Cover Image
close this book Agricultural extension
View the document Acknowledgement
close this folder What is agricultural extension?
View the document Peace corps and agricultural development
View the document The small scale farmer
View the document Two way communication
close this folder Research and planning
View the document Introduction
View the document Understanding people
View the document Community survey
View the document Agricultural survey
View the document Needs and resources survey
View the document Record keeping and planning
close this folder Providing agricultural support services
View the document Introduction
close this folder Direct services
View the document Testing recommendations
View the document Administering credit
View the document Selecting and producing seed
View the document Providing farm inputs
View the document Surveying agricultural land
View the document Providing storage
View the document Marketing agricultural products
close this folder Indirect services
View the document Working with individual farmers
View the document Working with counterparts
View the document Working with groups
View the document Working with cooperatives
View the document Working with local authorities, government or development agencies
close this folder Farmer training
View the document Introduction
View the document Cross - cultural communication
View the document Farm visits and troubleshooting
View the document On - farm demonstrations
View the document Field days
View the document Mass media
close this folder Organizing cooperative activity
View the document Introduction
View the document Assessing self-interest and problems
View the document Defining issues and tasks
View the document Clarifying roles and responsibility
View the document Meetings
View the document Group dynamics
View the document Training leaders
View the document Forming associations
close this folder Management
View the document Introduction
View the document Planning
View the document Carrying out plans
View the document Evaluating work
close this folder Appendices
close this folder Appendix A - Comparative case studies
View the document Case study I
View the document Case Study II
View the document Appendix B - Technical I.C.E. manuals and reprints useful to agricultural extensionists
View the document Appendix C - Extension training
View the document Appendix D - Bibliography and resources

Assessing self-interest and problems


Whether an extension agent is working with a particular existing group or has been asked to help a group organize itself, or has identified the need for a group in a community in order to accomplish a certain goal, the first step in each case must be an assessment of people's interests and problems. This assessment identifies the motivations for cooperative activity. In the case of a simple form of cooperation like sharing a tool, the assessment effort is limited to a quick check to make certain the tool is available, the people involved are agreeable, and a way of sharing can be agreed upon readily.

However, as the type of cooperative activity becomes more ambitious, there is an increased need to study the unique interests of potential participants. Each farmer has a particular set of interests which motivates her to act. People cooperate for a variety of reasons, but, generally speaking, everyone participates in those activities from which they derive some benefit. This is a definition of self-interest. Therefore, cooperative activity must meet the needs of those who participate in order to succeed.

Just as important, however, is an assessment of the problems facing the community. Problems often lend themselves more easily to one type of solution than another. For example, when heavy rains threaten the tiny rice seed beds which thirty farmers individually have made on their own farms, the best solution to the problem is to ask each farmer to open the dikes of his or her rice field which lead to the drainage canal, or, if it is a real emergency, to rush around and do it oneself.

On the other hand, if a small common milking parlor is to be built for a village goat project, it makes sense to organize the livestock farmers to mix and pour the cement floor, build the walls and raise the tin roof together. In the second instance, the scope of the problem is greater than any one farmer's resources, and the benefit of the effort is to be shared among the farmers involved. Studying the nature of community problems, the extensionist can determine whether the effort involved in organizing cooperative activity is worthwhile, and whether cooperative effort is the best means of achieving the solution to the problem.

In order for cooperative activity to work at all, it must be both concretely linked to participants' interests and clearly the most practical way to solve a pressing problem. Otherwise, the barriers to cooperation - mistrust, rivalry, competing interests overwhelm the best of efforts. Cooperation, as inspiring and powerful a force as it is, relies entirely on the motivation of each individual participant. Without focused, committed personal motivation, cooperative efforts fail.

As part of this initial assessment, it is important to pay particular attention to hierarchical structures and interest groups already functioning within a community, for several reasons. There may already be a group which addresses the problem the extensionist and people have identified. Perhaps energy should go to enhancing this effort before embarking upon a new one. Secondly, without a stamp of approval from interest groups and leaders, a new cooperative activity cannot progress very smoothly and probably will not outlast the extensionist's presence in the community.

Knowing the other cooperative activities going on in a community, the extensionist can estimate the amount of competition there will be for participants' time. Also, existing groups are the building blocks for cooperation now and for more sophisticated forms of cooperation in the future. Often the easiest way to solve a problem is to follow the local pattern of activity. (A representative list of interest groups in rural communities is included as an ILLUSTRATION and TOOL following this INTRODUCTION.)

Almost every group at work in a community will have leaders. As the extensionist is observing groups as they work, she should discern who leads them and how that leadership works. This yields clues as to how to organize the leadership of a new cooperative activity, and identifies potential leaders who might be able to participate in the new work.

Finally, it is important to remember that things change. People's interests, the membership, existence and even the leadership of groups are dynamic and open to change. Initial assessments must be constantly updated to gauge these shifts.


Field notebook entries made while assessing the people's interests and problems in a community where a cooperative peanut marketing venture is contemplated:


Existing groups in a community may include:

village elders

elected local authorities

a hierarchy among women (or men)

an agricultural decision-making group

male and female societies or clubs

informal work groups

religious organizations

educational organizations

thrift, credit or savings societies

parent-teacher associations

self-help associations

farmers associations

health committees

youth groups

marketing cooperatives

A partial list of problems that lend themselves to cooperative solutions:

• marketing ag products

• transporting ag products or inputs

• grain storage

• irrigation, wells (water systems)

• farm land development

• building construction

• other public works projects (bridges, dams, etc)

• wholesale inputs procurement