Blogs Policy Issues in Extension

BLOG-24: Beyond technology dissemination: Why extension should also focus on policy change?

Adoption of new knowledge and technologies is often constrained by institutional and policy challenges. Trying to promote new knowledge without addressing these challenges, often leads to poor results. Diagnosing these constraints and experimenting with new ways of addressing these constraints should be a priority for extension, argue Dr S V N Rao, Dr K Natchimuthu and Dr S Ramkumar.

Dr S V N Rao (,  


Dr K Natchimuthu (  


Dr S Ramkumar (  

represented the Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Veterinary Education and Research, (RIVER) Puducherry in the Fodder Innovation Project (FIP-II) a project implemented by ILRI, UNU-MERIT  and CRISP during 2007–2011 with DFID funding. The authors would like to acknowledge the contributions of Dr Andy Hall, Dr Rasheed Sulaiman V and Dr Ranjitha Puskur in designing and implementing this project.  



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  • Thanks to Dr. S.V.N.Rao for prompt responses and I am glad to note agreement that TOT is not the main objective of Extension and that the main objective is capacity building of farmer. Some more observations, experiences and views in this context for your consideration and comments: • TOT has not only become the main activity in most of the extension programmes but targets are given in many cases. Acceptance of technology is reviewed for assessment and not adoption. I differentiate between the two since Acceptance could be due to other attractions like Subsidy or Grants or personal influence while Adoption comes when the producer is convinced that the Technology is beneficial (from farmers perspective), fits into the prevailing production system, can be managed within available resources. The applies to Recommendations / Messages propagated/spread through the extension programmes. • The technologies/recommendations are centrally generated and propagated irrespective of variations in situations viz. production systems, socio-economic status of producers, marketing facility etc.. • The technology or recommendation should not only be tehnically sound, economcally beneficial (to animal owner) but also socially adaptable (by the owner) before it is chosen for wider propagation. Our Research, Extension and Development systems do not follow the process of pre-testing before choosing the technology or recommendation for wider propagation. • Most researchers do not define the systems or conditions in which the technologies or recommendations are likely to be beneficial. • Very few development / extension groups or projects undertake Situation Analysis and identification of Priority Needs of the producers of the area before choosing technology or the recommendation / message. Innovation is another word about which I seek clarity of perception – I harbor the view that anything done differently from prevailing method (could also be with regard to technology) to overcome some constraint or improve output is innovation. An example to fodder production is the way Tribal farmers from South Rajasthan make green maize available for feeding their cattle. Land and water are their main constraints and they cannot spare land exclusively for fodder cultivation so they found a way out. While sowing maize they use high seed rate and undertake thinning after it has grown to a certain height and that provides fodder and grain from the same plot. My question – Can something be done to change approach to extension? Can livestock extension be systems oriented and participatory, with due consideration to socio-economic status of the families? In my view a change in Extension Paradigm is needed while dealing with the underprivileged. Another question – Can Veterinary Extension Forum and or AES take initiative in orienting Vets and Livestock Extension officers? May I wish that the New Year provides opportunity and motivates experts like you to usher in change in Livestock Extension Paradigm for the benefit of Underprivileged livestock owners. Looking forward for a feed back and advice.

  • Congrats for a thought provoking blog! The institutional & policy changes often play much bigger role in facilitating faster adoption of technologies. For instance, breed improvement/crossbreeding was being emphasized in India since long, but it could attract the attention only when NDDB/AMUL came up with the idea of milk collection centers, where, procurement & marketing was emphasized. This change in approach motivated farmers to opt for high yielding animals, thus, propelled the need for technology adoption compared to the little impact of Key village scheme & Intensive Cattle Breeding Programme introduced to improve cattle breeding. The right policies would surely improve technology adoption scenario. No surprise, the cultivated fodder area has remained more or less static for long time now despite several programmes to increase it.

  • Many thanks for circulating this interesting and educative report from SVN Rao and his colleagues. It provides some very good lessons and pushed me to raise some questions to the extension specialists for clarity on perceptions regarding extension. The report as well as my observations on Extension Programmes (last few decades) makes me ask a question to the experts -Is Transfer of Technology (off the shelf) the main Goal / Objective or Purpose of Extension programme?? My perception is that the main goal / Objective of extension is to improve capability of farmer to make better decisions (re. selecting technology, management practices etc.) and Prof. van den Ban was one of those who agreed on this and showed me that he wrote about this objective in some of his papers. Som how TOT has become synonymous with extension and without testing appropriateness of technology for a particular situation. The TOT worked well for Green Revolution (the T & V or Benor system) where conditions / production systems were uniform. This is my dilemma, please advise me on that. Another dilemma – Is Fodder Production a New technology?? I ask since I have been reading/hearing (almost 5 decades) from Agriculture and Animal Science persons involved in research/development/extension referring fodder production as a new technology. However, farmers told me that they and their forefathers cultivated fodder crops (plot size depends on availability of land and water). And the interesting part is – the preference to the type of animals to whom it is offered – bullock at work in some areas and cows/buffaloes in milk in other areas. Does it not make good economic sense (they have a robust sense of economics)? Third question – Was an attempt made to promote/facilitate establishing alternate system of milk collection and marketing? Many NGOs & now NDP are trying that. I hope my remarks and questions will be taken in the right perspective and I would be suitably advised so as to refine my views and perceptions

  • Thanks for your comments on our blog. We always welcome and value your remarks as they are based on your experience of working with several extension projects in and outside the country. My answers to your questions and remarks are given below for your kind perusal. 1. TOT is not the main goal of extension. But unfortunately as you rightly pointed out, TOT and Extension are being considered as synonyms. As you noted Extension is defined as the conscious use of communication of information to help people input services. On the other hand extension is concerned mainly with education of farmers on management of resources and decision-making skills, which may contribute to technology transfer. Hence, it is necessary to understand that the focus of extension is on education of the farmers rather than supply of technical inputs and services. Because of the misconception about the role of extension, many institutions lay emphasis on supply of inputs and technical services, which are included as extension activities. However, extension agencies frequently engage in activities that are not directly connected to extension education such as provision of inputs, supervising credit repayment, enforcing government regulations, providing statistical information, organizising cooperatives etc., (Arnon, 1989). 2. In Fodder innovation Project, our focus is on making green fodder accessible to the landless dairy farmers in Puducherry. Feeding cattle with green fodder by the landless people in Puducherry is an innovation. You may notice that for the landless women in Puducherry, feeding cattle with green fodder is an innovation. You may notice that for a variety of reasons (including economics), the landless dairy farmers did not continue with green fodder feeding to their cattle. Here Feeding of green fodder is taken as an example and it may hold good with application of similar new knowledge As you are aware ultimately, t he farmer looks at from the angle “ how much I am spending and how much I am getting? ” Everyone knows that the price of feeds and fodder are increasing at a faster rate than that of milk. To me it is still a mystery why the milk prices are not linked to feed prices, as many other countries are doing. 3. On the question of why alternate milk collection is not tried in Puducherry, I would like to state that the NGOs cannot succeed in collecting milk by offering higher procurement price to the farmers as the consumer price of the Union is again lowest in the country ( Rs.26 / litre of toned milk) and union with the purchased milk from the neighboring states is a bulk supplier of fluid milk in Pondicherry. The Union is losing heavily because of this policy of favouring milk consumers who are more in numbers compared to milk producers

  • The New Extension Policy needs to focus on community organization so that small farmers can also benefit from the economies of scale can influence the policy. Secondly, more Extension Professionals may be recruited in the Extension Systems to organize the poor farmers and deal with their socioeconomic issues.