I Developing Extension Topics
1. How is an Extension Tonic Created? Where Does it Come From?
We use the term "extension topic" to describe "ready-for-use" innovations - new tools and equipment, new cultivation procedures, new forms for the division of labour, new varieties of plants, new storage methods, but also alternatives to existing practice which are already known.
How do such innovations come about? Who participates in their development?
Certainly not all innovations result from a process of formal research. In general, we find that innovations can be:
· the result of chance trial and error on the part of a skillful farmer
· the result of what originally seemed a crazy idea
· old and well-tried methods that have been rediscovered . procedures that have been used elsewhere for years
· the reply to systematic problem-solving procedures
· the result of lengthy research.
Creativity plays a role in the creation of innovations. No-one can guarantee that an extension topic will be adopted by farmers, but if it is developed methodically it will have more likelihood of being accepted and implemented.
What role, therefore, does extension or an extension service play in the development of innovations? The diagram below helps to illustrate this:
In the areas marked a) to e) in this diagram extension has specific tasks:
a) Core of Extension Work:
· promote the systematic search for solutions;
b) Extension related to Research:
· Develop extension topics as part of the extension programme (possibly in co-operation with researchers).
c) Integration into Research Programmes:
· collaborate in FSR (Farming Systems Research) programmes;
d) On-Farm Trials in Basic Research Programmes:
· Co-operate in the management of field trials.
e) Exchanges with Research Institutes:
· Provide feed-back from farming families including their own demands for appropriate innovation.
We shall limit our discussion here to b) Extension related to Research, and so will quote from Chambers and Ghildyal's "Agricultural Research for Resource-poor Farmers" (1985):
"Technologies, whether biological or physical, bear the imprint of the conditions in which they are generated..." and "Chance for adoption by resource-poor farmers are more likely if the innovations are generated with the farmers as fully accepted partners and professional colleagues."
2. Recommended Procedure for Developing Extension Tonics
An extension organization should develop extension topics (innovations) itself only when co-operation with other institutions has been exhausted and has failed to produce the expected results.
2.1. Requirements The requirements for developing innovations apply to: the content: the extension topic must be adapted or easily adaptable to suit as many farms as possible; the method: the available potential for generating ideas and innovations must be fully exploited.
2.2. Steps in the Development of Extension Tonics
The following seven steps have proved useful in the development of topics for an extension service:
1) A short investigation in the region to:
- determine the most common types of farms and their main problems;
- identify criteria for the classification of farm types;
- select one (or more) farm types as a test or partner farm (type of farm = e.g. cattle-breeding farm of five hectares in hillside location).
2) Select clearly defined, representative zones of observation with 20) - 50 farms.
3) Contact those concerned:
· Reach agreements with the local authorities;
4) Questionnaires and problem analyses:
· For the form of standard questionnaires you are referred to the relevant literature on empirical social research
· A list of helpful items aimed at understanding a farming enterprise and its environment is given in Theory
Chapter K (Farming Systems Research).
· As an alternative to the more formal enquiry, we add two other methods:
- Trainees co-operate on farms during a cropping period and carry out systematic enquiries;
- Analyses and actions are combined (advantage: the procedure rapidly shows concrete results. Disadvantage: actions without careful analyses generally fail to produce worthwhile results).
5) Share the results of the investigations with the people and jointly discuss the key issues.
6) Create groups with common interests to work on the focal issues. It is essential here to find groups which share a common interest. In creating interest groups those deciding about the innovation as well as those implementing it must be represented (e.g. include both the cattle owner and those who take care of the animals!).
7) Examine the innovations that result from this process to see wether they can be generallv applied and then transmit them to other farming families via the extension system.
2.3. Sources of Tension in the Development of Extension Topics
Two dangers have caused the failure of many extension programmes:
a) Careful and accurate, but expensive and time consuming analysis and review greatly delay practical action.
b) Rapid action without enough prior analysis risks missing the key questions; enthusiasm runs out and there are no visible results.
The art of developing topics for an extension service to deal with, lies in striking a careful balance between action and review. This is well demonstrated in a drawing by U. Scheuermeier from the AD (Approach Development) brochure (see bibliography).
Source of Tension B: Interest Groups < - > Individual families
Whether the development of extension topics is done by interest groups or by individual families depends largely on the cultural background. Certain problems demand an approach involving several farms (e.g. anti-erosion measures, changes to the traditional grazing rights etc.).
Source of Tension C: Single innovations < - > Series Or measures
Certain specific innovations make sense only as a package of measures. However, a series of measures is often more than the extension service and the population can manage.
Example: A coastal fishing co-operative could expand its fishing grounds if it used one big fishing boat instead of a lot of little boats. This, on the other hand, requires a wharf, a refrigerating plant for the increased catch, transport and market outlets. In a case like this, not only must the advantages and disadvantages of the larger boat be weighed against each other but also those of all the subsequent processing steps.
Source of Tension D: Individual interest < - > Group interest
Any innovation introduced into a farming system will have an effect on the environment, namely:
· ecological: e.g. the economically-sensible means of fattening pigs in intensive housed feeding programmes results in excessive manure run-off into the surrounding lakes and rivers.
· economic: e.g. Common (co-operative) marketing of products and purchase of production inputs will narrow the merchants" profits.
· socio-cultural: e.g. erosion-control measures often include grazing restrictions affecting traditional grazing rights.
· political: e.g. self-sufficiency and cash (export) crops compete for land both at farm and at regional/national level.
Extension must also examine the claims of the population and assess their effects on the environment. Individual interests must be weighed against group interests, and short-term interests must be weighed against long-term ones.
2.4. Useful Tools
2.4.1. Working Hypothesis
Extension workers and farmers together develop a precise description of the problem and try to discover its cause. After the discussion it is the extension worker's job to set down what has been talked about in the form of a working hypothesis. Here lowering soil fertility is taken as an example:
2. The manure must be ploughed in shortly before planting.
3. To ensure that the necessary amount of manure is available at the right time, the cattle must be kept in stalls.
4. This means that the cattle must be fed and watered in the stalls, at least sometimes.
5. This in turn requires the cultivation of fodder grasses, fodder bushes or fodder trees and the availability of water close to the cattle stalls.
Working hypotheses help to reveal causes, conditions, contradictions and any wrong conclusions; this, in turn, helps to provide a clear-cut basis for the proposed solution and allows others to follow the line of thought.
The working hypothesis and the resulting suggestions for a solution, as well as every single experiment (method and result) must be accurately recorded and assessed. Every innovation gets its own record sheet. Careful and accurate recording is important so that an outsider or a successor is able to follow what has been done to date. Every new collaborator joining the project or the extension team will ask the question, "What has already been tried? And with what success?"
The following table for documentation has proved helpful in project work:
3. Organizational and Institutional Aspects
If extension topics are to be developed carefully, a special, semi-independent department should be set up within the extension organization.
The most important institutional connections of a development department are shown in the diagram .
4. Common Abbreviations and their Meaning
Many research stations, universities and extension organizations have described their methods of developing extension subjects. These procedures go under many different names, with different emphases on particular stages of the work (analysis, development, application/implementation).
Four terms repeatedly turn up in connexion with these methods. They must be considered as parts of those methods where they apply.
The cartoon from the brochure "Approach Development" (U. Scheuermeier) compares the various procedures:
The differing participation of men and women in the development process;
The contact between the research worker/extension worker and the rural population and their environment;
· The expenditure involved in the various procedures.
- > See also literature in theory chapter K: Farming Systems Research
Galliker. U.; 1984: EAT - Elaboration et Adaption de Techniques. LBL, Lindau (CH).
Scheuermeier, U.; 1988: AD - Approach Development. LBL, Lindau (CH).
Written and compiled bv:
Ernst Bolliger, Tonino Zellweger
[Ukrainian] [English] [Russian]