Agricultural Extension for Rural Upliftment
Dr. Banarsi Lal
Agriculture is the source of livelihood for about two-thirds of the population. Although green revolution was the cornerstone of India’s agricultural development but that remained confined in certain irrigated areas of the nation. Present scenario calls for the effective agricultural technologies and agro-management practices to mitigate the food and nutritional security, market demand, export opportunities, environmental concerns etc. Extension programmes in rural communities play a significant role in linking farmers and experts in rural development agenda. Farmers are the grassroot stakeholders. Extension programmes have undergone various changes throughout the years in response to farmers’ needs as well as the changing market needs. Extension and research are the cardinal pillars of agricultural development of any country. Agricultural extension as a profession has completed more than five decades of its existence. Substantial contribution has been made by this profession for the development of farmers. In order to get the true potential, the country need to go along way to meet the challenges to increase the agricultural and animal production from the available resources, keeping in mind the ecological and environmental sustainability. There is need to tune our technology transfer system in line with the national and international level. Farmer is backed with many sources of extension services. The extension services are provided to the farmers by the government institutes, directorates, research centers, input companies, NGOs, agro-processors, cooperatives etc. The agricultural extension and supported extension services are unique in structure and function. Interestingly, agricultural extension is not restricted to single fixed programme rather it adjusts according to the changing needs of the society. Now the time has come to assess as to how the effectiveness of this profession could be increased to achieve our cherished goal of developing agriculture. To mitigate the challenges in the new millennium, there is an urgent need to redefine the structure and functions of agricultural extension. Also to make agricultural extension more viable and efficient tool of technology transfer, several issues must be addressed so that it can be further meaningful to accommodate with the changing scenario of agricultural research and development in coming years. In India, above 70 per cent of the farmers are resource poor, comprising marginal and small farmers. They do not fully adopt the technologies recommended by extension workers because of many reasons. Mostly it is found that these recommendations are not compatible with the farming system of the farmers. Much emphasis is not given to this section of farmers while designing and developing the agricultural technologies.
It has been observed that the developed technologies must be tuned with the requirements of the farmers in his farming situations. The existing extension approach is questioned for being mainly push type. The extension workers took the developed technologies to the farmers irrespective of their applicability and suitability of the farming system. There is a need to identify and delineate the specific farming situation or recommendation domain to which the specific intervention could suit. There is a dire need to develop the appropriate, location specific, ecological sustainable and economically viable technologies that could be compatible and suitable for the resource poor farmers inevitable. Several methods such as farming systems research and extension, broad based approach, technology assessment and refinement (TAR) through institution -village linkage programme etc. have been initiated in this direction. The matching of the technology with the farming systems characteristics are operationalised through such methods. Moreover the traditional system of the farmers need to be appreciated, documented and validated in order to bring them under the domain of appropriate technology. Technology transfer is a process for creating the awareness among the farmers about the new technologies, then generating interest about the given technology, creating conviction so that they can evaluate it within their own agro climatic conditions and finally adopt it to increase the production. It has been observed that there are five factors which mainly limit the process of technology transfer. These include the limited availability of location specific technology and the low degree of ability to understand risk and uncertainty, lack of strong support systems, weak economic base of the households and farm resources, weak infrastructure and market structure have increased the bottlenecks in technology transfer process. Many models have been developed in India and in abroad for developing effective and functional linkages between researchers and farmers.
There is no single extension system which can be described as the best model in all the countries for all the farmers. The extension models need to be drawn, modified and adopted according to the farming system of the farmers. The technology transfer paradigm is mainly of two types namely-i) TOT (transfer of technology), which is simple and indicate the linear relationship between research, extension and farmers. The technologies are transferred through a pipeline.ii) Circular model of TOT (transfer of technology), which helps to bring researchers and farmers much closer through much emphasis on adaptive researches in farmer’s field. It helps for the two-way communication and development of multiple options for innovations. Both the models of TOT suggest evolving a paradigm of TOT which could be most appropriately considered by the extension wing. Any agricultural extension system is related to its ability to build and maintain the linkages of various types. A research-Extension-Farmers linkage acts as a backbone for implementing participatory methodologies at the field level. Emphasis is also required for developing linkages with the systems such as NGOs, farmers’ organizations, input agencies and other formal and informal knowledge and information systems. It has been observed by many studies that there exists weak linkage between research, extension and farmers. In order to strengthen linkage between research, extension and farmers, there is a need to institutionalize more number of structural mechanisms and simultaneously there frequency of activities has to be kept regular as well as contingent.
The female population of India constitutes about 48 per cent of the total population. It has been reported that 79.40 per cent of all economically active women are engaged in agriculture as compared to 63.33 per cent of men. Women role in agriculture and livestock farming is very important. The technology related to agriculture and livestock farming must reach to the women farmers. It has been observed that the limited impact of new technologies on rural women is due to the factors viz. their neglect by the extension workers who are mostly men, lack of authorities to them, lack of their participation in development process and lack of gender-based technology. This is a global issue and needs more attention as women play an important role in agriculture.For an effective extension system there is a need to have well defined objectives and priorities of extension programmes, effective linkages with the other organizations such as research, financial institutions, marketing systems, input suppliers etc. Also there is a need of adequate financial support and adequate number and well trained and motivated staff. The provision of regular in-service refresher trainings for the extension workers cannot be ruled out. There is a need of privatization of agricultural extension services at national level. Also there is a need to identify area and type of farmers, geographic locations to whom private extension system can suit. In Indian system of farming there is a need to mix up public, private, voluntary and cooperative extension efforts. The existing extension system of our country mostly operates on the basis of selected contact farmers, whereas, the resource poor farmers are neglected in the process of technology development and dissemination process. Thus, redefinition in such approach should be in terms of involvement of representatives of all groups of farmers’ classified on the basis of resources.
(The writer is Sr. Scientist &
Head, KVK, Reasi).