Change to Ukrainian interface versionChange to English interface versionChange to Russian interface versionHome pageClear last query resultsHelp page
Search for specific termsBrowse by subject categoryBrowse alphabetical list of titlesBrowse by organizationBrowse special topic issues

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

D Functions of Extension

One can argue about what an extension service is and what it should do; the story of the six wise men from India is a good example of what may result.


Six wise men from India met an elephant. They carefully felt its body, because they were blind. The first found a tusk and said, "It seems to me that this magnificent specimen of an elephant strongly resembles a spear." The second explored the side of the creature's body and found it high and flat. "Aha!" he cried and concluded, "This animal is like a wall. "The third had discovered a leg and declared, "I know what we are dealing with - this creature is like a been. The fourth got hold of the trunk and said, "This so-called elephant is really only a snake ". The fifth was holding one of the animal's ears, stroking it with his fingers. "I have it!", he exclaimed, "This creature is like a fan!". The sixth came upon the tail and explored it. "Listen to me!" he demanded, "This animal is nothing more than a rope."

Thus, the blind men argued about the shape of the elephant and, although each was right to some extent, they were all wrong.

This story has resulted in the creation of the "extension elephant". No-one will deny that this comparison-like any analogy - has its weak points. However, we do not want to talk about the clumsiness of the elephant but rather, with the help of the drawing, to divide extension work into three clearly defined groups of extension functions.

1. The "Must Functions" (the real extension functions) give the elephant its shape

It stands on its four legs which it uses to perform the outward-oriented functions of:

- Animation (creating awareness/encouragement)
- Adult education
- Transmission of Information
- Problem-solving assistance.

With its head, eyes and ears it prepares for the future: - Developing extension topics and methods.

Its trunk and tail help with giving it direction: - Extension planning

- Evaluation

Within its body it ensures the internal control of:

- Management of extension (i.e. staff management and organization of the extension service)
- Training of extension workers

2. The "Can Functions " (extra extension functions on which the "must functions" depend) are strapped to the elephant as a saddlebag which it carries only when no-one else can perform these duties:

- Obtaining production inputs
- Assistance with storage and marketing
- Supervision of field trials and research
- Providing infrastructure.

3. The extension elephant is often asked to perform other functions (such as pulling trees). These functions interfere with the actual extension work and so are called "interfering functions":

- Policing duties
- Giving credit and collecting repayments
- Collecting statistical data (census, market analyses etc.)

This picture of the individual functions allows us to see the different aspects of extension work. However, several of these functions are often done together in practical, day-to-day extension work.

What is the Practical Meaning of all These Extension Functions?

Real Extension Functions

When performing the real extension functions the extension worker is acting as animator, adult educator, information sharer or problem-solver, as circumstances require.


Encouraging the local people to act on their own initiative and co-operate in developing new forms of organization.

Adult education

Organizing structured forms of training for adults to create awareness and teach them technical subjects.

Transmission of information

Collecting, processing and passing on information from various sources.

Problem-solving assistance

Helping the farmers to recognize and analyze their problems and to find ways of solving them.

Developing extension topics

Elaborate practice-oriented extension themes on the basis of research

and methods

results. Planning easily acceptable methods of extension work.

Planning extension

Deciding the extension objectives with the local people. Setting work plans and organizing how the extension service will operate.

Evaluation of extension

Regularly checking the extension work (monitoring), and from time to time assessing it (evaluation).

Extra Extension Functions

If the extension worker performs extra extension functions, s/he often runs the risk of slipping into the role of manager or implementer.

Providing means of production

The means of production required for achieving the extension objectives must be available to the target groups. Wherever there is no organization or private dealer providing this service, it will (temporarily) become the task of the extension service.

Assistance with storage and marketing

Increasing production makes sense for the farming family only when it can be immediately sold or stored without loss. Support with storage and marketing is particularly useful when it is linked with animation work aimed at encouraging self-help.

Supervision of field trials and research

Practice-oriented research programmes need on-farm trials in a wide range of locations. Research stations often are unable to organize supervision of these trials. An extension organization can help here and take over supervision of the trials in its region.

Providing infrastructure

Where the essential infrastructure for extension work is missing (facilities for adult education, etc.) and where self-help schemes can not provide a solution, the extension service will need to set up the necessary infrastructure.

Interfering Functions

When carrying out interfering functions, the extension worker will be seen by the farmer as a policeman or an administrator.

Control duties

Since public extension services generally have more local level staff than other governmental institutions, control duties are often passed to extension workers (such as controlling the coffee plantations, the hygiene standards of milk producers, the construction of latrines etc.).

Giving credit and recovery of repayments

Helping farmers obtain the necessary documents for applying for credit is part of the problem-solving assistance function of the extension service. However, giving credit and, in particular, collecting debts should be done by other authorities, not the extension system.

Statistical data

Agricultural officials and ministries need statistics for planning their work. Since extension workers have many other tasks to perform they should not be asked to collect these data. Other services or specially-recruited enumerators should take over this function. The extension worker should collect only data and information which are essential for extension work itself.

In different seminars more than one hundred extension workers from Africa, Latin America, Asia and Europe assessed the importance of the following ten extension functions. The frequency of their mention clearly reflects the three groups of extension functions.

Which functions should an extension organization perform?



LBL; 1980: Konzept Beratung in der Landwirtschaft. LBL, Lindau (CH).

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:

2.5 Organization of the Extension Service

33 Functions, aims and tasks of extension

6 Extension Context

101 The role of extension

A Definition of Extension

Volume 2:

Theory chapters E, F, G, H, I, J

75 B1: Agricultural extension (Togo)

to previous section to next section

[Ukrainian]  [English]  [Russian]