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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

J Extension Approaches

1. Preliminary Remark

When we talk about different approaches to rural extension, some confusion arises because the description and the name of each approach emphasize different aspects: the aim or the topic (technical change approach, CD [Community Development] - approach), or the target group addressed (target group approach), or the procedure used (T + V, Training and Visit).

Whoever lookes closely at these approaches will see that they lack a clear common structure. This lack of structure makes it impossible to compare the different approaches. For this reason we would like to give a number of examples to facilitate discussion on the approaches to rural extension.

2. Definition

No practical extension work can be described by simply listing its aims, principles, structure or methods. It can only be described on the basis of the interaction between its individual elements. Below is a more detailed explanation of what we mean by approach to extension:

An approach to extension consists of a series of procedures for PLANNING, ORGANIZING and MANAGING the extension institution as well as for IMPLEMENTING PRACTICAL EXTENSION WORK. These procedures are adjusted to each other and implemented by staff with technical and methodological qualifications and using the necessary and appropriately-adapted means.

The bold-face printed adjectives in this definition make it clear that there is no such thing as one overall best approach to extension. The best approach for a concrete situation depends on:

- the wider context in which extension is taking place and the value concepts and principles which are common; - the objectives of the extension activity;

- the extension institution with its own value concepts and principles and its form of organization - the target population with their value concepts and principles and their forms of organization;

- the functions and procedures of extension based on the objectives and principles of the extension institution and the target group.

3. Five Elements of an Extension Approach

The above definition describes the extension approach as the interaction of a certain number of elements. Below we shall explain what we mean by each of these elements:

a) The Wider Context Extension takes place in a practical situation, made up of:

- particular characteristics of the population such as culture, religion and the predominating value concepts

- the geographical and climatic conditions

- the economic and political conditions

- the density of the population

- the degree to which the region has been developed.


b) The Objective

Extension contributes to higher objectives, such as the maintenance of health and the increase of agricultural productivity; the establishment and administration of self-help groups (cooperatives, committees etc.); the improvement of management etc. The task of extension is to enable the target group to achieve their aims by themselves.

c) The Extension Institution

People working in an extension institution have their own value concepts, their own working principles. The answers to the following concrete questions vary according to the individual value concepts and principles:

· Are farmers containers we must fill or sources we can tap?
· How important to us is a relationship of trust between extension worker and farmer?

. Do we tend to deal with only the most capable farmers, since it is with them that our efforts are most worthwhile?

The way in which these questions are answered is shown - consciously or unconsciously- in the organizational structure of an extension institution. The existing structures include:

- hierarchic, centrally-controlled institutions;
- hierarchic institutions with regional autonomy;
- autonomous, independent teams;
- individual advisers working on their own responsibility.

d) The Target Group

Extension work involves target groups with different social structures:

- groups of loosely affiliated families
- hierarchically-structured families and clans
- associations of families (traditional villages)
- co-operatives, unions
- business enterprises, firms, governments.

Concealed behind these structures of the target groups lie their value concepts and principles.

e) The Extension Functions and Methods

If the extension service is to achieve its aims, it must assume certain functions. Among these, in particular, are:

- help with solving problems (see Theory Chapter H)
- adult education (see Theory Chapter F)
- transmission of information (see Theory Chapter G)
- animation


An extension institution must also fulfill three other functions, if not already included in those mentioned above:

- clarification of the target population's needs
- developing suitable extension topics and methods
- planning and assessment of extension activity.

When no other organization performs the following duties, the extension institution must also deal with:

- providing production inputs
- marketing produce
- supervising field trials
- improving infrastructure.

These functions are performed in various ways (through individual/group/large scale counselling) and by various methods (e.g. discussions, lectures, demonstrations, visits).

When developing an extension approach it seems to us particularly important that the extension institution's principles, aims, functions, mode of working and form of organization should be consistent. Likewise, the value concepts and principles of the extension institution should not contradict those of the target group.

If we are responsible for an extension service we do not select a ready-made approach to extension, a sort of package deal. Instead, we choose the components which best suit the given conditions and use these to make up our own practical approach. We shall try to describe how the elements of extension work interact with each other and how they are subject to limitations.

4. The Four-Element Model

To start with we are going to leave aside the fifth element, the target group, although no one would dare today to talk about extension approaches without mentioning the target group. However, in most cases it is those responsible for extension, not the target group who decide which approach is to be used. They consider this choice as a part of their planning job. Target group approach simply means that the extension activities are focussed on a specific section of the population but not that the target group participates actively in the development of the extension approach.

Our four-element model looks like this

Agricultural extension always takes place within the social context of the farming population. Advising a Hindu population requires different extension methods than those appropriate for advising a Muslim population. Highland Indians in Ecuador cannot be counselled in the same way as their farming colleagues who are of African origin, even if they live now in neighbouring regions. Likewise, the extension work with nomads in West Africa needs to be different from that used among rice planters in Thailand. The appropriate aims, extension organization and the methods of the extension work will be determined by the wider context and designing an extension programme must take this into account. Here we provide guidelines on how to do this.

The aim, the organizational form and the methods of an extension system are all closely linked together. Non can be chosen whithout that choice affecting the others. One of these three elements is normally given priority (political or economic) and the other two are being adjusted conformingly within certain limits and with varying flexibility.

A particular extension objective is not always served best by the same extension method and organizational form. Also, a particular organizational form will place limits on the aims which can be achieved. Extension planners need to be aware of the linkages between these elements of extension and the limitations which the choice of each element imposes on the others.

The following examples will illustrate these linkages:

Priority Element / Precondition

Other Elements

Objective: promote self-help groups

Method: partnership in decision-making


Org. form: individual extension worker independent team

Objective: improve infrastructure

Method: give orders


Org. form: regional team of extension workers

Org. form: hierachical, centrally-controlled

Objective: transmission of information, adult education


Method: courses, radio broadcasts

Method: Encouraging self-responsibility

Objective: animation


Org. form: individual extension worker with own responsibility

In many cases a specific choice of the subordinate elements is imperative, in others, it is advisable. The above examples indicate general tendencies. Obviously small-scale infrastructure projects can be carried out by partnership in decision-making and by an independent extension team. The logistical demands however, point more in the direction of giving orders and of a clear hierarchical structure.

On the other hand the objective "promotion of self-help groups" is hardly compatible with a hierarchical, centrally controlled organizational form. This means quite simply that rigidly-planned programmes hinder the promotion of self-responsibility among the target population, rather than help.

So every extension approach is a structure in which the elements occur in different forms and different positions of priority. Any two extension approaches can be similar but never identical. And indeed, we feel it would be dangerous to transfer even the best-proven extension approach from one project to another without careful consideration.

5. The Five-Element Model

So far, to keep things simple, we have not included the target groups in our descriptions of extension approaches. However, it is clear that the structure and the degree of self-responsibility of the target group also determine the approach adopted.

The extension approach which is developed will vary according to the answers we give to the following questions in practical extension work

- Who takes the initiative (is advice to be supplied or is it demanded)?
- Who sets the objective?
- Who decides the methods to be used?
- At what stage does the target group first have a say in the decisions taken?
- Who does what?
- Who is responsible for what?
- Who assesses the extension/advisory activity?


As before, the mutual dependence between objective, organizational form and method plays a part in determining the approach. But now each of these elements is also under the influence of the target group. The extent of this influence depends, in turn, on the principles which the extension service holds and on the weight which the target group "pulls" in the debate.

Below we describe three well-known extension approaches with the help of this diagram and the seven questions listed above.

a) T + V (Training and Visit)

The T + V approach was developed in Asiatic rice-planting regions. Its main objective is to increase agricultural productivity by providing information at regular intervals and by providing inputs such as seeds, fertilizers and herbicides. The extension workers are trained (Training) in two-day sessions, usually every 14 days. They then visit groups of farmers, meeting at the farm of a contact family (Visit). This approach is mainly used in government extension systems.


1 The extension organization analyses the situation and selects a target group.
2 The extension organization decides the objective of the extension work.
3 The extension organization chooses the method it considers most suitable.
4 Then the package of measures is carried out for (and with) the target population.
5 Finally the extension organization measures the success of its efforts.

b) Community Development/Animation Rurale (French) Governmental or private extension organizations send animators to villages after agreement with the village authorities. Their job is to work with those locally responsible and the villagers to jointly identify and analyse any questions or problems facing the Community and help to find a solution. In all of this the ability of the village community to solve its own problems must be the main consideration. The village animator can also contribute by finding outside support for community efforts.


1 The extension service and the target group get in contact.
2 They discuss the objective together.
3 They agree on the most suitable method.
4 The two partners agree on who does what.
5 The partners jointly assess the results of their activities.

c) Advising Business Enterprises/Governments

In this form of advisory activity the initiative is taken by independent customers. They hire a consulting service for a clearly-defined set of duties.


1 The group to be counselled takes the initiative.This target group decides on the objective.

2 The "target group" then looks for an consulting service that will help to achieve this objective.

3 The "target group" accepts advice on the most suitable method to achieve its objectives.

4 The two partners agree on who will do what.

5 The "target group" assesses the success of the action and the efficiency of the consulting service.

In which categories can we place now the usual extension approaches? The diagrammatic model helps us to analyse each approach within the same framework and thus to identify the differences between them.

6. Comparison of Two Extension Approaches

For those who might find the above model too theoretical, here we will give another way of comparing extension approaches - in this case the technical change approach and the community development approach. A number of their activities and the characteristics of the extension work are compared with each other. However, this classification is useful only when a team of extension workers discuss the questions in co-operation with the target population or an evaluator. This will show how much the views of the various participants coincide and just how different the ideal is from the reality. When differences are highlighted, the necessary and possible ways of reaching the objective can be better discussed.

Aspects of Extension

Technical change approach

Community Development (CD) approach

Phases in Extension Work


Who determines the target group?

government, regional, development offices, extension service

regional/district governments

Who analyzes the situation?

leading agricultural specialists

individual and group representatives from the village population together with animators

Who defines the aim?

government, development offices

government and village population

Who sets the priorities?


Who seeks solutions and selects them?

research stations, specialists, ministries

village population tests the innovations developed by themselves or from outside

Who implements the solutions and

individual farms


adapts them?


Who assesses the results of the action?

farmers and specialists, each from their own standpoint

village population, animators' um brella organization of CD - workers, government

Extensionworker/ Target Population Relationship


What are the extension worker's duties?

provision of information, technical supervision, reporting back to centre

animation, help with problem solving, setting up contacts with other institutions

Which extension methods are commonly used?

Information meetings, demonstrations, campaigns

meetings, group counselling

Who provides the extension workers with on-the-job training?

extension institution

umbrella org. of CD workers

What are the subjects of extension worker's on-the-job training?

production technology

social, psychological issues

What methodologies are extension workers trained in?

demonstration techniques, chairing of meetings

animation methods, knowledge of group dynamics

What is the extension worker farmer relationship?

extension worker is superior

approaching equality, each contributing within his/her own role and ability


teacher - pupil


expert - novice




What are the characteristics of the extension organization?

hierarchically-structured with a clear flow of Information

independent, decentralized animators united in umbrella organization, loosely-woven hierarchy

What is the management style?

directing, authoritarian

more or less with equal rights, self reliant to eccentric

Who is able to take decisions?

largely limited to the superiors and planners

delegated to the lower ranks as far as possible

How is the target group organized?

individually defined according to the production units

in its traditional structures

To what extent do the target groups depend on the extension institution?

limited to specialist areas where dependence is very marked

population decides on its degree of dependence

7. Final Remarks

- It is particularly important that the extension approach does not include contradictions. If partnership is a stated principle of the extension work methods, the organization and management of the extension service must also work on this principle.

- An extension approach is not a priori good or bad, at most it is more or less suited to a given situation.

- The fact that an extension approach looks good on paper is no guarantee of its success in practice. Extension is an encounter between people. The credibility of what the extension workers have to say lies largely in whether they themselves practice what they preach.


Haverkort, B., Roling, N.; 1984: Six Approaches to Rural Extension. IAC, Wageningen.

Written and compiled by:

Ernst Bolliger, Peter Reinhard, Tonino Zellweger

Related Keywords

Pointers to the GTZ - Manual

1.1 The Role of Extension Workers

Volume 1:

1.4 The Social Environment

21 Importance and role of agricultural extension in developing countries

2.1 The Planning Team


2.5 Organization of the Extension Service

41 Approach to extension

6.6 Other Extension Services

Volume 2:

A Definition of Extension

15 A1- A10: Case studies of extension approaches

D Functions of Extension

75 B1- B6: Selected project descriptions

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