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close this book Agricultural extension
close this folder Providing agricultural support services
View the document Introduction
Open this folder and view contents Direct services
Open this folder and view contents Indirect services


Once initial research tasks have been accomplished and research itself is well-established as an ongoing process, an extensionist may turn her attention to matching the needs of farm families with available resources. This match begins to break the circle of exclusion which so often leaves out small-scale farmers. In transition from a subsistence farming tradition to greater involvement with outside influences, such farmers are not familiar with new resources. Furthermore, in many developing countries agricultural products and services are not readily available except through government ministries and development projects. Because the gap between farmers in transition and sparse support services is great, matching needs to resources can be very difficult.

Direct support is a vital service provided by extensionists in developing countries. In self-contained subsistence farm systems farmers meet almost all of their limited needs locally. As farmers emerge from subsistence farming to market or intensive-production agriculture, their needs change. Support becomes vital. This need is felt more strongly in situations where the more recent farm tradition includes a colonial legacy. Colonial extension services at one time provided outside resources and services in exchange for cash crop yields. Therefore the need for more outside support is compounded by an expectation that it will be provided as a matter of course.

Agricultural support services which most farmers need in developing countries are listed below. Each subchapter of this chapter describes a service and-gives the reader tools for providing it to small-scale farmers.



Services direct

• Testing Recommendations

• Administering Credit

• Selecting and producing seed

• Providing Inputs

• Surveying Agricultural Lands

• Providing Storage Facilities

• Marketing Products

For the extensionist, the direct provision of support services produces three benefits. First, providing a specific and practical service (surveying a swamp, distributing seed, building and using a farrowing crate) is an excellent credibility technique. It enables the extension worker to demonstrate her skill and competence and cultivate trust and rapport with farmers. Secondly, direct service brings research, technology and outside resources directly to the aid of small-scale farmers. The circle of exclusion is broken and farmers can choose among these new resources. Finally, the services themselves are subject to farmer feedback and informal local testing as farmers use them. This in turn affects research and the development of agricultural practices or products, completing the process of two-way communication.

In developing countries, agricultural support can be very difficult to provide. Products such as seed, manure, feed, fertilizers, tools or equipment are often in very short supply and are not locally produced. The infrastructure which produces, distributes and maintains these inputs is also limited in developing countries. The newness of communication and transportation systems upon which extension workers and information-sharing depend imposes severe limits as well. Therefore, the ability to effectively identify, procure and deliver support resources to village farmers is a considerable skill.

Supportive services


As if the provision of services in this context were not difficult enough, it is encumbant upon Peace Corps extensionists to move beyond direct service to providing indirect support services.


Services indirect

• Working With Individual Farmers

• Working With Counterparts

• Working With Groups

• Working With Cooperatives

• Working With Local Authorities,

Government or Development Agencies

Indirect service is often called facilitating, or helping someone do something for himself. The emphasis in direct services is working FOR farmers. The emphasis in indirect services is working WITH them.


The difference between direct and indirect service may be illustrated by the following examples:

Direct (FOR)

Indirect (WITH)

1. Surveying accurate contours to lay out a rice paddy plots on a hill-side for a participating farmer, using a transit level and stakes.

1. Showing a participating farmer how to measure contours roughly by using "water-levelling", a process of flooding a rice plot until the water level indicates the contour of an equal elevation on a hillside.

2. Demonstrating to 'participating' farmers how to conduct and properly use a farrowing crate to ensure safety of new piglets.

2. Training a master farmer and a host country ag technician (a) to build and use a farrowing create and, (b) to set up and deliver a method demonstration which shows other farmers what a crate is, how it is built and used, and why it can help small scale pig farmers.

3. Writing a proposal, procuring vegetable seed and shovels, and transporting them to a village ag project site.

3. Going through a long-term process of helping a group of farmers (a) raise, harvest, dry and store their own vegetable seed, (b) invest a portion of their vegetable crop profit in seed, (c) invest a portion of their profit in shovels, and (d) convince a farmer who runs a local truck service to deliver the shovels to the village.

By comparing direct and indirect service in each example, four general tendencies emerge:


1. The active role changes hands from the extensionist performing a service to the extensionst helping local people provide a service.


2. Provision of the service depends first on the extensionist, but then the dependence shifts to local people.


3. There is a change from an outside resource to local resources for meeting the need.


4. There is a change from an immediate, technically precise and straightforward solution to a longer-term, step-by-step, more complex solution involving more people.

Direct service is entirely appropriate when arousing interest, gaining credibility, solving an immediate pressing problem or especially when avoiding a disaster or catastrophe. Indirect service takes much longer, involves training others, employs local resources more, provides for wider cummunity involvement, and shifts dependence from the extensionist to local community people.

The extensionist is a catalyst of change who enhances rather than diminishes the COMPETENT AUTONOMY of farmers. Dependence on uncontrollable outside resources can be as limiting a situation as the subsistence system which does not respond to change. An extensionist helps farmer; meet their most immediate needs. Then she helps them address a deeper need, the need to participate in and control change. By facilitating support among farmers and available resources, the extensionist begins to capacitate farmers, making them interdependent with a widening circle of these resources.