| Agricultural extension |
|Research and planning|
The needs a community (or individual farmer) identifies for itself are the needs it will work hardest to fill. Community and agricultural surveys help extension workers begin to understand what local needs exist. A needs and resources survey is the next stage of information gathering. It is directed at helping a community isolate and articulate its problems and consider various solutions.
Gathering accurate information about needs requires skillful interviewing techniques. Questions about shortages of various commodities or the absence of particular services can easily become leading questions, especially when the information source has reason to believe that the extension worker has the capacity to solve the problem. For that reason, it is often more useful to conduct a needs survey through an indirect line of questioning. Focussing attention on the amount of time allotted to specific household and farm chores is likely to prove a more useful indicator of needs for labor-saving devices than a straight yes-or-no poll would be. Finding out what supplies people must travel to purchase or what services are sought outside the community will provide a better insight into local needs than simply asking people if they feel a health clinic, for example, should be built in town. (See ILLUSTRATIONS.)
It is important that an extension agent be familiar with the resources that are available to a community. To acquaint herself with local solutions to problems, the agent needs to consult villagers themselves first. There are many resources and ways of doing things that an outsider will not know. In this respect, the extensionist is still a learner. There may also be resources inside and outside the community that the agent can recommend in some situations. It is essential, though, that she understand first how the community views its own situation.
There may be good reasons why some of the solutions that might naturally be recommended would be inappropriate for a local situation. For example, an extension agent might suggest to a farmer who wants to expand his farming operation to take better advantage of the natural resource that exists in a particular tract of land by planting a citrus plantation there. The owner may, however, resist the advice because the land use arrangement on that piece of land does not allow for such longrange development. Thus, the land in question is not an available resource for the type of production the extension agent is advocating, even though at first glance it seems the best resource for meeting the farmer's needs.
Specific types of resources are described in detail in Peace Corps' Resources for Development manual, which is available through the Office of Information Collection and Exchange (ICE) in Washington. Briefly, they include human, informational, natural, material, technical and financial resources. Human resources include, among others, the organizational skirts of local leaders, the manual skills of craftspersons, the vast experience of the elderly, and the physical strength of youth. Informational resources are found in printed form in research and educational institutions, and oral form through well-travelled individuals, and in other visual and aural (e.g. radio) media as well. Natural resources include everything occurring in the geographical environment, from mineral ores and trees to wildlife and sunlight. Material resources are manufactured items like tools, mats, rope, and nets. Technical resources are processes known and used locally to accomplish tasks (i.e. local technologies). And financial resources include both local contributions and access to loans and grants, self-help funds and donations. All of these different resources and many others have a direct bearing on how a community meets its development needs. Accordingly, community resources require an extension worker's specific attention.
Using indirect lines of questioning to gather information about a community's needs and resources:
Whenever extension agent. A hears from one of his neighbors that they are going to go or have just returned from out of town he asks where they went and what they did. Later, he notes the response in his work journal. Shortly, before the onset of the rains, the extension agent notices that several of his acquaintances have either made personal trips or sent another person in their stead to neighboring villagers to buy seed for the upcoming planting season. He wonders if other people in the village also buy their seed outside of town.
To follow up on his initial bit of information, the volunteer does several things. He begins to systematically ask every farmer he knows how they get their seed. He asks farmers who travel outside of town to procure seed where they get their seed, how long it takes to travel there who they buy from and how much the seed costs. He then travels with some of his neighbors to the villages where most people buy seed and talks with farmers who are doing the selling. He asks these farmers to show him how they store their grain from one planting season to the next. The extension agent also visits the storerooms of the farmers in the village where he lives. He asks these local farmers what varieties of seed they have on hand and how they avoid the extensive pest damages other farmers have complained about. Gradually, the extension agent develops a more complete picture of the needs of local farmers for a less expensive and more accessible seed supply and the resources available inside the village he lives in - e.g. storage technologies and seed varieties - for filling these needs.
A partial resource inventory checklist:
I. Human Resources
6. Basket makers
7. Rope makers
C. Work Companies
II. Informational resources
1. Local governmental agencies
2. Research stations
3. Development organizations
III. Natural Resources
A. Building materials
3. Native cement (mud and
4. Cerass/palm thatch
8. Vines for rope
9. Bush poles
10. Bananna trees, leaves
B. Other (see "Agricultural Survey" and "Community Survey" TOOLS sections.
IV. Material Resources (manufactured goods)
A. Externally made
1. Construction supplies (nails, etc.)
B. Locally made
V. Technical Resources (local technologies)
VI. Financial Resources
A. Local fund-failing efforts (e.g. dances, fiestas, etc.)
B. Money lenders
D. Self-help funds
E. Wealthy donators
F. Outside development agencies
NOTE: The Resources For Development manual published by ICE includes extensive lists of government and private resources that may be useful in a given village situation.