knowledge to farmers.
*To enhance their knowledge and make the profession more productive.
*To provide feedback from farmers to extension officers / scientists on problems and constraints in agriculture.
*To enhance professional competence of extension functionaries.
*To create healthy competition amongst farmers.
*To strengthen linkage amongst farmers, extension officers and researchers.
*To motivate farmers for overall development.
In the wider sense, extension is an educational process with communication being its core component. Van den Ban and Hawkins (1996) define the term extension as the conscious use of communication of information to help people form sound opinions and make good decisions. As a system, extension facilitates the access of farmers, their organizations and other market actors to knowledge, information and technologies; facilitates their interaction with partners in research, education, agribusiness, and other relevant institutions; and assists them to develop their own technical, organizational and managerial skills and practices (Christoplos, 2010).
In relation to its role in rural livelihoods, agricultural extension encompasses the entire set of organizations that support and facilitate people engaged in agricultural production to solve problems and to obtain information, skills, and technologies to improve their livelihoods and well-being (Birner et al., 2006). Since a livelihood comprises the capabilities, assets and activities required for a means of living, it appears that agricultural extension intends not only to increase productivity and income (Anderson and Feder, 2007; Waddington et al., 2010), but also to improve multifaceted aspects of rural life. Agricultural extension is now a common activity in most countries of the world, and it is a basic element in programmes and projects formulated to bring about change in rural areas. Extension services are similarly a common feature of the administrative structure of rural areas and these services have the responsibility, in partnership with the farmers, of directing programmes and projects for change. An agricultural extension service offers technical advice on agriculture to farmers, and also supplies them with the necessary inputs and services to support their agricultural production. It provides information to farmers and passes to the farmers, new ideas developed by agricultural research stations. Agricultural extension programmes cover a broad area including improved crop varieties, better livestock control, improved water management, and the control of weeds, pests or plant diseases. Where appropriate, agricultural extension may also help to build up local farmers’ groups and organizations so that they can benefit from extension programmes. Agricultural extension, therefore, provides the indispensable elements that farmers need to improve their agricultural productivity.
Global attention came back to agriculture due to the price hike in recent years, resulting partly from long-standing negligence on diffusion of appropriate technology that stagnated production in the face of a rising population. Increasing production is a major challenge facing present agriculture. Smallholder farmers who dominate the landscape of developing world need to improve farming through acquiring adequate knowledge and information. Agricultural extension services provide critical access to the knowledge, information and technology that farmers require to improve the productivity and thus improve the quality of their lives and livelihoods. It is hence crucial to provide farmers with the knowledge and information in a quality and timely way. Although some groundbreaking tools like the tele-centers can serve as major catalysts for information, knowledge and development opportunities, the access for farmers in remote villages is restricted due to the lack of infrastructure (UN, 2005).
It is important to disseminate information about new technologies so that the farmer is able to make use of the latest agricultural developments. There also exists a gap between research findings and the needs of farmers. For technology to be successful, it is important that it should serve a useful purpose to the end user. The institution that bridges the gap between farmers and agricultural research scientists is the Agricultural Extension Service. This service works through an Agricultural Research System in the States.
The National Institute of Agricultural Extension Management is an apex national institute set under the Ministry of Agriculture,Government of India. It assists the State Governments, the Government of India and other public sector organizations in effective management of their agricultural extension and other agricultural management systems.
For strengthening agricultural extension and transfer of technology to farmers, farmers clubs are being formed in most of the village. These clubs consist of innovative farmers, progressive farmers and farmers’ interest groups (FIGs). One innovative farmer of each club acts as the convener or contact person. These farmers work together to ensure the success of group centric farming practices such as organizing a pest control campaign. The State Agricultural Department has also established various centers for the training of extension personnel.
SAMETI is an autonomous State level institution, which is responsible for the project implementation of various line departments as well as the farming community. In short, SAMETI is responsible for:
1.Providing need based consultancy services to Agricultural Technology Management Agencies (ATMA) in fields such as project planning, execution and appraisal.
2.Developing and promoting suitable management tools for human and material resources to increase the effectiveness of agricultural extension services.
3.Arranging training programmes for middle and grass root level agricultural extension staff.
4.Management, communication and participatory methodologies as a sequel to the feedback from training programmes.
5.Conducting studies on problems related to Agriculture Extension Management, agricultural produce marketing, human resource development, communication and information technology.
Scope of Agricultural Extension services
Extension services are the different programmes/projects /recommendations, which the extension service make available to their clientele through the use of extension education process. Agricultural extension service encompasses all aspects of agriculture and rural issues. It includes the provision of timely information, the linking of farmers with sources of farming inputs and credit facilities and most importantly, the provision of education services to farmers. The mistake people have been making was that of limiting agricultural extension services to helping the farmers to procure their planting inputs and other inputs needed on their farms; but people through hard experiences have come to realize the fact that for any agricultural project or programme to succeed, agricultural extensionists must be fully involved, so as to participate in all its activities from planning to execution. Modern agricultural extension work covers a wide spectrum of services, which include; improvement in production, marketing, storage, processing, fish farming, agro-forestry, input supply and distribution, man-power development, home economics/women in agriculture, irrigation, land management, farm mechanization, erosion control, livestock management, human resources/development, administration/management, programme planning and evaluation, youth development programmes etc (Anaeto, 2003). It is important to emphasize here that Extension is a weak instrument when it stands alone, but it becomes powerful when combined with price incentives, input supply, credit, seed multiplication and so forth (Contado, 1979). This becomes an improvement on already known relationship between Research-Extension-Farmer Linkage thus resulting in birth of Research-Extension Farmer-Input Linkages (REFILS). The truth remains that even this linkage has not really improved the outlook of extension service hence Anaeto (2003) mentioned the need for involving extension service in direct input distribution in addition to their educational services.
Role of agricultural extension service
A role may be defined as a set of norms, values and interaction patterns associated with a given category of individuals. It is therefore, the job or function attached to a given status. It can be clarified with the economic concept of division of labour, which states that individuals work in different sectors of the economy. Agricultural extension service could be the government agency or ministry responsible for promoting the adoption and utilization of new scientific farming practices through educational procedures (Uwakah, 1984). Many agricultural extension services could also be found in many non-governmental organizations (NGOs), many private firms and private organizations. Role of extension service therefore include; act as an intermediary or go between or even link between agricultural development institutions such as research institutes, universities, colleges of agriculture and target groups (which may be the farmer, women group, youth etc.), carries out the formulated agricultural extension policies, links the farmer with sources of farming inputs and credit facilities, provide the timely information on new innovations and practices meaningful agricultural development, provides educational services to farmers, and plays active role in the rural community development of any nation. This explains why it remains one of the strategies for rural development throughout the world, assist people to determine their own problems, help them find desirable solutions and encourage them to take action, foster beneficial changes in the outlook of all people, reappraise its work periodically to meet changing conditions and to modify its programs to suit the changing conditions, to provide maximum opportunity for the youth and the family to participate in attaining a better and more rewarding life, to maintain the highest level of proficiency in its workers by exposing them to relevant and continual training, to encourage and aid in the wise use and conservation of all human and natural resources, to promote the use and the development of volunteer leaders and help in the execution of extension programs, to promote efficient agricultural production and the development of institutions to ensure proper handling of the products for welfare of both the producers and consumers, it aids through educational efforts, the diffusion among people of all appropriate research and practical information relating to agriculture, home economics, health and encourage their application and above all, it promotes the social and economic life of all people (Adams, 1982).
Agricultural extension services can potentially be provided by three main sources, these are the public sector, the private non-profit sector and the private for-profit sector. The public sector includes ministries and departments of agriculture and agricultural research centres. The private non-profit sector includes local and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs), foundations, community boards and associations, bilateral and multilateral aid projects and other non-commercial associations. The private for-profit sector consists of commercial production and marketing firms (such as input manufacturers and distributors), commercial farmers or farmer group- operated enterprises where farmers are users and providers of agricultural information, agro-marketing and processing firms, trade associations and private consulting media companies. So, the agricultural extension services mainly concentrated on to strengthen the agricultural system by empowering farmers in terms of health, education, livelihood and income.
Pankaj Kumar Ojha and  Priyanka Kumari are Doctoral Research Scholars, Department of Extension Education, Rajendra Agricultural University, PUSA, Samastipur. e-mail : pankajojhabhu@gmail.com
Kalyan Ghadei is Assistant Professor, Department of Extension Education, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi, U.P. (India).

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