A Definition of Extension
1. The Idea of Extension
We have asked ourselves which expression would best describe the extension worker's activity. To advise and to counsel are the usual terms, but it is from a different term, to extend, that agricultural extension gets its name.
When we take a closer look at these notions we discover the following:
The advice moves in a single direction and indeed the receiver would do well to accept it.
It is clear that farmers will follow instructions only when they would benefit from doing so or when the decision was taken with the farmers themselves. It is now becoming clear that technical changes are most readily accepted when the population has participated in their development. For this kind of extension activity there are other suitable expressions, such as:
2. Whom is an Adviser Dealina with?
Counselling takes place in in many different types of work and for many different purposes. The following list gives a selection of counselling/advising relationships:
Everything we have in general language to describe the advice-seeker or -receiver seems inadequate, inappropriate, a mere patchwork. There is no overall valid term.
If defining the term used for an agricultural adviser (extension worker, counsellor) is a problem, finding a suitable term for the extension worker's partner is even more difficult. Here, we have to use "the person concerned", "the farmer", "the target populations. It is difficult to express the exchange, the spirit of partnership between those advising and those being advised. This is why we use a variety of different expressions.
Even if method and attitude of agricultural extension have changed over time, the term has remained the same. However, it is always helpful, when changing to a new place of employment or going from one language area to another, to discuss the meaning of the term "extension" and other similar terms used.
3 The International Confusion about Extension Terms
If it is difficult to define the idea of extension in one language, the translation of this same idea into other languages is even worse and no satisfactory solution has been found yet.
Let us have a look at the extension terms that are used in other languages.
If we translate these terms into English we end up with a whole variety of activities such as encourage, advise, deliberate, enlighten, illuminate, instruct, direct, propagate, disseminate, integrate, classify or even frame.
This indicates that there are different philosophies behind extension and that it is practiced in very different ways. The term chosen is evidence of this - if people are talking about an extension officer or agent, no one will be surprised to find military behavior. When some of them are extension workers and others experts, it follows that the extension organization is built up in a strictly hierarchic manner. The superiors know how to do things, people below them (including the farmers) must carry out instructions. It is also understandable that counsellors who describe themselves as "illuminators" (Dutch) see their activity differently from those who try to "frame" the population, by setting it within a framework (French - encadrer).
This implies that extension staff working in development co-operation have to redefine supposedly-familiar notions such as "vulgarisation", "animation", "counselling" or "extension" in each country where they are working. In this way misunderstandings in planning and implementing the common task can be avoided.
4. Practical Interpretation of the Notion of Extension
5. Three Attempts to Define Extension
a) (Agricultural) extension should help farmers and rural families to improve their living conditions. The extension worker's job is to impart knowledge in the field of natural science that will help the rural families run their farms more efficiently and thereby improve their living conditions.
b) Extension is the process whereby the extension worker tries to motivate his extension partner and to give him the capability with the help of encouragement and ideas to act to solve his acute problems. The people concerned acquire a better insight into the network of problems and recognize the alternative solutions available. They gain from this both the incentive to embark on problem solving and the direction to take. The relationship between the extension worker and the extension partner that is necessary to achieve this should be reciprocal, the extension worker being committed to the welfare of his opposite number. In this relationship, the freedom of decision making and the personal responsibility of the partner must be preserved in full, because s/he alone must ultimately bear the consequences of his/her actions.
(condensed from the "GTZ - Manual", 1989)
c) Extension means finding ways of making the encounter between the extension worker and the farmer a human experience, during which people learn together to build a future - a future that they themselves will have created by their own efforts and where no ready-made solution will be presented.
(following Paulo Freire) What, therefore, is Extension?
· Giving knowledge
Motivating, enabling, providing insights .Joining in a common task
Each of the three definitions emphasizes an important element of extension. What we should really like to do is pack all three definitions into one since - although Paulo Freire's interpretation of extension as a common task for all those participating in the extension process is the one closest to our own - we acknowledge the significance of all three, including that of imparting knowledge and providing intellectual/spiritual/moral support.
GTZ/BMZ; 1989: Agricultural Extension. TZ- Verlag, Rossdorf.
Hoffmann, V.; 1985: Beratungsbegriff und Beratungsphilosophie; in: Die Qualitat von Beratung fur Verbraucher.
Campus Forschung, Band 462, Frankfurt.
LBL; 1980: Konzopt Beratung in der Landwirtschaft. LBL, Lindau (CH).
Seminar Materials (unpublished); LBL
Written and Compiled by:
Ernst Bolliger, Peter Reinhard, Tonino Zellweger
1.1 The Role of Extension Workers
Pointers to the GTZ - Manual
33 Functions, aims and tasks of agricultural extension
191 C8: International terminology of extension
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