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close this bookAgricultural Extension: Guidelines for Extension Workers in Rural Areas (SKAT; 1994; 298 pages)
View the documentPreface
View the documentA few words on this English edition:
View the documentImpressum
View the documentAcknowledgments
View the documentIntroduction to the Guidelines
View the documentCommon Difficulties
Open this folder and view contentsQuestions List
close this folderTheory Chapters
View the documentA Definition of Extension
View the documentB Communication
View the documentC Value Concepts - Value Systems
View the documentD Functions of Extension
View the documentE Animation / Organizational Development
View the documentF Adult Education
View the documentG Transmission of Information
View the documentH Problem Solving Assistance
View the documentI Developing Extension Topics
View the documentJ Extension Approaches
View the documentK Farming Systems Research (FSR)
View the documentL Goal Oriented Project Planning
View the documentM Dialogue in Extension
View the documentN Recommendations for the Writing of Reports

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:

- to advise

means that one person knows and has to communicate his knowledge to someone else.

The advice moves in a single direction and indeed the receiver would do well to accept it.

- to counsel

means that two people or, at most a small group of people meet. The counsellor's role mostly is to help, and a relationship based on confidence is an essential condition.

- to extend

means that an innovation, special information or perhaps a governmental instruction is to be made known among the farmers.

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:
to take counsel/ people meet to discuss something and to find new solutions to problems. Not only one to deliberate person knows best, but all those involved in the discussion contribute their knowledge and experience.

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:

Extension worker



The person being counselled


The person seeking advice

Therapist, doctor

Client, patient




Target person/Target group



Counsellor A

Counsellor B





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


Examples (the list is not exhaustive)

- > is oriented towards an objective

Help towards self-help


Revealing new insights

- > works according to principles

Create mutual trust


Take into account the needs and experience of the farmers (target-group orientation)


Devise solutions jointly (with participation) proceed step by step

- > is based on theories







Development philosophy

- > performs functions

Helps solve problems


Provides adult education and training


Makes means of production available

- > takes various forms

Individual counselling


Extension directed at groups


Extension directed at whole communities/areas

- > chooses methodological approaches




- > uses suitable tools

Posters, flannel-board illustrations


Demonstration objects


Illustrative material


Brochures, technical leaflets


Slides, films, video

- > is practiced within extension approaches

Commodity approach


Technical change approach


Training and visit system


CFSME (French: Conscientisation, Formation,


Stimulation, Moyens, Evaluation)


Recherche - D6veloppement

- > and is different from



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.
(Extract from an OECD brochure)

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

Related Keywords

1.1 The Role of Extension Workers
1.4 The Social Environment
6 Extension Context
D Functions of Extension

Pointers to the GTZ - Manual

Volume 1:

33 Functions, aims and tasks of agricultural extension

Volume 2:

191 C8: International terminology of extension

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