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Frequently Asked Questions [General]

What is Extension? Top

The term extension was first used to describe adult education programs in England during the second half of the 19th century (starting in 1867); these programs helped extend the work of universities beyond the campus and into neighboring communities. In the early 20th century, when this extension function was transferred to the Ministry of Agriculture, these activities were renamed as advisory services. The term “extension” was adopted in the United States during the late 19th century and integrated into the Land Grant Universities as a central function of these institutions, and there non-formal educational services continue to the present. Also, as outlined in the Wikipedia website on agricultural extension, a number of other terms are used in different parts of the world to describe the same or a similar concept:

  • Dutch: Voorlichting (“lighting the path”)
  • German: Beratung (“advisory work”)
  • French: Vulgarisation (“simplification”)
  • Spanish: Capacitación (“improving skills”)
  • Thai, Lao: Song-Suem (“to promote”)
  • Persian: Tarvij & Gostaresh (“to promote and to extend”)
 
   
What is Agricultural Extension? Top
Agricultural extension was once known as the application of scientific research, knowledge, and technologies to improve agricultural practices through farmer education. The field of extension now encompasses a wider range of communication and learning theories and activities (organized for the benefit of rural people) by professionals from different disciplines.   
   
What is Training and Visit (T&V) Extension  Top
Training and Visit extension is based on classical management principles, including (1) extension agents should have primary responsibility for carrying out extension functions, (2) extension should be closely linked with research, (3) training should be carried out on a regular and continuous timetable, (4) work should be time-bound, and (5) a field and farmer orientation should be maintained. This technology-driven approach was initially successful during the late 1970s and 1980s in disseminating the production management practices associated with Green Revolution wheat and rice varieties. However, in rainfed and other production areas where these new technologies were not appropriate, the T&V approach had limited success. The primary reason was that extension agents did not have economically useful messages to disseminate to these farmers; also these agents were not trained how to assess the needs of farmers and then look for alternative technologies or production systems that might better address their needs.   
   
What do you mean by Advisory Services?   
Top
Advisory service(s) is commonly used as an alternate term for extension services. These systems involve a broad spectrum of market and non-market entities, and agents are expected to provide useful technical information about new technologies that can improve the income and welfare of farmers and other rural people. Apart from their conventional function of providing knowledge and technology to improve agricultural productivity, agricultural advisory services are also expected to fulfill a variety of new functions, such as linking smallholder farmers to high-value and export markets, promoting environmentally sustainable production techniques, and coping with the effects of HIV/AIDS and other health challenges that affect rural people.  
   
What are Agricultural Innovation Systems (AISs)? Top
An innovation system can be defined as a network of organizations, enterprises, and individuals focused on bringing new products, processes, and forms of organization into economic use, together with the institutions and policies that affect their behavior and performance. The agricultural innovation systems concept embraces not only the suppliers of new technologies but is also concerned with the role and interaction of different actors within agricultural innovation systems, especially in connecting with new and emerging markets for different types of high-value crops and products. Increasingly important players within AISs at the local level are innovative farmers who successfully determine, through trial and error, which crops/products, as well as the necessary technologies, are most profitable in supplying different and emerging markets.   
   
What are Agricultural Technologies? Top
Until recently, agricultural technologies have largely been created and disseminated by public research institutions. However, during the past 50 years, the private sector has played an increasingly important role in producing and selling proprietary technologies in the form of production inputs, such as hybrid seed, pesticides, and mechanical technologies. Over the past two decades, biotechnologies have developed rapidly, especially as the agricultural economy has become more globalized and liberalized. This development has boosted private investment in agricultural research and the transfer of these technologies, which is expanding the influence of national and multinational corporations in supplying new technologies, especially to commercial farmers. At the same time, the public sector still has an important role to play in providing oversight of these new technologies; conducting research to fill the important technology gaps not being addressed by private-sector firms, especially for small and marginal farmers; and in continuing to develop and transfer sustainable natural resources practices to all types of farmers.   
   
How can you dfferentiate between Biofuels and Fossil fuels? Top
Biofuels can be broadly defined as solid, liquid, or gas fuels consisting of, or derived from, recently dead biological material, most commonly plants. This definition distinguishes it from fossil fuel, which is derived from long-dead biological material. Biofuels can be produced from any (biological) carbon source. The most common source is photosynthetic plants that capture solar energy. The biofuel industry is expanding in Europe, Latin America, Asia and, especially, in North America. The most common use for biofuels is automotive transport, particularly in the Americas and Europe. This expansion has led to deforestation and, more recently, to food shortages that created the 2007–2008 world food price crisis‎.   
   
What are Commodity-Based Advisory Services? Top
Commodity-based advisory services are similar to value-chain extension systems (defined later in this glossary), in which an economically important crop or product, generally for export (e.g., cotton, coffee, other high-value crops or products), requires that producers use specified genetic materials or varieties and follow strict quality-control standards in producing and harvesting the crop or product.   
   
What is Diffusion of Innovation? Top
Diffusion of innovation is the process by which new ideas and technologies spread through different farming systems, countries, and cultures. Everett Roger’s innovation theory (2003) states that innovation diffusion is a process that occurs over time through five stages: knowledge, persuasion, decision, implementation, and confirmation. Accordingly, the innovation–decision process is the process through which an individual or other decision-making unit passes through the stages of (1) having awareness and knowledge of an innovation, (2) forming an attitude toward the innovation, (3) making a decision to adopt (or reject) the innovation, (4) implementing the new innovation, and (5) confirming the decision.  
   
What is Extension Education? Top
During the past century, extension education developed into a discipline or field of study with its own philosophy, objectives, methods, and techniques that should be understood and used by most extension workers if they are to be effective in serving the needs of all farmers, especially small-scale and women farmers. The basic principles, methods, and techniques of extension education are applicable to all fields within agricultural and rural development, including crop, livestock, fisheries, and other rural enterprises, as well as rural youth programs and home economics/science, including family health, hygiene, and nutrition. Extension education primarily focuses on the teaching-learning methods needed to train and to provide small-scale and women farmers with the necessary skills, knowledge and information they will need to increase their farm income and, thereby, improve the livelihoods of these rural families.  
   
What are Farmer-Based Organizations (FBO)? Top
Organizing farmers into groups—generally known as farmer-based organizations (FBOs), but including all types of farmer organizations, such as farmer cooperatives (FCs), farmer interest groups (FIGs), producer groups (PGs), farmer associations (FAs) and/or self-help groups (SHGs)—has the potential to strengthen the bargaining power of farmers in the marketplace (both for input supply and in supplying markets). In addition, getting farmers organized into groups can increase the efficiency and effectiveness in supplying needed extension and advisory service to all types of farmers. Specifically, group formation can facilitate the dissemination of agricultural technologies, help transform farming systems among different farm households, and encouraging farmers to use environmentally friendly farming practices. Also, FBOs can influence government policies that may also help to increase farm income and, thereby, improve rural livelihoods.   
   
Define Farmer Field Schools (FFS)? Top
Farmer Field Schools consist of groups of people with a common interest who get together on a regular basis to study the “how and why” of a particular topic, such as integrated pest management (IPM). Farmer Field Schools are comparable to programs such as study circles or specialized human resource development (HRD) programs. Farmer Field Schools are particularly adapted to “field study,” where specific hands-on management skills and conceptual understanding is required. Originally, the FFS methodology was developed by the FAO to transfer IPM technologies to farmers in Indonesia. More recently, these schools are being used to both promote the development of farmer organizations (social capital) and to pursue new technologies or enterprises (HRD) that will increase farm incomes.   
   
What are High-Value Crops (HVCs)? Top
High-value crops such as fruits and vegetables are receiving considerably more attention in helping to close the income and nutrition gap in the process of achieving both household and national food security. For example, several Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) centers work on various high-value crop species, as well as more efficient livestock production systems. Most HVCs can be grown on small farms and require more labor, both in production and post-harvest processing; therefore, the potential net income from these HVCs is generally higher than from staple food crops (see discussion of staple food crops later in this glossary). However, to begin producing HVCs, most small-scale and women farmers will need suitable agro-ecological growing conditions and access to reliable markets for these products. Equally important, interested farmers will need training about the necessary technical, management, and marketing skills if they are to successfully produce and market these crops.   
   
Define Human Resource Development (HRD)? Top
Human resource development is a term commonly used in formal organizations and is generally associated with improving the skills and knowledge of employees so that they can become more effective on the job and can advance within the organization.   
   
Define Information and Communications Technology (ICT)? Top
Information and Communications Technology is an umbrella term that includes all types of technologies for the communication of information. It encompasses any medium to record and broadcast information, as well as technologies for communicating information through voice, sound, and/or images. Information technology (IT) has become a hub for communicating information, most often using computers.   
   
Distinguish between Innovation and Innovation System? Top
Innovation can be defined as a new way of doing something, ranging from changes in the way we think to the way we produce new products or use new processes or procedures. It also includes institutional innovations that change the way an organization carries out new or different functions. For example, shifting toward a bottom-up, rather than a top-down extension system; or moving toward a more market-driven, rather than a technology-driven, extension system. Also, in a rapidly changing economy, innovative farmers are frequently the source of production technologies for market-driven innovations involving different high-value crops/products. Because innovation is a major driver to economic change, it is important to consider all factors that make life better for people, such as increasing the value of products for the producer and/or consumer of new or different products. An innovation system generally involves the flow of technology, information, inputs and products among people, enterprises, and institutions. However, it also involves interaction among actors who can turn an idea or technology into a new process, product, or service that is desired or needed within accessible markets.  
   
Define Input Supply Advisory Services? Top
Input supply advisory services are one-on-one advisory services provided by private-sector input supply firms (and input-supply cooperatives) to farmers who purchase production inputs from these firms. This is the dominant model in most industrially developed countries because it has become a “win–win” arrangement. Farmers get sound technical advice from certified crop advisors, and the input supply firms are able to recover the cost of advisory services through profits generated from the sale of inputs, especially to commercial farmers.   
   
What is In-Service Training? Top
In-service training of agricultural extension workers has received little or no attention from either governments or donors in recent years. Because most agricultural extension systems continue to be highly resource constrained because of declining budget allocations, there are few, if any, resources available to train current extension staff in up-to-date agricultural technologies or farming systems, especially for high-value crops and products or in using more participatory extension methods. One immediate opportunity to help transform most agricultural extension systems would be substantial investments in human resource development (HRD) for extension field staff. Also, faculty and staff of schools of agriculture and agricultural universities will need to be transformed and updated.  
   
What is Integrated Rural Development (IRD)? Top
According to Nemes (2005), integrated rural development is “an ongoing process involving outside intervention and local aspirations; aiming to attain the betterment of groups of people living in rural areas and to sustain and improve rural values; through the redistribution of central resources, reducing comparative disadvantages for competition and finding new ways to reinforce and utilize rural resources”.  
   
What is Market-Driven Extension (MDE)? Top
Market-driven extension is a relatively new concept in which the focus of a technology transfer-driven agricultural extension system shifts 180 degrees—or from “research” to the “market,” especially for high-value crops, livestock, fisheries, or other products. This change in focus is consistent with the concept of a market-driven agricultural innovation system (AIS), because market opportunities and access depend in part on the location of each farm (or groups of farmers), farm size (to produce specific products), and many other factors, such as agro-ecological conditions, transportation infrastructure, available labor, and, possibly, access to other production resources, such as irrigation, greenhouses, etc. Therefore, the decision by groups of farmers to supply specific markets with different high-value crops or products will depend in large part on the relative size of accessible markets for particular products and the strategic advantage of producer groups to supply these markets with high-value crops or products. 
 
   
What is Natural Resource Management (NRM)? Top
Natural resource management can be defined as the responsible and broad-based management of the land, water, forest, and biological resources base—including genes—necessary to sustain agricultural productivity and avert degradation of potential productivity. Most donor agencies encourage the sustainable use of natural resources, from the community level to projects at national and international levels. Accordingly, the key issues and/or institutional dimensions of natural resource management include the following sectors: (1) forests and forestry, (2) land resources management (including drylands management and combating desertification), (3) water resources management (including irrigation and drainage), and (4) biodiversity.   
   
What is rhe  role of Nongovernmental Organizations (NGOs) in Rural Development? Top
Nongovernmental organizations are legally constituted organizations created by private individuals or organizations with no participation or representation by any government agency. NGOs can be categorized into two types: operational and advocacy. The primary purpose of an operational NGO is to design and implement development-related projects. Operational NGOs can be community-based, national, or international. The primary purpose of an advocacy NGO is to defend or promote a specific cause. These advocacy organizations typically try to raise awareness, acceptance, and knowledge by lobbying and organizing activist events.  
   
What is Participatory Extension? Top
The participatory extension paradigm is essentially a combination of technology transfer, advisory services, and human resources development and involves two key elements. The first element addresses how extension systems are organized and emphasizes the fact that all types of farmers, especially small-scale and women farmers, must play an important role in setting extension priorities and shaping extension programs. By so doing, farmers will take more “ownership” over these ongoing extension programs and operations. The second key element of the participatory extension approach generally encompasses more participatory extension methods, such as experiential learning and farmer-to-farmer exchanges. It emphasizes that knowledge is gained through interactive processes that include extension field staff, private-sector firms, NGOs, and/or innovative and progressive farmers within local or nearby communities. Participants are expected to make their own decisions, especially about how they will intensify and/or diversify their farming systems.  
   
What is Participatory Farm Management (PRM)? Top
The participatory farm management approach uses simple methods to enable small-scale farmers, working on their own or with a facilitator, to quantify and analyze their use of farm or household resources in order to assess the potential impact of different decisions on farm income. The methods can be used to assess the resource implications of modifying the current farming system by diversifying into one or more new enterprises and comparing the impact of these potential new enterprises, in comparison with current enterprises, on both farm resources and incomes.  
   
Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA)? Top
Participatory rural appraisal is a label given to a family of participatory approaches and methods that emphasize local knowledge and enable local people to make their own appraisal, analysis, and plans. The key tenets of a PRA are participation, teamwork, flexibility, and triangulation to ensure that information is valid and reliable.  
   
What is Pre-Service Training? Top
Pre-service training of agricultural extension workers has been given limited attention and resources in most developing countries since the 1990s. In most countries, field extension workers obtain a two- or three-year diploma from a school of agriculture, which is normally a terminal educational qualification. These diploma-level programs typically teach a cross-section of agricultural courses, including crop and livestock production, plus basic skills in extension methods using the “diffusion of innovations” framework, which primarily focuses on technology transfer to larger, commercial farmers. In most cases, the educational content of both agricultural and extension courses is grossly out of date if these agricultural extension systems are expected to become more decentralized, participatory (farmer-led), and market-driven in improving rural livelihoods. To do so, however, the skills and knowledge of faculty and staff at schools of agriculture and agricultural universities will need to be updated in course content and teaching methods, as well as being provided with up-to-date, relevant teaching materials (see Zinnah, Steele, and Mattocks 1998).   
   
What is Private Advisory Services (PASs)? Top
Under a system of private advisory services, a private-sector firm (or NGO) is contracted by a government, donor, or even a farmer organization to provide different types of advisory services to farmers, but generally using government or donor funding (e.g. the NAADS model in Uganda). This approach uses the same basic tools and approach as public extension, but the management has the capacity to hire and fire employees and to provide incentives based on performance, as well as to allocate adequate program and operating funds. Therefore, the short-term performance of PASs can be efficient and effective. However, this approach appears less sustainable over the long-term, because policy changes (e.g., when a different political party takes over government leadership) may directly affect the availability of government funding. Also, donor funding is generally not long-term, and donor priorities may change, as evidenced by World Bank investments in T&V extension.   
   
What are Staple Food Crops (SFCs)? Top
Staple food crops form the basis of traditional diets. Staple foods vary from place to place but are typically inexpensive starchy foods of vegetable origin that are high in food energy (calories) and carbohydrates and can be stored for use throughout the year. Most staple foods derive either from cereals, such as wheat, maize, or rice, or from starchy root vegetables, such as potatoes, yams, or cassava. Other staple foods include pulses (dried legumes) and fruits, such as breadfruit and plantains. Because staple foods generally do not provide a full range of nutrients, other food or protein crops may be needed to prevent malnutrition, especially among the rural poor.  
   
What is Technology Transfer? Top
Technology transfer is the process of disseminating new technologies and other practical applications that largely result from research and development (R&D) efforts in different fields of agriculture. In general, these technologies include (1) genetic improvement in the form of improved crop varieties/hybrids and livestock breeds; (2) improved production practices, including soil fertility and animal nutrition; (3) improved plant protection and animal health practices; (4) mechanical technologies that will improve labor efficiency and other management practices; and (5) sustainable natural resource management practices, such as drip irrigation, water harvesting, integrated pest management, and so forth—in other words, technologies that all types of agricultural producers will need in order to increase agricultural productivity and farm incomes.  
   
What do you mean by Value Chain? Top
A value chain is an alliance of enterprises that collaborate “vertically” to achieve a more profitable position within a market. Vertically aligned means that both producers and essential companies are connected from one end of the primary production process (e.g., farmer’s fields) through processing and then into the final marketing stages where consumers purchase a finished product. The basic characteristic of a value chain is market-focused collaboration in which different enterprises work together to produce, package, process, and market products and services in an effective and efficient manner. Value chains allow farmers and businesses to work together in responding to market demands by linking production, processing, and marketing activities.