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Background

Several extension approaches, designed primarily to improve the living standard of rural people through increased agricultural production and improved farm income, have been tried. During the last five decades, varying perspectives of agricultural extension have emerged. They include:

The Village Cooperative Movement

This movement started in the early 50's under the aegis of the Cooperative Department. It proposes that all farmers in every village be united under the umbrella of the village cooperative societies, choose their own management committees and find the means of their development on a cooperative basis. The primary thrust of this movement is to educate member farmers about new technologies and to arrange farm-input delivery on soft-term credit. However, the experience suggests that the cooperative movement has not been able to achieve a consistent success. Some places where local leadership and cooperative department staff have been sincere and effective, it has achieved good results. It has proven a good source of farm input supply and technology transfer to the small farmers at village level.

The Village Agricultural and Industrial Development Program (Village-AID)

The Village-AID program began in Pakistan in 1952, a little after independence, with substantial help from USAID and Ford Foundation. This program sought to bring about all-round development of the villages through organizing village councils, building roads, digging wells, constructing schools, and disseminating improved agricultural technology. This program achieved a good deal of success in the beginning but became a victim of departmental jealousy and political change in the country. With the abolition of the Village-AID Program in 1961, rural development became a part of the Basic Democracies System (BDS).

The Basic Democracies System (BDS)

Phased in 1959, this system was designed to bring together both the elements of community development and political development especially at the local level. The government administrative and development tiers were organized into five levels where the union council, a group of 3-5 villages, was the lowest tier. The councils undertook a variety of social and economic development work in their respective areas. The problems union councils tried to solve were in the realm of education, infrastructure, agriculture, and sanitation. The BDS went a long way in developing awareness and building local leadership among the rural masses. The BDS also met the same fate as its predecessor program. The change in the government in 1970 saw the abolition of the BDS and introduction of a new rural development approach, the 'Integrated Rural Development Program' (IRDP).

Integrated Rural Development Program (IRDP)

In early 1970, once again due to the change of political scenario and the problems with the previous development strategies, the government decided to try a new development approach, the IRDP. Development of agriculture was the central force behind this program. Moreover, the IRDP was created as a subsidiary of the Agriculture Department, its leadership was heavily drawn from the agriculture department, and all frontline workers recruited to run this program were agricultural graduates. On the other hand, Local Government Department controlled rural development funds. This dichotomy in modus operandi not only resulted ample tension between the two agencies but also created frustration among the workers of this newly launched program. The IRDP staff started a campaign to enhance agricultural productivity by using their professional skills, which had a tremendous impact on crop yields. Its one of the principle functions was to integrate the functioning of various line departments and facilitate farm service delivery to the farmers at one point. This coordinating role could not be accomplished successfully for hard departmental boundaries. Subsequently, in 1978, the IRDP was subsumed into the Local Government Department and turned into a routine bureaucratic agency.

Training and Visit (T&V) System

Under T&V system of agricultural extension, the functions of transfer of technology were clearly delineated and separated from supply functions such as provision of inputs. Technology transfer was kept with agriculture extension in public sector and the functions pertaining to supply of inputs and services were handed over to private sector or commercial corporations. The T&V system could not continue as per program after the completion of the project in 1994-95, as the provincial governments did not provide the promised operational budget. The ratio of the salary and operational budget was reduced from 57:43 in 1993-94 to 93:7 in 2001-2002. Thus the agriculture extension service established under the T&V system has gradually weakened. There was no proper facilities for regular backup training to the staff, funds for traveling and daily allowances were drastically reduced thereby limiting the mobility of staff, adaptive research farms discontinued and the morale of extension staff was affected. This situation caused complaints from farmers against extension service and instead of addressing the debilitating causes, the Government put a further squeeze on the service.

The vacant positions of agriculture officers that come to several hundreds were never filled. Despite all such odds, the extension staff kept on maintaining limited contacts with farmers, organized field days and field seminars. In some areas like train the trainer’s program and media extension, the private sector support such as pesticides companies were sought to keep the extension service in operation. Because of certain compelling forces, at some places particularly cotton and rice belts of Punjab province, extension was organized differently. Both the commodities have export-led potential. The growers became very receptive of the improved production and protection practices. The traditional role of extension staff from person-to-person contact transformed to electronic means and print media. The growers were encouraged to visit commodity research institutes and acquire state-of-the-art knowledge and seeds of new varieties.

The training of extension staff was organized on regular basis employing modern training techniques. The monitoring and evaluation of the field staff by district and provincial extension managers was developed on mechanical and quantitative patterns. Use of fax machine helped sub-district and district extension officers to promptly feed the provincial government with the latest information about availability of seed, fertilizer, irrigation water, machinery, and other inputs besides crop stand, prevalence of any insect, pest, or disease, the anticipated yield production levels and marketing of the farmer produce.