12.3 Extension methods (2023)

12. extension

12.3 Extension methods

Choice of method

There are several methods for extension work:

  • The individual/household approach

  • The group approach: meetings, field days, demonstrations, support to groups

  • The school approach

  • Mass extension methods.

None of these methods can be singled out as being the best one; all of them have their advantages and disadvantages. The choice of method depends on various factors such as:

  • The tenure system in the area

  • Community organization

  • Resources available for extension.

A combination of extension methods is more effective than just one method. In an area where tenure is communal, or land management is based on communal efforts, a group approach is likely to be more effective than an individual approach. Meetings, field days and approaches to schools may also be good options. Usually decisions have to be made communally, and the best entry point may be through established decision-making systems, e.g. community meetings. Knowledge of traditional systems for making decisions is essential, particularly in pastoral areas where such systems are often still of great importance.

Even if the tenure is individual, communal management practices often exist. An obvious example is post-harvest grazing. Changes in behaviour in this respect may be very desirable since uncontrolled post-harvest grazing is a constraint to tree growing and soil conservation, and a change in this practice can best be achieved if the whole community is addressed. It may be difficult for an individual to introduce restrictions in this situation since the neighbours expect grazing to be free for all.

In communities where group work is common, and groups have already been organized for various tasks, a group approach may also be more feasible than an individual approach.

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12.3 Extension methods (1)

Figure 12.4 Local leaders play a vital role In the spread of extension activities

If an organization carrying out extension is rich in resources, a more costly approach can be chosen than if the organization is resource poor. It is, however, just as important for a resource-rich organization to carefully consider which method is best for the area, and how the extension work should be organized in order to prevent waste of resources. Cost-effectiveness should always be borne in mind, and past experience indicates, for example, that issuing free seedlings is rarely a sustainable approach since it creates dependency and discourages private commercial initiatives in tree-seedling production. An excessive level of material support generally creates dependence, and often proves to be counter productive in the long run.

The individual/household approach

This approach is most effective for activities to be undertaken by or within the full control of the individual farmer or household. Matters related to the individual farm should, as much as possible, be discussed with the whole family. If the whole family is involved, more problems are highlighted and more experience is brought to the discussion.

Advantages of the individual methods are:

  • Unclear messages that have not been fully understood can easily be clarified

  • The extension officer is able to secure co-operation and inspire the confidence of the family through personal contact

  • It facilitates immediate feedback on the effectiveness of the measures discussed

  • It may be the best way to ensure that everyone in the family participates in decision making.

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Figure 12.5 The individual approach

Disadvantages of the individual method:

  • It is expensive in terms of time and transport

  • Only a few farmers may be visited, and sometimes they may be mainly the extension worker's friends

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  • The area covered is small since all the effort is concentrated on a few farmers.

The group approach

The group approach involves working with groups or the community at large. It is suitable when discussing matters related to the whole community (e.g. post-harvest grazing, protection and management of indigenous forests), and when there are activities to be undertaken by a group, e.g. group nurseries. It is also suitable when there is a need to address individual matters but more cheaply than can be done with the individual approach. The direct target group may be a women's group, a church organization, a co-operative society or the community in general.

Extension work can also be carried out at meetings, either organized specifically to discuss agroforestry issues, or by making use of meetings that were already organized for some other purpose but where some discussion on agroforestry can be accommodated. Meetings are effective venues for receiving information from the community, for discussing issues of communal or individual interest and for spreading new ideas.

Field days and demonstrations are best organized on individual farms. There are two kinds of demonstration: result demonstrations and method demonstrations. Result demonstrations show farmers the results of a practice that has been in use for some time and are intended to arouse the farmer's interest in the practice. They can also be used to compare older practices or techniques with new ones. Method demonstrations show farmers how a particular activity or task is carried out, e.g. how to plant a tree. This type of demonstration is among the oldest methods of teaching. It is an effective method since the farmers can practise, see, hear and discuss during the demonstration.

12.3 Extension methods (3)

Figure 12.6 Much information can be obtained during meetings

The catchment approach is a special type of group approach that has been used since 1987 in the National Soil and Water Conservation Programme of the Ministry of Agriculture. All farmers within a certain area, normally some 200-400 hectares, are mobilized and trained for conservation efforts. A catchment committee consisting of, and elected by, the local farmers assists the extension staff in awareness creation, layout of contours, implementation and follow up. The group approach is combined with the individual approach since each farm is subject to specific advice and layout.

Training and visit (T&V) is not an extension method but rather a management system for extension work built on a combination of the individual and group approaches. In this system, the extension staff are trained every fortnight on the relevant extension issues for that time of the year and the staff then extend these messages to contact farmers who receive special attention. Field days and other visits are arranged on the farm of the contact farmer so that his neighbours can also benefit from the knowledge he has gained.

Advantages of the group approach:

  • It is generally cheaper than the individual approach

  • More people are reached within a given period of time

  • There is an exchange of ideas and experiences among the group

  • It is easy to monitor.

Disadvantages of the group approach:

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  • It may take a long time to arrive at a decision

  • Influential people in the community may dominate the discussions

  • It is sometimes difficult to get people to agree on issues and to work together

  • Individual problems are not well addressed in a group

  • People who are not members of the group will not be reached.

The school approach

The school approach is being used by both Government ministries and NGOs. Schools can be approached through headmasters or teachers. The extension work can be in the form of lectures, support for 4K Clubs, or discussions held during parents' days. The pupils can be used as a channel for reaching the community and will also be influenced themselves, thus changing the behaviour and attitudes of the new generation. Pupils can also be used to trigger discussions in their families.

Advantages of the school approach:

  • Schools can afford to make demonstration plots available and these be seen by many people

  • It is possible to reach large numbers of people within a short time at minimal cost

  • Pupils can be reached easily and are often very receptive to new ideas.

Disadvantages of the school approach:

  • Children are not decision makers in the home

  • It will be a considerable time before the children become influential in their society.

12.3 Extension methods (4)

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Figure 12.7 Encouraging tree growing in schools

Mass extension methods

Mass extension methods involve the use of the mass media, e.g. radio, posters, drama, television, newspapers, films, slide shows, to inform the public. Mass media are mainly used to create awareness.

Advantages of mass extension methods:

  • These methods can increase the impact of extension staff through rapid spread of information

  • Many people can be reached within a short time, even in remote areas.

12.3 Extension methods (5)

Figure 12.8 Newletters can be used to create awareness

Disadvantages of mass extension methods:

  • The amount of information that can be transmitted is limited

  • Radio and television reception is poor in some areas and the target group may not own sets, particularly TVs

  • It is difficult to evaluate the impact since there is no immediate feedback

  • Production of both programmes and printed materials is costly and requires special skills.

12.3 Extension methods (6)

Figure 12.9 Slide shows often create great interest in rural areas

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