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close this book Forestry training manual Inter-America Region
close this folder Session XXXI Working with groups as an extension worker
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Session XXXI Working with groups as an extension worker

Total Time: 1 hour 45 minutes


This session continues to focus on extension work. Working with groups is stressed as a way of doing extension work.




30 minutes

1. Trainer gives lecture on why it is best to try to do extension work with groups of people, rather than individuals. Trainer goes into group dynamics and stresses risk taking.

(Sample lecture follows)

Trainer's Note: Lecture should be in your own words, use situations with which you are familiar to stress points.

Sample Lecture

Why Organize Groups

Both subsistence farmers and large land holders, are less disposed to take risk on an individual basis. The behavioral tool however, or the risk-shift phenomenon largely used in a business-making atmosphere, can be used more effectively to promote risk taking by small groups of people in collective decision making.

Small groups of people concerned with decisions that involve some element of risk, unlike large group members, will, after engaging in various modes of group discussion, make a collective decision that is far more risky than their individual decision on the same matter would be. Key elements here is that group discussion on a matter of importance must take place to the point of group consensus on that particular matter before the shift occurs .

In the case of subsistence farmers, much depends upon the extension agent's ability to explain the risk involved to group members, and consequently show how the new technology substantially exceeds, in cost/benefit advantages, the farmer's present traditional technology.

For example, if an extension agent suggests to a group of farmers that a Particular technology or agricultural technique could improve productivity, but is unable to explain how much the technology would cost, where it could be obtained, how to use it and what benefits could be expected from its use, one can rightly predict that conservative influences will prevail and a risk decision will not be taken to adapt the technology.

There are four major hypotheses that support the process of group acceptance of risky technical innovations. These four are the leadership, familiarization, diffusion-ofresponsibility and risk-as-value hypothesis, In order for risk-shift to occur, regardless of the particular hypothesis, a group discussion to the point of group consensus on the issue must take place beforehand; for without discussion and consensus the shift will not occur.

In the leadership hypothesis, it is believed that certain group members are viewed as both natural risk takers and group leaders who have an above average influence on the rest of the group membership. The risk-shift condition is believed to occur because these people are inclined to be more dominant and/or influential in the group Discussions and consequently influence the group in the direction of accepting risk. However, a behavioral problem with the leadership approach is that leaders can be either conservative influencers or risk takers under certain circumstances. This brings us back to the extension agent's ability to explain adequately the nature of the risk involved: An effective group leader can play a very conservative role if he perceives that the extension agent does not know what he/she is talking about or has not adequately explained the risk involved. Once convinced that a suggested program is adequately organized and supported, leaders become effective promoters.

Current thought on the role of opinion leaders in village societies is that extension agents should be made aware of the potential effect, negative and/or positive, leaders can have on the transference of new technology to group members.

Familiarization: Group discussion allows persons to become more familiar with the issue being discussed and consequently increases familiarity with the issue. As a result of becoming familiar with other group members' attitudes toward the risk, members will he even more willing to take a risk because they know where all the members stand on the particular issue. (Rogers: "There appears to ba a pooling effect in media forums (groups) by which those members who begin at lower levels of knowledge, persuasion, or adoption gain more in these respects than do forum group members who begin at higher levels. Knowledge reduces risk)."

A group of peasant farmers (who have attained at least the minimum capacity to function together as a cohesive desicion-making unit) in deciding whether or not to take the risk to adopt a new technology (which could be deadly if not successful and the crop of trees is lost), should test the technology by discussing and becoming familiar with its stated objective - to improve production.

Diffusion of Responsibility: It is felt that group discussion and cohesion develops emotional bones between members and frees the individual from full responsihility for his risky decision. An individual heels that his decision has been shaped by the group and if it fails, he is no worse off than the others since they will fail together. It is difficult for subsistence farmers particularly in the Latin American countries to establish strong emotional bonds with each other, even in many cases, when they are related. In Latin America there appears to be a great deal of factionalism. Short term groups will probably not develop strong emotional ties in any event.

This hypothesis cannot account for cautious shifts. The hypothesis does not specify how the creation of emotional bonds among subjects makes them less concerned about the negative consequences of risky decisions.

Most damaging of all appears to be the exchange of relevent information, not the development of emotional bonds that is necessary for the risk-shift to occur.

Risk as Cultural Value: This hypothesis maintains that moderate risk has a cultural-value which develops during the life span of a group and consequently individuals come to view themselves as being as willing as their peers (within the group culture) to take risks. The major mode of implementation is peer pressure to conform the deviants who are not reflecting views of the majority of the groups members.

All of the hypotheses interact in varying degrees to produce the shift in small group decision-making.

Let's go back to familiarization and talk about that process, information exchange, feedback and group discussion.

Variables to Risk Taking

Not Known or Understood

Not Within Farmer's Managerial Competence

Farmers may have heard but the comprehension of what it can do or the effective utilization of the new technology may require additional knowledge and skills which they are now lacking.

Not Socially, Culturally or Psychologically Acceptable

A great deal is made in the development literature of those cases where a new practice or a new technique has not been adapted because it would upset too severely the established patterns of social or economic political organization.

Not Technically Viable or Adequately Adapted

Very often the new recommended technology has not in fact been locally adapted or tested under conditions which more closely approximate those faced by the farmer. Subsistence farmers are shrewd and can discern whether the new variety or practice has had enough adaptive research and local testing to meet their unique local needs.

Not Economically Feasible

Probably the biggest single cause of resistance to change is the unprofitability of the new technology as seen by the farmer. Often the new technology requires the purchase of additional inputs to achieve the higher productivity and these inputs have a cost. Further, when the farmer compares the expected output plus its associated income with the additional costs of the input, the balance sheet employing the new technology is found wanting.

Not Available

Often the new technology is embedded in a physical item such as seeds, pesticides, fertilizer or equipment. Unless the new item is readily available to the farmer in quantities at the time he needs it, knowledge of its potential contribution to his agricultural production will not result in its adaptation.

30 minutes

2. Divide into small groups and give each group a different problem (see examples) to search their own experience for specific examples of situations in which hey encountered a similar problem and what solutions were used in that group situation. would it work here in host country?


3. Groups give presentations to large group on problems they had, experiences that were similar, and possible solutions:


- Problems ensure that effort is maintained when extensionist is drawn.


- To yet outside organizations (including local governments, voluntary organizations and technical departments) to cooperate in forestry extension work.


- To get local leaders to cooperate.


- To work in a community divided by racial or religious factions or by other factional rivalries.


- To regain the confidence of a community once it has been lost.

5 minutes

4. Trainer draws [earnings from presentations that would apply to


extension work. Asks for generalizations about groups from participants.


5. Trainer now does summary of the three sessions on extension work. Conclude with the following:


1. Relative advantage is the degree to which an innovation is perceived as better than the idea it supersedes. The relative advantage of a new idea, as perceived by Members of a social system, is positively related to its rate of adoption.


2. Compatibility is the degree to which an innovation is perceived as consistent with the existing values, past experience, and needs of the receivers. The compatibility of a new idea, as perceived by members of a social system, is positively related to its rate of adoption.


3. Complexity is the degree to which an innovation is perceived as relatively difficult to understand and use. The complexity of an innovation, as perceived by members of a social system, is negatively related to its rate of adoption.


4. Trialability is the degree to which an innovation may be experimented with on a limited basis. The trialahility of an innovation, as perceived by members of a social system, is positively related to its rate of adoption.


5. Observability is the degree to which the results of an innovation are visible to others. The observability of an innovation, as perceived by members of a social system, is positively related to its rate of adoption.


(Communication of Innovation by Rogers & Shoemaker)


After studying more than 1500 publications on the diffusion of ideas and the change process, Rogers and Shoemaker found that extensionists were more successful when they:

1. Expand more effort in change activities with communities;

2. Are community oriented rather than change agency oriented;

3. Propose programs compatible with community needs;

4. Have empathy with their communities and community members;

5. Are similar to their community members;

6. Work through opinion leaders;

7. Have credibility in the eyes of their community;

8. Increase their community's ability to evaluate innovations.


"Training for the Cross-cutural Mind," The Society for International Education, Training and Research, Washington, D.C., 1980.

Everett Rogers and Floyd Shoemaker, Communication of Innovations: A Cross-Cultural Approach," "New York Free Press, 1971.

Allen D. Jedicka Praeger Publications 200 Park Avenue New York, hew York 10017 Organization for Rural Development. 1977


Total Time: 4 hours


- To introduce agro-forestry as a possible marriage.

- To explore the concept of forestry in combination with agriculture or livestock.

- To explore the agro-forestry as a good concept.

- To explore agro-forestry as an extension technique.

- To look at elements necessary in planning an agro-forestry project.


Agro-forestry as a sub-discipline of forestry is a concept recognized in the last ten years but it should be pointed out that farmers have been practicing agro-forestry for hundreds of years. As a new discipline, there is not yet a great deal written about the subject. There are currently, probably, thousands of projects being researched and investigated throughout the world. In this session we explore the concepts of agro-forestry and look at agro-forestry in extension work. Each participant's agro-forestry plan is evaluated and questions answered. It should be pointed out that the participants in this training program are undoubtedly the pioneers in this discipline who will write the books on agro-forestry

Trainer's Notes Agro-forestry plans written by trainees are submitted the day before, to give trainers a chance to review them before presentation.


I. Lecture on Agro-Forestry

II. Response to individual agro-forestry plans by trainees.

Materials: flip charts, marker pens, tape, article "Can Farming and forestry Coexist in the Topics? (Optional).

Trainer's Note: During the pilot of this training program, we were able to get a researcher in and practitioner of agro-forestry in the Amazon Basin to give this lecture and review individual plane. This is an optimum alternative to this session unless one of the technical trainers has a great deal of experience in this field. Since practioners are hard to come try, we have tried to make this outline as comprehensive as possible. A lecture by an expert is included in this section.