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Extension Administration – From Vision to Operations

     by Pete Vergot, III, University of Florida

Introduction

The basic design for an Extension Administrative model for assisting people (farmers) with in on farm advances in production techniques and financial success are as varied as there are countries across the globe. In most every country where an Extension Service exists, one can find that there are many types of Extension Administrative models as there are Extension delivery methods. The main Extension Administrative model includes some type of national structure, a sub set at the provincial or state level, a group of units called districts or regions and to a local unit level which may be an area, county or group of local villages. All of these components require some type of oversight or Extension Administrative model.

Extension in most countries has its roots in assisting farmers in changing production agricultural practices. The majority of Extension systems are based in the countries Ministry of Agriculture or Department of Agriculture. In the U.S. the Extension System was developed under the United States Department of Agriculture at the national level and is jointly partnered with a state entity a “Land-Grant University” and local “County” governments to provide scientific based knowledge and expertise to the public.

Extension administrators and leadership members have questions on what is the best Extension administrative model and what are the administrative practices which make a successful “Extension System”. Extension leaders and extension workers have asked specifically how they can make their Extension system more sustainable and be relevant to both the local farming clientele (both sustainable and production farmers) and to funding sources at local, regional, national and international levels.

Extension is a very relevant entity in assisting the agricultural communities across the globe. When reviewing the research of what “Sources and Channels" of information farmers used to learn new agricultural practices, one finds Extension usually in the top five sources or channels of new information. Extension in the U.S. has been near the top of the “sources” of new information for the transfer of new knowledge or production techniques on farms. Extension is in the top ten of channels of how farmers receive new information of sustainable agricultural practices. Many times farmers mix channels of information with sources of information as new techniques are passed from the early adopters, in most cases a family member or a neighbor, to becoming mainstream farming practices which sometimes blurs the true beginning, or source, of the knowledge.

Many countries including the U.S. have tried different models of Extension Administration and delivery including moving Extension agents from local based "county level" to a more “regional” and “multi-county” delivery method. The Extension model that has the biggest impact has its primary delivery method to farmers at the local level where the farmers live and where the Extension worker becomes a part of the local community. This model has provided for local clientele decision making of the needs of farmers with continued financial support from local, state/provincial and national levels. This grass roots approach gives direction to form the many guiding principles, which have made Extension successful.




The Training Manual, handouts, and presentations are attached below and can be easily downloaded. 

We invite users to widely share the material. We would appreciate feedback on how it is being used and welcome suggestions for improvements. 

See contact information at the left to contact us for training requests to be conducted by MEAS.

Underlying guiding principles that have made Extension in the United States successful include:
  • Extension be an integral part of a universities knowledge base or has access to continuous knowledge acquisition and a learning system. 
  • New information or technologies that is transferred to local farming clientele by local extension workers or state extension specialist be “research based” on outcomes and information from the research component of a university system or that the National Extension system of the country follow practices which are “research based”. 
  • To support the transfer of “research based knowledge” it is favored that local Extension workers have an appropriate support base of “Research Extension Specialists” who can provide technical advice and training to local Extension workers.
  • That the Extension systems administrative model is as horizontal or flat as possible as to enhance communication lines, and that the administrative leadership not be bloated with functions that are not in direct delivery to local farmers. 
  • That Extension programs be grounded at the local level with input of local farmer needs and local community leaders assisting in the funding of operations of Extension to provide ownership at the local level. With this ownership processes are in place for continuous local involvement in the hiring and funding of local extension workers operations. 
  • To continue local involvement and support enhanced with procedures for determining local needs that are the basis for the development of state and national priorities along with a process of reporting outcomes and impacts throughout the Extension system from the local to the national levels.
  • Successful Extension systems be non-regulatory, meaning that extension workers be educators and do not have the responsibility or authority to enforce agricultural regulations or laws. This is crucial in acquiring and keeping the confidence of farmers. The extension personnel may teach about regulations and food safety laws; however there should be separate personnel for enforcement.
  • Extension workers at the local level be trained educators in both the subject matter and educational delivery methods and processes. It is also important that continued professional development be a part of a continuing strengthening capacity of local extension workers. 
  • In many cases, as local Extension workers are compensated for their advanced training, accomplishments and have avenues for advancement in position they will stay Extension to continue their career and advance.
  • That Extension leadership and base funding be fluid and able to change with the changing local needs that have recognition at higher levels of national leadership and government. 

Target Audience

Current and Future Extension Administrators at the Local, State/Provincial and National levels and, Extension Leaders in the Ministry and Mission Administrators and Personnel. 

Prior to the Training

For an effective training to occur, the instructors will need as much written background information on the current extension system along with a short site visit to local, regional or district, provincial or state and national locations. 

1. Share ground rules that everyone gets to speak and everyone needs to participate, turn off all cell phones and ask questions whenever they come up. 

2. Introduce yourself with a brief biography and a few slides. 

3. Ask each participant to give a brief introduction Name, role in Extension, background. 
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