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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

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;
· find and adapt knowledge which is well-known elsewhere;
· help to re-discover old methods;
· use information to stimulate reactions and ideas;
· encourage experimenting and trial and error procedures.

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;
· manage field trials.

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.
· Integrate research results into extension work.

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.
In addition to these requirements there are the four principles of extension (problem-solving approach, focus on target groups, participation of the target groups and step-by-step advancing) which we have already discussed further in the introduction and other theoretical chapters. Applied to the development of extension topics they relate to:


that signifies

problem-solving approach:

- sufficient time must be allowed for discovering the target groups' problems and their causes.

Focus on the target-groups:

- some relation to the local farming systems and structures must exist or be created.

Participation of the target groups:

- all those concerned should participate actively in the generation/adaptation of the extension subject.


- those concerned should be able to understand and assess the results.

Step-by-step advancing:

- each single step must be clear to the farmers and should provide practical results.


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;
· Hold an orientation meeting with the inhabitants

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
Source of Tension A: Action < - > Reflection

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:


The yields of the crops are decreasing (measured as yield per surface under cultivation).


Shortening of the fallow periods is causing over-exploitation and depletion of the soil. More nutrients are withdrawn from the soil than are added by fertilization.

Proposed solution:

The use of manure is an obvious way for this type of farm to solve its problem. (The procedure for assessing and choosing a solution is described in detail under Problem Solving Assistance; Theory Chapter H).

Working Hypothesis:

1. By applying 10o kg of manure per 10o sq.m. of land the yield of beans can be increased by ...%, the yield of corn by ...% and the yield of millet by ...%.

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.

2.4.2. Record-Keepina

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:

General objective:

1) What is to be achieved?

Working hypotheses:

2) Why are we working on this subject?


3) What results do we expect?


4) Is it acceptable for the farming family (investment, risk)?


5) How does it link with other activities?


6) Is the work worthwhile?

Organization and logistics:

7) What is needed?


8) Who does what?


9) How do we record methods and results?

Additional information:

10) What is being done on this topic elsewhere?


11) Exchange of ideas (collection of ideas)

Practical action:

12) Recommendations (with reasons)


13) Rejected ideas (with reasons)

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).
The following list contains the most frequently-used abbreviations and names of the various procedures:


Approach Development


Erarbeitung Angepasster Technilcen


Farmer back to Farmer Modell


Farmers First and Last


Farmer Groups for Technology Development


Farming Systems Development


Farming Systems Research


Farmer Participatory Research


Groupe de Recherche et d'Appui a I'Autopromotion Paysanne


People Centered Agricultural Improvement


Participatory Technology Development




Transfer of Technology

Four terms repeatedly turn up in connexion with these methods. They must be considered as parts of those methods where they apply.


Agroecological Analysis


Farmig Systems Analysis


On Farm Research


Rapid Rural Appraisal

The cartoon from the brochure "Approach Development" (U. Scheuermeier) compares the various procedures:

FIGURE It seems to us that three different aspects are clearly shown in this cartoon

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

Related Keywords

Pointers to the GTZ - Manual

2.2 Situation Analysis

Volume 1:

3 Extension Subject Matter

157 Situation analysis

6.5 Research

Volume 2:

6.6 Other Extension Services

195 D1: Problem-solving method (Botswana)

K FSR (Farming Systems Research)

357 F6: Checklist for evaluating innovations

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