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On - farm demonstrations


On-farm demonstrations are effective means of reducing the risks farmers perceive. They are designed to take new innovations out of the 'unreal', scientific realm of the research station and place them firmly within the bounds of a farmer's everyday experience. They are used first to display the results of adopting a new practice and then to give the farmer an opportunity to practice new methods. Both types of demonstrations serve to make clear to a farmer exactly what is entailed in opting for a new farming innovation.

Chapter One describes the research-extension chain. Result demonstrations are the link in that chain at which the active promotion of innovations in farming practices begins. Practically speaking, result demonstrations are side by side comparisons of new and traditional techniques. They are conducted in farmer's own fields or barns to show that experimental results can be reproduced locally. Even though crop farming examples will be used throughout this section, result demonstrations can be very creatively employed by livestock extension agents as well. (See Chapter Three under "Testing Recommendations").

On the surface, a result demo might seem fairly straightforward, but there are actually a number of factors that can serve to reduce their effectiveness. First, the demonstration must produce results that are visible and significant enough to convince farmers to try the new practice themselves. If the practice is, for instance, not fully tested before hand under local conditions, the demonstration runs a high risk of failure.

Second, the innovation has to satisfy the farmer's own criteria in terms of the other risks associated with it. That is, it must promise an immediate return, fall within the farmer's financial means, and suit prevailing cultural patterns, to name but three.

Third, the demonstration should not be run by an extension agent. Farmers will be more impressed by results obtained by their peers than by supposed agricultural experts. Fourth, the farmer on whose land a result demonstration is conducted cannot be extremely wealthy or progressive; nor should the plots receive an undue amount of attention and care. The idea of the demonstration is to show a group of farmers what results can be obtained by a normal farmers under normal conditions. Hence, the choice of demonstration farmer needs to be made with care, the site should be typical of surrounding lands and the crop itself must be managed at a realistic level. Any other arrangement will undermine the demonstration's effectiveness.

In setting up a result demo with a cooperating farmer, it is important to establish who is responsible for the labor involved in maintaining plots and who will provide necessary inputs. In order to make the demo credible, the farmer must do most of the actual work. Inputs are a stickier problem. Ideally, the demonstration farmer will provide his own. Realistically, there may be some instances where the extension service might need to donate inputs as a courtesy for a farmer's cooperation. Two questions need to be considered: Will a gift of inputs have a negative effect on the agent-farmer relationship? How will other farmers perceive such a gift? Whatever the choice, arrangements must be made explicit at the outset.

The next set of practical considerations in setting up a demonstration focus on the plot: its location, its layout and its size. A conspicuous or readily noticeable site is crucial in attracting maximum attention. Locations near roads or footpaths or on the immediate outskirts of a village are ideal. Visibility is the key factor in plot layout. When viewing from the most prominent vantage point, from a road, for example, the traditional and improved plots should be side by side rather than front and back. Signs can be erected to attract further attention and provide explanations of the demonstration. (Note that signs need to meet the visual literacy levels of a majority of the farmers observing the demonstration).

The size of the plot may be influenced by several factors: the labor constraints of the demo farmer and the amount of land she has available; the size of the group that will eventually observe the formal presentation of results; the type of crop; and the overall impression the demonstration is intended to create. In general, the plot should be large enough to be impressive without being to large to take in both parts of the demonstration with a single glance. Rough estimates suggest that one or two hundred square meters would be enough for an effective demo of field crops, with less area required for demonstrations with vegetables.

Throughout the planting and maintenance operations connected with the demo, the farmer needs to be thoroughly familiarized with the what, why, when and how of what is going on. In particular the extension agent should chek that needed inputs are prepared and applied on time. The entire process needs to be documented accurately so that results can be adequately explained when the demonstration is completed. Rainfall figures for the duration of the demonstration crop's growing cycle, for example, are of crucial significance.

If the demonstration farmer has been adequately trained during the course of the growing season, she can play a central role in the use of the demo as a promotional tool by providing testimony to a particular method's effectiveness. There may be opportunities early on in the demonstration garden's growth cycle for her to show preliminary results to some of her neighbors. Pointing out differences in plant size and color at various stages serve to heighten interest in a demo as it progresses towards completion.

The main presentation of results should, however, be conducted at harvest time. The farmer should be prepared to help the extension agent through four steps: an explanation of the new practice focusing on amount of labor required, materials needed and changes from traditional methods; a conservative estimate of costs and returns; a question and answer period; and an offer of follow-up visits to other farmers interested in adopting the new practice themselves.

This follow-up often takes the form of a second type of demonstration the method demonstration. Method demonstrations allow farmers to learn by doing. The extension agent physically demonstrates a practice - how to determine a goat's age, for instance, by checking its teeth - and asks the farmer to try the same practice herself. The agent watches and corrects the farmer until she can do the practice properly, and then moves on to the next step of the demonstration.

Only one topic is covered at a time in a method demo. Checking a goat's teeth is one aspect of the topic: "Determining what livestock to buy at an auction." Goat buying and goat breeding are different topics. Each method demo is timed to coincide with the operations farmers are involved with in theirs individual farming cycles. Planting demonstrations are conducted a week or two before most farmers begin planting; weeding demonstrations are conducted just before the optimum time in a plant's growth cycle to do a complete weeding operation, In this way, a series of method demonstrations serve to span an entire growing season and keep the extension agent in close contact with his clients.

Being successful in conducting a method demo requires close attention to detail. The site and time of demonstration should be selected on the basis of audience comfort. Shade, heat, and sight lines are three important considerations. Materials for the demonstration should be locally available and arranged conveniently for use in the demonstration. The best way to make sure that nothing will be forgotten is to prepare a written plan (see ILLUSTRATIONS and TOOLS). This may include the step by step sequence of the demo itself as well as lists of materials needed and major points to be covered. Once the plan is written, the extension agent needs to rehearse the presentation in its entirety. Only by actually walking through a demonstration can the agent be sure that nothing has been left out

When actually conducting the presentation, it is important to encourage as much farmer participation as possible. Points at which farmers can be directly involved should be indicated in the written plan. Other means of accomodating farmer learning styles are to continue to relate new material being presented to a farmer's previous experience and to carefully choose vocabulary with which the farmer is already familiar. Some technical terms may prove very difficult to translate without considerable thought beforehand. A good way to check to make sure that the audience is following a presentation is to pose questions to farmers at regular intervals. The demonstrator can also repeat steps where necessary. Finally, it is important for either the extension agent or one of the farmers to summarize the main points of a presentation at its conclusion.

The ILLUSTRATIONS and TOOLS sections which follow can be supplemented by a review of the adult learning principles and cross-cultural communication techniques contained in other sections of this chapter.


1. Layout of a result demonstration (from Chapter 2):



2. Written plan for a method demonstration:

• Demonstration title: Garlic Onions are Easy to Grow for Food and Profit.

• Why is this demonstration important to your audience?

a. Garlic onions grow easily.

b. Garlic onions provide a good food addition for the home.

c. There is an available market for a good crop of garlic onions.

• Materials needed for this demonstration.

Equipment and supplies:

1. Planting plot

2. Hoe

3. Hand rake

4. Stick one foot long

5. Stick four inches long

6. String

7. Pegs

8. One oil tin of well-rotted farinyard manure

9. Garlic onion bulbs

Visual aids and handouts:

1. Pamphlet on "Planting Garlic Onions"

2. Sample onion bulbs

• Presenting the Demonstration

Step by step activities

Key points

I. Mark out the first row.

Use a string and pegs to mark the row. Make sure the string is tight.

II. Measure second row one foot from the first row.

Use stick 1 ft. long to measure spacing.

III. Additional rows are laid out at the same spacing.

Keep rows straight using string and pegs.

IV. Make the planting furrows 1" deep.

Use hoe to dig furrows along the line of the string.

V. Place farmyard manure in furrows to the level of the ground.

Use well-rotted manure.

VI. Mix the manure into the furrow soil.

Prevents burning of the bulbs.

VII. Mark the planting spaces along the furrow.

Use 4" stick to lay out the spaces.

VIII. Plant the bulbs at the 4" spaces in the furrows with the point of the bulb up.

Bulb point must be up. Firm soil around each bulb.

• Summary of points made during the demonstrations:

1. Garlic onions can be planted during the long and the short rains.

2. The planting space is 4" between plants in the row, and the rows are one foot apart.

3. Furrows are dug and filled with well-rotted manure to the level of the ground.

4. The manure is mixed in the furrows with the soil.

5. A single bulb is placed at each 4" space in the furrow.

6. The point of the bulb is upward.

7. The soil is firmed around the bulb for fast germination.

• Plans for followup:

1. Visit the farmers who have indicated an interest in planting onions and assist them as necessary.

2. Visit again before harvest tiem and assist with marketing the crop.

(Previous ILLUSTRATION taken from: Agricultural Extension Training : A Course Manual for Extension Training Programs, by J.D. Fisher, R.A. Wesselmann, and others; USAID Kenya, 1968 (Reprinted April, 1970; I.C.E., Peace Corps; Washington), pp. 9-16)


Guidelines for planning and conducting an effective result demonstration:

1. Choose an appropriate (minimal risk) innovation.

2. Choose a cooperative farmer whose management techniques will be imitated by her peers.

3. Agree with the farmer on who is responsible for labor and inputs.

4. Choose a conspicuous location.

5. Lay out the demo plots for maximum visibility. (Use signs to attract attention.)

6. Choose a suitable size for the demonstration plots.

7. Work closely with the cooperating farmer on managing the demonstration.

8. Keep accurate records (including rainfall) of factors that might influence the outcome of a demonstration so as to be able to accurately interpret results.

9. Show preliminary results of the demonstration to other farmers periodically to help build interest in the demonstration's outcome.

10. Time the final presentation of results to coincide with the harvest.

11. Include in the final presentation the following steps:

- An explanation of the new practice(s)

- A conservative estimate of costs and returns

- An opportunity for the audience to raise questions about the demo

- An offer of follow-up visits to farmers interested in adopting the new practice themselves.


Guidelines for planning and conducting an effective method demonstration:

1. Plan to demonstrate only one topic at a time.

2. Time demonstrations to correspond with farming operations being carried out in the field.

3. Sequence method demos to span the entire farming cycle.

4. Consider ways to make the audience comfortable as they view the demonstration.

5. Prepare a written plan for the demonstration including:

- a step by step sequence of what will happen in the demonstration

- a list of materials needed

- a summary of major points covered in the demo.

6. Incorporate participation of farmers into the demonstration whenever possible.

7. Choose analogies and vocabulary that will help the farmer tie the new information to things she has already experienced.

8. Check periodically throughout a demonstration to make sure the audience is following the presentation by posing questions to them.

9. Repeat steps where necessary.

10. Make sure mayor points of the demonstration are summarized.

11. Arrange for follow-up visits to farmers interested in trying the new method.

A checklist for all types of demonstrations:

I. The subject:




1. Is the farmer ready to use the improved practice to be demonstrated?


2. Does he need the skill or practice?


3. Can he afford it?


4. Have you selected a title that appeals to him?


5. Have you planned to teach only one thing at a time?


6. Have you collected all available information on the subject?


7. Have you decided which language or vernacular you will use?


8. Are you certain the practice or skill to be taught is not too difficult for him to learn?


II. Plans made for the period before the meeting:


1. Have you arranged the time and date for your meeting?


2. Have you arranged for the demonstration site?


3. Will each farmer who attends your demonstration be able to see your actions?


4. Have you assembled all of the materials you will be needing?


5. Are you planning your demonstrations to relate to the farmer's experiences?


6. Have you practiced your demonstration until you can do it to perfection?


7. Have you developed your demonstration using a standard plan?


8. Did you write down each step?


9. Have you listed all of the key points?


10. Are your instructions written in a simple, under-standable manner?


11. Were signs and/or posters used to direct the farmers to your demonstration?


III. Plans made for the period during the meeting. Plan before the meeting, check results after the meeting).


1. Did you present your demonstration with enthusiasm?


2. Did you act yourself?


3. Did you talk to your audience?


4. Was your demonstration explained to the farmers, step-by-step?


5. Are you certain you were understood.


6. Did you allow time for questions from the audience?


7. Did you repeat steps when necessary?


8. Did you assist the slower persons when they fell behind?


9. Were faster persons used to assist you?


10. Were the important steps summarized at the conclusion of your demonstrations?


11. Were final questions encouraged?


12. Was reference material handed out at the conclusion of your demonstration?


13. Were the farmers told where to get additional advice?


14. Was there a list made of attending farmers?


15. Was your meeting held without conflict of other meetings?


16. Were photographs taken of activities at the meeting?


17. Were records kept of the meeting for future use?


18. Were credit and recognition given to local farmers who contributed to your demonstration?


IV. Plans made for the period following the meeting:


1. When the farmers left the meeting, did they know what to do on their own farm?


2. Were plans made for the next meeting?


3. Were they told what material? if any, would be needed for the next meeting?


4. Were they told to be thinking of the problems involved for the subject of the next meeting?


5. Was any publicity given to your meeting by the press, news release or radio?


• Press


• News Release


• Radio


V. Plans made for the followup:


1. Have the farmers changed over to use of the new practice that you demonstrated?


2. Will you provide additional assistance if requested?


3. Have the farmers called on you for further assistance in using your new practice?