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close this book Agricultural extension
close this folder Providing agricultural support services
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

Working with individual farmers

OVERVIEW

In order to help a farmer act more independently to solve farm problems or secure needed services, the extensionist first must strive to understand the farmer's motives and interests. Unless the extensionist herself knows how to secure a service or solve a problem, she is not in a position to help a farmer do it. Farmers, as practitioners of local technical skills, often have their own valid and workable understanding of problems and solutions which should be carefully checked before the extensionist acts to solve a problem. There is a subtle shift of attention, in providing services indirectly, from the problem itself to the person whose problem it is.


Direct service

 

The extensionist's interaction is with the farmer directly. The activity for the extensionist stops being a purely technical task and becomes an interpersonal and technical task. Extension tasks take on this interpersonal dimension dramatically, consciously and centrally.

Practically speaking, "two-dimensional" extension tasks are accomplished by doing each step, every detail, in the farmer's presence and with his help. The farm visit, for example, must be done with the farmer each time. The particular problem viewed, (insect damage to a crop, for example), is looked at with two sets of eyes. The extensionist feels a responsibility to show the farmer the problem, to listen to and understand the farmer's view of the problem, and to devise a response to the problem in conjunction with the farmer in a way that includes the farmer in the process. This is the habit of "counterparting", of seeking a specific farmer co-worker for each extension task and activity.

Having confronted a problem jointly and discussed it equally with a farmer, the extensionist and farmer now must consider the options open to them to solve the problem. "Providing Farm Inputs" in this chapter, for example, discussed how to choose appropriate inputs. Using these guidelines, the extensionist works with a farmer to make the choice, emphasizing the importance of the criteria which measure whether the input can be secured and used by the farmer himself. This discussion is not easy, due to language and cultural barriers. But it is essential that it proceed in a way which includes rather than alienates the farmer. Admittedly, this pace of problem-solving is slow compared to direct action. However, something else is speeded up. That is the farmer's rate of learning and growth as a problem-solver with widening scope.

The next step in working with farmers is passing on specific technical skills and knowledge. Because this is a specialized and extensive topic, Chapter Four, FARMER TRAINING METHODS, is devoted to it entirely. Here it should be emphasized that helping a farmer learn technical skills is a long and focused process. When the shift from direct action to the development of farmer skills is complete, the extensionist plays the special role of the trainer.

Another shift occurs when the extensionist endeavors to serve farmers indirectly. This is a shift of responsibility. Whose responsibility is it to provide supportive services to farmers? This is a complex question, but, generally speaking in developing countries farmers assume that extensionists provide this support, especially material inputs. Having been enticed to move out of the self-sustaining security of subsistence farming by cash-crop extensionists in the past, this is a logical assumption for farmers to have. However, dependence on extensionists for necessary support, as another form of limitation substituted for the subsistence system, is not desirable. Moreover, extensionists, by their very existence as outsiders in the village community, are agents of change. Their benevolence and sensitivity notwithstanding, extensionists must accept the fact that, initially, they own the responsibility for change in the village context. In order to practically allow farmers to shoulder this reponsibility themselves, the extensionist works to transfer it back to the farmer.

Once a farmer has decided that a recommended new practice matches her interets and will meet her needs, then it is time to choose inputs and procedures, develop skills and knowledge, and transfer the responsibility for carrying out this project to the farmer herself. An extensionist does this by helping the farmer clarify what needs to be done and who is to do what. (See Chapter Six, MANAGEMENT, for TOOLS "Planning & Carrying Out Plans" for assigning work tasks and commitments). Transferring responsibility in this way involves a series of simple steps. (See TOOLS for "Steps in Transferring Responssibility".)

How can an extensionist be sure a farmer will accept responsibility for solving problems and accomplishing tasks? It is often believed that the "colonial peasant mentality" is too entrenched, and rural farmers are too unmotivated to take charge of and change their lives. This is the most dangerous fallacy under which extensionists can labor. No one can presume to motivate another person. Everyone in the world is motivated in one way or another, for motivation is the degree to which interests and desires are acted upon. Extension involves a process of discerning the unique interests and goals of a farmer. If these coincide with the objectives of an extensionist's work, the farmer will appear to be "motivated" to participate in such work. Extensionists must strive diligently to fashion their own objectives in the image and likeness of the interests of the farmers they serve. By clarifying tasks and following the steps in transferring responsibility for tasks over to the farmer, the extensionist is engaged in the process of defining a clear and limited role as helper. Limiting and defining the helping relationship is an essential skill in weaning farmer-clients from dependence on the extensionist.

From the very first day of work in any community the extensionist must make clear the limits of his role and the goal of his work, to help farmers participate in change successfully. The extension worker's role ideally should run a standard course:

It should expand as a farmer's interest in specific ag resources grows initially. Then the role should slowly contract as the new ideas and skills are more clearly linked to the interests of the farmer, and the farmer begins solving problems with the extension worker more and more. Finally, the extensionist's role is given its clearly limited form in equilibrium with the skills and resources of the farmer herself.

Being an extensionist involves attaining empathy with farmer-clients, but it does not mean being a farmer or doing a farmer's work. It is the responsibility of the extensionist to initiate and promote the process by which farmers reclaim responsibility, develop skills and confidence, and participate actively in the process of change.

ILLUSTRATION

1. "Steps in Transferring Responsibility"

I. Do a task for a farmer the first time. (e.g. clipping needle teeth of pig).

II. Demonstrate how and ask the farmer to help the second time. (Ask her to hold the pig down and try to clip once).

III. Ask the farmer to try the task on her own with your help.

IV. Ask the farmer to demonstrate the task to you in its entirety. Work with the farmer to arrange for a local blacksmith to fashion a copy of the tool for the farmer.

V. Ask the farmer to demonstrate the task to another farmer in your absence, using her own tool.

(Check with both farmers afterwards to make sure all went well).

2. See this chapter, "Providing Farm Inputs", for INTRODUCTION and TOOLS sections on how to choose appropriate inputs.

3. See Chapter Four, FARMER TRAINING METHODS.

4. See Chapter Six, MANAGEMENT, "Planning" and "Carrying Out Plans" TOOLS, for planning and assigning work tasks with others.

5. See Chapter Six, MANAGEMENT, "Carrying Out Plan", INTRODUCTION, for a discussion of work motivation.

6. See Chapter Two, RESEARCH and PLANNING, "Understanding People" for how to survey the interests and motivation of farmers.

TOOLS

1. See this chapter, "Providing Farm Inputs", for INTRODUCTION and TOOLS sections on how to choose appropriate inputs.

2. See Chapter Four, FARMER TRAINING METHODS.

3. See Chapter Six, MANAGEMENT, "Planning" and "Carrying Out Plans" TOOLS, for planning and assigning work tasks with others.

4. See Chapter Six, MANAGEMENT, "Carrying Out Plans", INTRODUCTION, for a discussion of work motivation.

5. See Chapter Two, RESEARCH and PLANNING, "Understanding People" for how to survey the interests and motivation of farmers.

 

TOOL

FEEDBACK AND THE HELPING RELATIONSHIP

(Taken from Training of Trainers Manual, US Department of Health and Human Services)

GENERAL OBSERVATIONS

Different names are used to designate the helping process: for example, counseling, teaching, guiding, training, educating, etc. These have in common the intent to influence (and therefore change) the individual who is being helped. The expectation is that the change in the receiver will be constructive and useful to him (i.e., will clarify his perceptions of the problem, bolster his self-confidence, modify his behavior or help him develop new skills).

THE HELPING SITUATION

One way to look at the helping situation is to sketch it in the following manner:


Perceptions

• The helping situation is dynamic, i.e., characterized by interaction that is both verbal and nonverbal.

• The helping person has needs (biological and psychological), feelings, and a set of values.

• The receiver of help has needs (biological and psychological), feelings, and a set of values.

• Both helper and the receiver of help are trying to satisfy certain of these needs.

• The helper has perceptions of himself, of the receiver of help, of the problem, and of the entire situation (expectancies, roles, standards, etc.).

• The receiver of help has perceptions of himself, of the helper, of the problem, and of the entire situation (expectancies, roles, standards, etc.).

• The interaction takes place in relation to some need or problem that may be external to the two individuals, interwoven with the relationship of the two individuals, or rooted in the relationship between the two individuals. Wherever the beginning point and the focus of emphasis is, the relationship between the two individuals becomes an important element in the helping situation as soon as interaction begins.

• His needs, values, and feelings, his perception of these, and his perception of the situation cause the receiver of help to have certain objectives.

• His needs, values, and feelings, his perception of these, and his perception of the situation cause the helper to have certain objectives.

• Both helper and receiver of help have power (influence) in the helping situation. However, it is the receiver of help who controls whether or not change actually takes place.