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close this book Agricultural extension
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

Defining issues and tasks


As a result of assessing the problems and personal interests of members of the community, the extensionist begins to discern the more pertinent themes which dominate the situation. He begins to see how these concerns overlap or fit together, how the various views of a community problem shed light on those things which a group may be able to address. The extension worker analyzes personal interests to see if there are any common concerns. These issues are really the meeting point between a big problem and personal interests. For example, a grain farmer has a strong sense of responsibility for and pride in maintaining and storing clean, servicable tools. His village is wondering whether to build a community storage building for tools and seed grains. The store can become a strongly-supported issue to the farmer, because a community problem and several personal interests are addressed by the store.

Once motivating issues are identified, they must be transformed into action plans. An action plan is a series of tasks which a cooperating group defines with the help of the extension agent. The tasks are the steps in a practical problem-solving strategy. Large problems, like "inflation" or "lack of income", are often overwhelming in scope and size. Their very scale paralyzes people and reinforces fatalism and powerlessness. When large problems are broken down into motivating issues and even further into concrete tasks, however, they become manageable.

The extensionist helps farmers or community people spell out tasks which are:


(something which can be addressed right now)


(something you can almost literally put a finger on)


(within the capacity of a normal person to do)


(something which brings people together)

Breaking down


The manner in which the extension agent facilitates this process appears fairly informal. But, when organizing, the extensionist tries to make every conversation count. Each encounter with community people is an opportunity to bring an issue and tasks to light. While working to make conservations a forum in which problems are reduced to more manageable issues, the extensionist must seek opportunities to bring people together to share their emerging common concerns. "Did you know that Mrs. Smart feels the same way you do?" and "Have you checked with anyone else on your street?" are questions the organizer asks at this point. In Chapter Four there is an illustration of the process of directed questioning by which an extensionist can help a farmer reach a conclusion by following the logic of a series of questions. That technique can be applied here to good effect.

As issues are being clarified and communicated to various people in a community some specific tasks emerge and exert their influence on people. A cooperative activity is waiting to be born. When people feel a need to meet together to verify the issues, it is time to set up an action plan and to assign tasks to be completed.



Hungry-season rice shortage


Kadi says she has two bushels of rice left but she knows it will run out before the harvest, and she has 12 people to cook for each day.


Momodu worries because he is trying to complete his new house before the rains come again. HP must find enough rice to feed the work crews or he won't finish on time.


Samba knows that her rice will be ready to harvest in two months. She doesn't know what will happen. If she eats all her rice, she won't have seed for next planting, not enough to pay her son's school fees.


Ishmael is the village chief. He knows that if the hungry season shortages are bad, he cannot expect repayment of seed rice and money loans he extended to farmers last season. He also will be affected.


The need for higher yields or double-cropping (shorter duration varieties)


The need for better storage facilities


ISSUE the need for higher yields


large TASKS

1. Exact calculation of current yields and varieties


2. Troubleshooting yield-limiting factors


3. Soil test


4. Identification of locally-tested higher-yield variety


5. Meeting to present findings and decide what to do


6. Cooperative procurement of seed and management practices


7. Method/result demo for all farmers on head farmer's field.


8. Use of seed on farms


9. Cooperative seed procurement


Small tasks

• agree on variety and time frame


• collect pledges (price of seed) from farmers


• verify collection at meeting


• arrange transport for seed and buyer


• make appointment with seed seller


• procure seed and return


• distribute seed at meeting


• rest and recuperate


• immediate

• specific

• realizable

• unifying


• Concentrate on asking open-ended questions about the general problem you and the farmer are concerned about.

• Help the farmer see that the problem is common to other community members. Try to explore with her the extent to which the problem, especially a specific issue she holds as important, is shared by others.

• Focus on what this particular farmer thinks should be done and especially on what she would be willing to do to help.

• Test the farmer's interest in pursuing the issue by ending the conversation by asking some form of commitment pertaining to the issue at hand. ("Can see you tomorrow again about this?" "Would you see if we could chat with your neighbor about this tomorrow?")

• When the time is right, enlist the farmer's support in contributing to the contemplated cooperative activity.