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close this folder Farmer training
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View the document Field days
View the document Mass media

Farmer training



Farmer training is education that most often takes place outside formal learning institutions. It differs from education in schools because it is geared towards adult learning.

Adult learners are distinct from child learners in four important respects. The self-concept of a child is characterized by dependency, whereas mature adults are self-directed and sufficient in most aspects of their lives. Adults tend to resent educators that fail to take this fact into account. They do not appreciate being talked down to or having their autonomy restricted in ways that show a lack of respect. Since most learning situations are pedagogical, or directed at children, adults often enter training with expectations that they will be treated like children with explicit guidance at each step. When they eventually discover that they are capable of directing their own learning, adults are often spurred on by a strong, emerging motivation to pursue their own educational goals.

A second aspect of adult education that also pertains to agricultural training deals with motivation to learn. In pedagogical learning, teachers decide the content to be delivered to students as well as how and when the teaching is to take place. Adults on the other hand, begin new learning ventures with some ideas of what they will gain from doing so. It is necessary, then, that extension agents discover what it is a farmer wants to learn This may seem like a natural step and perhaps not worth much emphasis. Nonetheless, failure to accomodate a farmer's interests is a common pitfall. Extension agents often assume the teacher's role and decide for the farmer what she needs to know. The drawback to this approach is that the farmer is apt to resist. Decisions on the content and method of training must be the shared responsibility of farmers and extensionists. The common purpose which emerges from such choices leads to sense of cooperation necessary for learning to take place. A cooperative spirit in adult learning is important because it allows for the sharing of useful knowledge and skills adults bring with them to a new learning situation. Children have less experience to offer. Their classroom activities are characterized by modes of one-way communication, lectures, assigned readings and audio-visual presentations. By contrast, the past experience of adult learners is central to adult learning, so activities such as discussion, role playing, and skills-practice are designed which use that experience as a foundation for further learning. Grain farmers are asked to use their intimate knowledge of seasonal variations of climate to help plan a crop rotation pattern suitable for local conditions. Livestock owners rely on their experience of the difficulties of procuring local feedstuffs as they make selections to design a nutritional feed ration for a flock of laying hens.

The final characteristic of adult learners which sets them apart from children has to do with their time perspective and how it affects their orientation to training overall. Children (and many educators) view pedagogy as preparation for the future. Its focus is the child herself. Graduation is the point at which learning begins to be applied. Adult learning on the other hand is based on the principle that all experience contributes to a learning process that does not end with the closure of a training event, but continues throughout one's adult life. Whereas pedagogy involves grouping and classifying information into subjects to be studied now for use "someday", adult education promotes learning by working on today's problems today. For example, Farmer training sessions are likely to focus on composting rather than chemistry, or immunization rather than microbiology. Though elements of the broader subjects come into play in each case, the immediacy of application is the determining factor in choosing the actual content of the training.

Adult learning is not widely practiced in the extension services which are predominant in the developing world. Small farmers in Third World countries are often told what is right ("modern techniques") and what is wrong ("traditional practices"), what to grow ( often, cash crops), and where and when to market their produce. This approach to extension promotes dependency on outside inputs and expert advice (self-concept). It denies farmers the choice of what they want to learn (motivation). It does not focus on the Third World farmer's most immediate need to grow more food for her family (time perspective). Nor does it take into account a farmer's accumulated experience of the environment where her crops are grown.

The environment in which small-scale Third World farmer lives is often dominated by uncertain weather, pests, diseases and price fluctuations. Farming in this environment is fraught with risks. Given the choice afforded her in a farmer training system built on adult learning principles, a farmer will avoid as much risk as she can. The extension worker's task, then, is to help the farmer reduce risks whenever possible through a sensitive choice of training methods and presentation of innovations that are appropriate to the scale and type of farming being practiced.

There are several ways to help accomplish this goal. Perhaps the most important is to try and ensure success by promoting only those innovations whose results have been thoroughly tested under local conditions. Extensionists often succumb to the temptation to promote before testing. This may well result in failure of the practice and a disastrous loss of credibility among farmers. The importance of assessing the success rate of specific proposed changes cannot be overemphasized.

A second way to reduce farming risks is to time the sequencing of innovations. Certain changes lend themselves to earlier promotion than others. Those that are easily assimilated into current practices involve less risk than those that are more disruptive of the norm. Examples would be innovations that do not require a radical change in diet or a detrimental shift in the tasks assigned to men and women in the work force; that would avoid considerable retraining; or that would not entail a realignment of a periodic farming cycle. Less costly innovations (e.g. timeliness, seed selection or better spacing techniques) are preferred and in cases where cash inputs are required, risk is reduced if they are readily available to all classes of farmers. Finally, extension agents can build credibility by first introducing innovations that have an immediate payoff as opposed to those that have longer term results (e.g. variation of a feed ration as opposed to cross-breeding).

Sometimes it is easier to promote a 'package' of innovations than a single innovation, because the results of a well-tested package are often much more dramatic. The package approach is also sometimes favored by national planners of extension services because it is seen as a more efficient use of limited extension manpower. One major drawback of this technique is that if the package fails, farmers may conclude that all of the individual practices are unproductive. Also, more research and testing are required to adapt a package to local conditions than a single innovation. A package may be more costly because several changes are introduced at once and may therefore be inaccessible to small farmers with limited cash resources. (Note that a package can also be designed that does not include cash inputs.) Finally, the elements of a package may be so closely related that if a single input is unavailable or one component is inadvertently neglected, the entire package may be susceptible to failure.

It is not uncommon for extension agents, whether they are working with a package or with individual innovations, to exaggerate the benefits of a new practice. Efforts must be taken to make conservative recommendations. Suggestions include: lower yield estimates to account for incidental factors and less than optimum employment of new practices by farmers; recommend purchased inputs on the basis of maximum return per dollar rather than maximum return per land unit or head of livestock (this favors small farmers who do not profit by volume); encourage farmers to do a limited trial of a new practice prior to wholesale adoption, (for example, on a small portion of land rather than over a whole landholding). The idea behind making conservative recommendations is that they allow a farmer to improve at her own rate until she reaches a position of sufficient financial security to assume greater risks.

At times, the difficulties farmers have in taking their chances with a particular practice have less to do with the practice itself than with the method of its presentation. Appropriate training methods help ensure that the benefits of change and the specific steps required to make that change are effectively communicated to a farmer in a way she can readily understand.

Examples of different learning styles include farmers who need to see and test results for themselves; farmers who are unsure how to do something; farmers who need to get their information from people they know rather than strangers, and farmers who need ideas expressed in a logical framework, that is consistent with their own worldview. Corresponding training methods are result demonstrations and on farm-trials; method demonstrations; training of master farmers to train their peers; and analogy and storytelling. When an effective match is made between training method and learner, the quality of communication between the extension agent and the farmer increases, trust is established and risk in the eyes of the farmer is reduced.

In sum, farmers seek to avoid risk whenever possible in an occupation characterized by uncertainty. To help farmers change and adapt new conditions extension agents need to make concentrated efforts to reduce risk by rigorously testing results before promotion, introducing easily adaptable improvements before those requiring a more substantial departure from accepted practices, packaging innovations to enhance results, erring on the conservative side in making recommendations, and choosing training methods appropriate to farmers' learning needs. The advantages of combining these risk-avoiding steps include a greater measure of credibility for the extension agent and a more significant degree of control of and participation by farmers in the development process which affects their lives.


Cross - cultural communication


Extension work is carried out through two-way communication. This communication takes place in a cross-cultural environment that is not familiar to a new agent. Sensitivity to that environment is important in everything the agent does.

Evidence of cultural differences is readily found in a people's customs and beliefs. Extension agents need to look beyond these more obvious manifestations of culture to subtle distinctions fauna in language and other means of communication if the desired two-way flow of information is to take place.


Learning to speak the farmer's own language is a goal most extensionists work towards in some way or another. Learning to use a language in a culturally appropriate way may in many respects be a more useful objective. For example, there are expressions in most languages that have special (colloquial) meanings in local circumstances. "An empty sack will not stand up" does not refer to grain bags in a storeroom; it is an expression that says, in effect, "A man who has not been fed will not work." Proverbs or parables such as this one are very direct forms of communication that can enhance an extension worker's ability to talk effectively with people. Generally, they refer in some way to the most vital aspects of life in a given culture. Systematic questioning about key elements of life, such as food or family, may generate a list of expressions that would prove useful in an extensionist's work with farmers.

An equally important consideration is the way people of a given culture communicate non-verbally. There are often very strict, unwritten rules regarding the gestures one uses, eye contact, and other means of physical communication. An outsider may unwittingly break these rules and cause offense.

A useful way to avoid cultural miscommunication when using a language is to choose a language instructor or interpreter who also serves as a cultural informant. Focussing on parables and non-verbal means of communication in addition to learning grammar and vocabulary will help ensure that culture does more to enhance communication than impede it.

Cultural bias

The participants in any communication exchange bring with them a particular viewpoint or bias that reflects their culture. Peace Corps volunteers doing extension work in technical fields such as agriculture often betray a special bias toward abstract scientific concepts that is not always shared by the people with whom extensionists work.

Experiments have been conducted which show that people in non-literate societies do not share American ("Western") concepts of measurement or geometry.

For example, equal quantities of water were poured into a long, thin glass and a short, stout glass. When asked which glass contained more water, 60% of a non-literate group chose one glass or the other because of its shape. Similarly, two points were marked on a circular table and test participants were asked to connect the points with a straight line ("as if you were carrying a heavy load of wood or water"). Again, roughly 60% of the participants failed to draw the straight line. The implications of a volunteer's scientific bias may not be apparent until farmers confront a task such as measuring fertilizer or digging an irrigation ditch and encounter difficulty. The need for extension agents to consider this type of cultural difference is nonetheless apparent.

Illiteracy has other implications. People who are constantly exposed to the printed page are also frequently inundated with photographic images, not only in magazines and books, but also on television and movie screens, signs and advertisements. The skill of interpreting these images is referred to as visual literacy. Those who are visually illiterate have difficulty with depth perception in pictures, and they have a hard time discovering motion or identity. Other two-dimensional visual effects such as maps or drawings present similar difficulties to those who are not "conversant" in visual language. Thus, an extension worker should use care in choosing visual aids for a training presentation.

Sometimes maps can be constructed as three-dimensional scale models. Again, caution is warranted, in that interpreting scales may not be a common practice in a given culture. The example is often cited of the extension worker who employed a meter long scale model of a tsetse fly in a presentation to farmers on cattle diseases. At the end of the short talk, one farmer raised his hand and thanked the agent for alerting him to the dangers of the tsetse fly. He added that he was, himself, not too worried because he had yet to see a fly anywhere near as big as the one in the agent's hand on his own farm.

Another problem with scale models in particular and visual aids in general, is the unconscious use of negative symbolism. Colors, certain animals or replicas of human beings can all, in certain cultures, have connotations of danger or represent unfavorable omens. The key to avoiding offense in cross-cultural communication is pre-testing presentations with part of the intended audience to determine their suitability in advance. Observers can help an extension agent with suggestions that will make his communication more direct and bias-free.

Appropriate cross-cultural training methods

Just as ignorance of cultural norms can work to block effective communication, understanding the communication patterns in a local culture can open up new, exciting avenues for information flow. Storytelling is a means of communication that has been practiced in many cultures for generations. When used in extension work, stories can serve several different purposes. They can demonstrate drawbacks of specific agricultural practices without singling out any one farmer in front of her peers. This is accomplished by telling the story in the third person about a fictional character and allowing the audience to draw its own conclusions.

Another particularly effective technique is to make analogies to situations within the collective experience of one's audience.

This allows farmers to build upon what they already know as they learn. A rice plant goes through a growth stage at which the stem grows fat just prior to vigorous vertical growth. This is an opportune time to apply nitrogen fertilizer so it is important that the stage be precisely identified. By analogy, extension agents and farmers in West Africa refer to the stage by saying that the plant "gets belly", or becomes pregnant. This type of analogy can be used in the context of a story to help farmers come to a fuller understanding of a new practice or method by incorporating concepts with which farmers are already familiar.

The way a story is actually told can vary with the story's purpose. An extension agent can incorporate peer teaching into storytelling by asking several farmers to tell different parts of a story. This allows for wider participation and generally creates a higher interest level on the part of the audience. An extension agent can also tell half of a story and leave 'blanks' for farmers to complete. This can be used to test and see how much farmers actually retain during training sessions, e.g.:

"Jose has been working all day under the hot sun. He is tired and is looking forward to the meal and bathwater that will be waiting for him when he returns home. Still, he wants to finish planting his maize field before evening, so he continues, methodically dropping handfuls of seed into holes (how far?) apart..."

In some cultures, stories can even be dramatized with farmers playing different roles. In general, creative use of this medium can bridge communication barriers that would otherwise pose serious problems to outsiders acting as extension workers.

Songs and dances are communication media that are easily overlooked, but nonetheless serve as extremely effective mass promotional devices. Most villages have someone who can sing and put words to music. The agent need only ask this person to prepare a song on a special topic, such as:

The man who harvested his grain too late

The woman who built a strong fence around her garden to keep out pests

The village that had no grazing restrictions

When set to a popular tune with a pronounced dance rhythm, the elements of these stories can rapidly become ingrained in the daily routine of a whole village.

Role plays or spontaneous dramatizations provide an opportunity for farmers to practice skills in problem-solving, community organizing, and teaching methods. They require few props and minimal preparation, can be very lively, and can come very close to approximating real life situations. It is important not to ask farmers to role-play situations that are extremely controversial. To prevent bad feelings from developing, each player should be allowed to de-role by saying how it felt to play his or her character, and discussion among players and observers should be encouraged.

Finally, a wide variety of visual aids can be employed to improve cross-cultural communication. Several cautions have already been mentioned about the limits to the use of graphics models and photographs. Even so, excellent training materials are available (see TOOLS section below) to help extensionists prepare and use visual aids in their work.

The audience

Choice of audience may have clear implications within a particular culture. In some cases, it is a sign of respect to pay separate visits to individual households. Practically speaking, training sessions with individuals may be more effective because they can be paced to meet specific needs. They also make use of a farmer's own fields as a training setting, a more comfortable and relevant arrangement for most farmers.

The advantages of working with groups include opportunities for farmers to step into active training roles with their peers. This helps de-emphasize the extension agent's role as 'expert' and helps ensure that information will pass through culturally appropriate channels.


The techniques suggested for improving cross-cultural communication in this section can be combined in many useful ways. Additional references to consult are included in the TOOLS section below.


Use of a scale model:

To demonstrate the interrelationship of a system's parts and to solve a problem, a set of irrigated rice paddies are modeled out of clay; Farmers owning connecting paddies are assembled and each is asked to demonstrate with the model how he irrigates his own plots; where he lets water into his plots, where he lets it out, how long and often he lets water flow through his plots, etc. A discussion then ensues about how water not used by farmers upstream must be allowed to pass unimpeded to farmers downstream.

Use of analogy:

This illustration is borrowed from David Werner and Bill Bower's, Helping Health Workers Learn, p. 13-8

Helping health workers learn


Use of role playing:

When preparing a joint demonstration on fertilizer application a Peace Corps extension worker and her counterpart take turns playing the role of a non-literate woman vegetable farmer. They pose questions to each other and follow advice exactly as it is given to see if they can uncover any areas of cultural bias in their presentation.


Sources of proverbs and parables

When learning a new language and gathering useful colloquial phrases for use in cross-cultural communication, start with vital topics such as those on the following list:











Non-verbal communication:

Observe or ask cultural informants about rules concerning the following types of non-verbal communication:

• body language, gestures

• interpersonal space (how close to stand to someone)

• timing of verbal exchange (is it rude to interrupt someone before they have finished speaking?)

• eye contact

• touching (body contact, holding hands, etc.)

Examples of "scientific' bias:

• measurements

• notions of time

• geometry

• ability to read maps and photographs

• ability to interpret scale

Culturally appropriate training methods:

• storytelling

• analogy

• proverbs, parables (colloquialisms)

• skits

• role plays

• song and dance

• visual aids such as

- models

- photos

- puppets

- drawings

- posters

- flannel boards

- flash cards

- flipcharts

- games, puzzles


General considerations in effective communication:

- People learn by hearing, seeing, tasting, smelling, discussing, doing;

- The more farmers actively participate in training, the more two-way communication will take place;

- Does the training method relate to a farmer's own experience?

- Is the information timely?

- Is the skill needed?

- Is the innovation affordable?

- Is the language used free of unnecessary technical terms and abstractions?

- Is the tone of the presentation respectful and pleasant?

- Is the audience comfortable (temperature, seating, visibility, hearing range, etc)?

- Is the presentation well rehearsed and organized?

- Are materials locally available and conveniently placed?

- Is a mechanism in place to make sure the desired message was conveyed in the presentation?

Scale models:


• mapping (three dimensional relief features)

• demonstrating the relationship between a system's parts

• reproducing to scale a mechanical part that can be used to practice manual skills

• planning

• promotion of innovations

• problem-solving

• comparative analysis


• Farmers, counterparts or children (excellent for use in schools)

Planning considerations-

• choice of scale

• choice of materials (cost, availability)

• permanent or temporary construction

• rain protection

• shade

• accessibility (suitable for audience size)

• portability

• capable of being manipulated (encourages participation)

• culturally acceptable

Making and using other visual aids

There are excellent materials available on making and using visual aids. Refer especially to:

David Werner and Bill Bower, Helping Health Workers Learn,

The Hesperian Foundation (Post Office Box 1692, Palo Alto, CA. 94302, USA),

1982, Chapters 1116 and 27.

Pam J. Straley and Vyen Ngoc Luong, Community Health Education in Developing Countries,

Peace Corps (Information Collection and Exchange),

806 Connecticut Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20525, 1978, Part III.

ICE Audiovisual Communications Teaching Aids Packet,

(P8) (PC/ICE) 1982.


Farm visits and troubleshooting


Making individual visits to farmers' fields and livestock holding areas is the farmer training method most widely practiced by extension workers. As such, it requires special attention.

During farm visits extension field workers are often directly confronted with very pressing problems. On the spot, the extension agent is asked to make an expert judgement about (troubleshoot) something plaguing a farmer's plants or animals. The way the extensionist handles this situation can profoundly affect levels of dependency in the farmer-agent relationship. The trick in successful troubleshooting is to avoid taking on "expert" status.

The situation an extension worker faces is somewhat like the interaction between a doctor and her patients. Given someone who needs medical attention, the doctor has several choices as to how she responds. She may simply cure the patient with a packet of pills or an injection and send him on his way. Or she may explain to the patient the causes of his affliction and the way the cure works, cure him, and send him on his way hoping to have educated him enough to prevent future illness. Finally, she may refuse the responsibility for the patient's cure, discuss with him the possible causes of the disease, and explain to him ways that he might be able to cure himself. With this the doctor sends him on his way, hopefully more capable of both preventing disease and curing it without any further assistance from the doctor herself.

The three options for the doctor's response are listed in order of decreasing dependency in the patient-doctor relationship. The same options may be available to the extension agent. One difference in the case of the agent is that she is likely not to have the same degree of expert training as most doctors. The consequence, then, is that the extensionist is in many instances not qualified to make the type of expert judgements represented in the first option above. On the other hand, like the doctor, the extension agent may face situations that she is competent enough to handle and that are serious enough in nature as to require direct action - a disease outbreak among a herd of cattle, for instance. In these cases, it is useful for the extension agent to have practical troubleshooting skills.

The first skills to consider are those of observation and examination. It is essential at the outset that the agent possess enough technical expertise to be able to distinguish normal from abnormal conditions. There are lists of signs of plant and animal diseases, for instance, that an extension agent needs to have either memorized or readily available for use. In the field, then, the agent watches for abnormal plant color, lack of uniformity, stunting, wilting and leaf spots. And she physically examines plants for signs of insect feeding. The steps necessary for a thorough examination need to be second nature. The way to make them systematic is to practice them daily and actually record them in field notebooks and worklogs.

The second set of skills involve utilization of resources beyond those of the agent herself. Included amont these skills are information gathering, description and networking. When confronted with a problem in the field, the extension agent needs to know what practices the farmer has used that might have contributed to the problem, what solutions the farmer may have already attempted in order to get rid of the problem, and, in more general terms, how much the farmer actually knows about possible causes and solutions for a given condition. In order to gather this information, the extensionst needs to utilize the interviewing skills discussed in Chapter Two. In some cases, information gathered from the farmer and the extension worker's own skills at diagnosis may still fail to turn up any clearer understanding of a situation. Being able to accurately describe what conditions exist then becomes a crucial skill. The agent can carry a description of a problem to a network of technical support persons, including other farmers, other extension agents, and technical research stations, to solicit their opinions as to what steps should be taken.

A third set of skills is important when the extension agent does have a clear idea of what is wrong with a farmer's crops or livestock. It is in this instance that she is most likely to set herself up as an "expert." Therefore, caution is warranted. The skills involved include dialogue and use of cross-cultural communication techniques. Dialoguing entails the artful posing of a series of questions logically sequenced so as to lead a farmer through the thought process of diagnosing a problem. (See ILLUSTRATIONS). The key is to keep asking open-ended questions. In cases where dialogue fails to work, the extensionist can give a careful, straightforward explanation of a problem, using analogies to other parts of a farmer's experience. Relating a problem to something'a farmer already knows will help him grasp the solution as something that is not wholly unfamiliar to him, rather than as something that is entirely within the foreign, even magical realm of scientific expertise.


Troubleshooting in a poultry extension program:

Field workers in a livestock extension program directed at poultry farming come together in a district capital for a meeting at which they discuss how they deal with the widespread problem of overcrowding in chicken pens.

Agent A simply tells farmers to build new pens for some of the chickens.

Agent B observes the chickens' aggressive behavior and examines several of them that are afflicted with fungus diseases related to the sanitary conditions in their pens. He asks the farmer how long the behavior patterns and diseases have been present. He explains to the farmer how the behavior and disease are related to the size of the pen and recommends moving some of the chickens to a new location.

Agent C observes the overcrowded pens and tells the farmer that he will return the next day with a suggestion to improve the health of the flock. He goes home and prepares a detailed analogy to help explain why it is important to reduce the number of chickens in the pen. He returns the next day and draws a parallel between the chickens and a large number of people confined in a closed room. He asks the farmer to recall the bad air and the heat he has experienced in closed rooms full of people and says that chickens experience something similar when too many of them are crowded together in one pen. He then recommends that the farmer build a new pen for the overflow.

Agent D is unsure whether overcrowding is the problem or not. He counts the number of chickens in the pen and paces off its size. He asks the farmer to describe the chickens' behavior and makes some brief notes in his field notebook. He visits other farmers whose flocks are healthy and compares the density of the chicken population in their pens. He asks the other farmers if they have observed any of the same sort of aggressive behavior as the first farmer he visited. The other farmers, it turns out, have larger pens for a comparable number of birds and have not witnessed agressive behavior in their flocks. On his next visit to the District Office of the Ministry of Agriculture, he has his suspicions confirmed by a senior extension officer who tells him that the disease and behavior of the problem flock are probably related to the overcrowded conditions in the pens. He returns to the farmer who owns the chickens and explains what the other farmers and the Ministry official told him. The farmer decides to build a second pen for some of his hens.

Agent E observes the crowded conditions and guesses right away that they are the source of the farmer's problems. Rather than tell the farm directly her opinion, she asks several questions that get the farmer thinking about different possible causes of the problem. Some of the ideas the farmer has are shown to be wrong when the extension agent points out exceptions. Others she accepts as possibilities. Finally, the farmer and the agent have narrowed their list down to two or three potential causes. They discuss ways the farmer can test them and arrange for follow-up visits by the agent to see if any of the options have worked. After testing one of the possibilities and finding that it does not change the condition of his birds, the farmer finally determines that overcrowded pens are the chief cause of his flock's illnesses.

Dialoguing with a farmer about crop management techniques:

Question to the farmer: What is the problem with these plants?

Answer: They are yellow and their leaves are withered.

Q: Are all of your plants in the same condition?

A: No, some are much healthier.

Q: What can make plants get sick like this?

A: Sometimes the ground is not good; sometimes there are insects.

Q: Why do you wait until this time of year to plant your garden?

A: Because the crops will not grow well without the rains.

Q: Where do the heavy rains go when they hit the ground here? Do they stay in one place?

A: No, some goes into the ground, but most of the water goes down the hill to the low part of the plot.

Q: How do the plants in the low part of the plot compare to the sick ones you brought me here to see?

A: They are much greener and larger than these.

Q: Why do you think that is the case?

A: It could be because there is more water in that part of the plot when it rains.

Q: How can you help these plants on the upper half of the plot grow better?

A: Give them more water by hand.

Q: How often will you water them?

A: Once every day.

Q: If that is not enough, what will you do?

A: I will water morning and evening, twice a day.


• The ultimate cause of the problem here is that the garden plot is unlevel. The more immediate problem of making his plants healthy is more important to the farmer. The extension agent in the dialogue is wise to wait until a more appropriate time -- just prior to the next planting season, for example -to talk to the farmer about levelling off the plot itself.

• Guard against asking patronizing questions by being thoroughly familiar with a farmer's knowledge.



Troubleshooting tools for crops extension agents:

-A pocket knife for digging up seeds or slicing plant stems to check for root and stem rots or insects borers.

-A shovel or trowel for examining plant roots or checking for soil insects or adequate moisture.

-A pocket magnifying glass to facilitate identification of insects an diseases.

-A reliable soil pH test kit for checking both topsoil and subsoil pH; especially useful in areas of high soil acidity. Kits using litmus paper are generally unreliable. The Hellige Truog kit is one of the best.

-Disease, insect and hunger signs guides which can be hand written if conveniently sized booklets are not available.

Troubleshooting steps:

1. Know signs of abnormal conditions; supplement knowledge with additional training if necessary.

2. Assemble useful tools.

3. Observe and examine and consult with farmer.

4. Consult with other farmers and local agriculturalists.

5. Consult outside experts and resources.

Appropriate problem-solving options: (Consider in order)

-Non-action (Can the farmer handle the problem on her own? Is she turning to an extension agent out of force of habit?)

-Dialogue leading to farmer controlled experimentation.

-Preceding a response with time to prepare an appropriate training method.

-Making recommendations after patiently explaining their rationale.

-Intervening directly in cases of extreme need and attempting a follow-up at a later date.

"A Guide To Troubleshooting Common Crop Problems", Traditional Field Crops Manual, M-13, David Leonard. C/O ICE. Page 333 and afterwards.


On - farm demonstrations


On-farm demonstrations are effective means of reducing the risks farmers perceive. They are designed to take new innovations out of the 'unreal', scientific realm of the research station and place them firmly within the bounds of a farmer's everyday experience. They are used first to display the results of adopting a new practice and then to give the farmer an opportunity to practice new methods. Both types of demonstrations serve to make clear to a farmer exactly what is entailed in opting for a new farming innovation.

Chapter One describes the research-extension chain. Result demonstrations are the link in that chain at which the active promotion of innovations in farming practices begins. Practically speaking, result demonstrations are side by side comparisons of new and traditional techniques. They are conducted in farmer's own fields or barns to show that experimental results can be reproduced locally. Even though crop farming examples will be used throughout this section, result demonstrations can be very creatively employed by livestock extension agents as well. (See Chapter Three under "Testing Recommendations").

On the surface, a result demo might seem fairly straightforward, but there are actually a number of factors that can serve to reduce their effectiveness. First, the demonstration must produce results that are visible and significant enough to convince farmers to try the new practice themselves. If the practice is, for instance, not fully tested before hand under local conditions, the demonstration runs a high risk of failure.

Second, the innovation has to satisfy the farmer's own criteria in terms of the other risks associated with it. That is, it must promise an immediate return, fall within the farmer's financial means, and suit prevailing cultural patterns, to name but three.

Third, the demonstration should not be run by an extension agent. Farmers will be more impressed by results obtained by their peers than by supposed agricultural experts. Fourth, the farmer on whose land a result demonstration is conducted cannot be extremely wealthy or progressive; nor should the plots receive an undue amount of attention and care. The idea of the demonstration is to show a group of farmers what results can be obtained by a normal farmers under normal conditions. Hence, the choice of demonstration farmer needs to be made with care, the site should be typical of surrounding lands and the crop itself must be managed at a realistic level. Any other arrangement will undermine the demonstration's effectiveness.

In setting up a result demo with a cooperating farmer, it is important to establish who is responsible for the labor involved in maintaining plots and who will provide necessary inputs. In order to make the demo credible, the farmer must do most of the actual work. Inputs are a stickier problem. Ideally, the demonstration farmer will provide his own. Realistically, there may be some instances where the extension service might need to donate inputs as a courtesy for a farmer's cooperation. Two questions need to be considered: Will a gift of inputs have a negative effect on the agent-farmer relationship? How will other farmers perceive such a gift? Whatever the choice, arrangements must be made explicit at the outset.

The next set of practical considerations in setting up a demonstration focus on the plot: its location, its layout and its size. A conspicuous or readily noticeable site is crucial in attracting maximum attention. Locations near roads or footpaths or on the immediate outskirts of a village are ideal. Visibility is the key factor in plot layout. When viewing from the most prominent vantage point, from a road, for example, the traditional and improved plots should be side by side rather than front and back. Signs can be erected to attract further attention and provide explanations of the demonstration. (Note that signs need to meet the visual literacy levels of a majority of the farmers observing the demonstration).

The size of the plot may be influenced by several factors: the labor constraints of the demo farmer and the amount of land she has available; the size of the group that will eventually observe the formal presentation of results; the type of crop; and the overall impression the demonstration is intended to create. In general, the plot should be large enough to be impressive without being to large to take in both parts of the demonstration with a single glance. Rough estimates suggest that one or two hundred square meters would be enough for an effective demo of field crops, with less area required for demonstrations with vegetables.

Throughout the planting and maintenance operations connected with the demo, the farmer needs to be thoroughly familiarized with the what, why, when and how of what is going on. In particular the extension agent should chek that needed inputs are prepared and applied on time. The entire process needs to be documented accurately so that results can be adequately explained when the demonstration is completed. Rainfall figures for the duration of the demonstration crop's growing cycle, for example, are of crucial significance.

If the demonstration farmer has been adequately trained during the course of the growing season, she can play a central role in the use of the demo as a promotional tool by providing testimony to a particular method's effectiveness. There may be opportunities early on in the demonstration garden's growth cycle for her to show preliminary results to some of her neighbors. Pointing out differences in plant size and color at various stages serve to heighten interest in a demo as it progresses towards completion.

The main presentation of results should, however, be conducted at harvest time. The farmer should be prepared to help the extension agent through four steps: an explanation of the new practice focusing on amount of labor required, materials needed and changes from traditional methods; a conservative estimate of costs and returns; a question and answer period; and an offer of follow-up visits to other farmers interested in adopting the new practice themselves.

This follow-up often takes the form of a second type of demonstration the method demonstration. Method demonstrations allow farmers to learn by doing. The extension agent physically demonstrates a practice - how to determine a goat's age, for instance, by checking its teeth - and asks the farmer to try the same practice herself. The agent watches and corrects the farmer until she can do the practice properly, and then moves on to the next step of the demonstration.

Only one topic is covered at a time in a method demo. Checking a goat's teeth is one aspect of the topic: "Determining what livestock to buy at an auction." Goat buying and goat breeding are different topics. Each method demo is timed to coincide with the operations farmers are involved with in theirs individual farming cycles. Planting demonstrations are conducted a week or two before most farmers begin planting; weeding demonstrations are conducted just before the optimum time in a plant's growth cycle to do a complete weeding operation, In this way, a series of method demonstrations serve to span an entire growing season and keep the extension agent in close contact with his clients.

Being successful in conducting a method demo requires close attention to detail. The site and time of demonstration should be selected on the basis of audience comfort. Shade, heat, and sight lines are three important considerations. Materials for the demonstration should be locally available and arranged conveniently for use in the demonstration. The best way to make sure that nothing will be forgotten is to prepare a written plan (see ILLUSTRATIONS and TOOLS). This may include the step by step sequence of the demo itself as well as lists of materials needed and major points to be covered. Once the plan is written, the extension agent needs to rehearse the presentation in its entirety. Only by actually walking through a demonstration can the agent be sure that nothing has been left out

When actually conducting the presentation, it is important to encourage as much farmer participation as possible. Points at which farmers can be directly involved should be indicated in the written plan. Other means of accomodating farmer learning styles are to continue to relate new material being presented to a farmer's previous experience and to carefully choose vocabulary with which the farmer is already familiar. Some technical terms may prove very difficult to translate without considerable thought beforehand. A good way to check to make sure that the audience is following a presentation is to pose questions to farmers at regular intervals. The demonstrator can also repeat steps where necessary. Finally, it is important for either the extension agent or one of the farmers to summarize the main points of a presentation at its conclusion.

The ILLUSTRATIONS and TOOLS sections which follow can be supplemented by a review of the adult learning principles and cross-cultural communication techniques contained in other sections of this chapter.


1. Layout of a result demonstration (from Chapter 2):



2. Written plan for a method demonstration:

• Demonstration title: Garlic Onions are Easy to Grow for Food and Profit.

• Why is this demonstration important to your audience?

a. Garlic onions grow easily.

b. Garlic onions provide a good food addition for the home.

c. There is an available market for a good crop of garlic onions.

• Materials needed for this demonstration.

Equipment and supplies:

1. Planting plot

2. Hoe

3. Hand rake

4. Stick one foot long

5. Stick four inches long

6. String

7. Pegs

8. One oil tin of well-rotted farinyard manure

9. Garlic onion bulbs

Visual aids and handouts:

1. Pamphlet on "Planting Garlic Onions"

2. Sample onion bulbs

• Presenting the Demonstration

Step by step activities

Key points

I. Mark out the first row.

Use a string and pegs to mark the row. Make sure the string is tight.

II. Measure second row one foot from the first row.

Use stick 1 ft. long to measure spacing.

III. Additional rows are laid out at the same spacing.

Keep rows straight using string and pegs.

IV. Make the planting furrows 1" deep.

Use hoe to dig furrows along the line of the string.

V. Place farmyard manure in furrows to the level of the ground.

Use well-rotted manure.

VI. Mix the manure into the furrow soil.

Prevents burning of the bulbs.

VII. Mark the planting spaces along the furrow.

Use 4" stick to lay out the spaces.

VIII. Plant the bulbs at the 4" spaces in the furrows with the point of the bulb up.

Bulb point must be up. Firm soil around each bulb.

• Summary of points made during the demonstrations:

1. Garlic onions can be planted during the long and the short rains.

2. The planting space is 4" between plants in the row, and the rows are one foot apart.

3. Furrows are dug and filled with well-rotted manure to the level of the ground.

4. The manure is mixed in the furrows with the soil.

5. A single bulb is placed at each 4" space in the furrow.

6. The point of the bulb is upward.

7. The soil is firmed around the bulb for fast germination.

• Plans for followup:

1. Visit the farmers who have indicated an interest in planting onions and assist them as necessary.

2. Visit again before harvest tiem and assist with marketing the crop.

(Previous ILLUSTRATION taken from: Agricultural Extension Training : A Course Manual for Extension Training Programs, by J.D. Fisher, R.A. Wesselmann, and others; USAID Kenya, 1968 (Reprinted April, 1970; I.C.E., Peace Corps; Washington), pp. 9-16)


Guidelines for planning and conducting an effective result demonstration:

1. Choose an appropriate (minimal risk) innovation.

2. Choose a cooperative farmer whose management techniques will be imitated by her peers.

3. Agree with the farmer on who is responsible for labor and inputs.

4. Choose a conspicuous location.

5. Lay out the demo plots for maximum visibility. (Use signs to attract attention.)

6. Choose a suitable size for the demonstration plots.

7. Work closely with the cooperating farmer on managing the demonstration.

8. Keep accurate records (including rainfall) of factors that might influence the outcome of a demonstration so as to be able to accurately interpret results.

9. Show preliminary results of the demonstration to other farmers periodically to help build interest in the demonstration's outcome.

10. Time the final presentation of results to coincide with the harvest.

11. Include in the final presentation the following steps:

- An explanation of the new practice(s)

- A conservative estimate of costs and returns

- An opportunity for the audience to raise questions about the demo

- An offer of follow-up visits to farmers interested in adopting the new practice themselves.


Guidelines for planning and conducting an effective method demonstration:

1. Plan to demonstrate only one topic at a time.

2. Time demonstrations to correspond with farming operations being carried out in the field.

3. Sequence method demos to span the entire farming cycle.

4. Consider ways to make the audience comfortable as they view the demonstration.

5. Prepare a written plan for the demonstration including:

- a step by step sequence of what will happen in the demonstration

- a list of materials needed

- a summary of major points covered in the demo.

6. Incorporate participation of farmers into the demonstration whenever possible.

7. Choose analogies and vocabulary that will help the farmer tie the new information to things she has already experienced.

8. Check periodically throughout a demonstration to make sure the audience is following the presentation by posing questions to them.

9. Repeat steps where necessary.

10. Make sure mayor points of the demonstration are summarized.

11. Arrange for follow-up visits to farmers interested in trying the new method.

A checklist for all types of demonstrations:

I. The subject:




1. Is the farmer ready to use the improved practice to be demonstrated?


2. Does he need the skill or practice?


3. Can he afford it?


4. Have you selected a title that appeals to him?


5. Have you planned to teach only one thing at a time?


6. Have you collected all available information on the subject?


7. Have you decided which language or vernacular you will use?


8. Are you certain the practice or skill to be taught is not too difficult for him to learn?


II. Plans made for the period before the meeting:


1. Have you arranged the time and date for your meeting?


2. Have you arranged for the demonstration site?


3. Will each farmer who attends your demonstration be able to see your actions?


4. Have you assembled all of the materials you will be needing?


5. Are you planning your demonstrations to relate to the farmer's experiences?


6. Have you practiced your demonstration until you can do it to perfection?


7. Have you developed your demonstration using a standard plan?


8. Did you write down each step?


9. Have you listed all of the key points?


10. Are your instructions written in a simple, under-standable manner?


11. Were signs and/or posters used to direct the farmers to your demonstration?


III. Plans made for the period during the meeting. Plan before the meeting, check results after the meeting).


1. Did you present your demonstration with enthusiasm?


2. Did you act yourself?


3. Did you talk to your audience?


4. Was your demonstration explained to the farmers, step-by-step?


5. Are you certain you were understood.


6. Did you allow time for questions from the audience?


7. Did you repeat steps when necessary?


8. Did you assist the slower persons when they fell behind?


9. Were faster persons used to assist you?


10. Were the important steps summarized at the conclusion of your demonstrations?


11. Were final questions encouraged?


12. Was reference material handed out at the conclusion of your demonstration?


13. Were the farmers told where to get additional advice?


14. Was there a list made of attending farmers?


15. Was your meeting held without conflict of other meetings?


16. Were photographs taken of activities at the meeting?


17. Were records kept of the meeting for future use?


18. Were credit and recognition given to local farmers who contributed to your demonstration?


IV. Plans made for the period following the meeting:


1. When the farmers left the meeting, did they know what to do on their own farm?


2. Were plans made for the next meeting?


3. Were they told what material? if any, would be needed for the next meeting?


4. Were they told to be thinking of the problems involved for the subject of the next meeting?


5. Was any publicity given to your meeting by the press, news release or radio?


• Press


• News Release


• Radio


V. Plans made for the followup:


1. Have the farmers changed over to use of the new practice that you demonstrated?


2. Will you provide additional assistance if requested?


3. Have the farmers called on you for further assistance in using your new practice?



Field days


Field days are special events. A series of demonstration skits, speeches and other activities focused on a central theme are strung out over the course of a day to promote new practices and bring recognition to successful farmers and agricultural workers in a particular area. The prevailing mood is festive and the atmosphere is not unlike that of a country fair. The point of such a day is to call attention to new and exciting developments in agriculture.

This is done by inviting special guests, cooking a big meal, preparing a day's worth of interesting presentations to watch and take part in and bringing in perhaps some musicians for everyone's enjoyment. It is not expected that farmers leave a field day having learned a great deal of specific information. The meal and the other special features tend to work against that possibility. It is hoped instead that farmers leave with new interests and new concepts of what is possible after seeing what their neighbors have been able to accomplish in their work.

Field days can be used in several different contexts. On a purely local level, a field day can be staged through the collective efforts of a group of agricultural workers and a handful of farmers for other people in town. In this case, it serves as a glorified result demonstration. Its chief function is to generate interest within the community, but it can also work to raise the status of the agricultural workers and innovative farmers in the area.

A second use of a field day moves beyond a single village to neighboring vilages. Invitations are sent to a group of farmers in an area that the extension agent feels would be well-suited for an expansion of his extension efforts. In this case, the secondary benefit goes to the entire host community, which is viewed by its neighbors as being industrious and possessing of special levels of agricultural expertise.

The third situation appropriate for a field day involves Ministry of Agriculture and other government officials and celebrities from out of town. The intent in staging a field day for these people can be twofold. First, it is a chance for the agricultural workers in town to gain much needed recognition from their superiors. Second, it may be an opportunity for a town to lobby officials for additional services. In the latter case, a serious commitment to agriculture is demonstrated during the course of the day, and a well-articulated request for special attention brings the day to a close.

In all three of these cases, it is in the best interests of field day planners to create favorable impressions for their guests. Audience comfort and enjoyment and effective presentations are of utmost importance. The initial consideration is the selection of an appropriate and timely theme to suit the target audience, e.g. improvements in management practices for traditional (locally-and perennially-grown) crops. The next concern is to come up with a list and sequence of demonstrations, booths, activities and other events and feature devoted to the theme. This is followed by logistics, e.g., routing of guests through the course of the day, meals and refreshments, entertainment, and clean-up. A decision has to be made, for instance, to route quests through demonstrations in a single, large group in several smaller groups, or individually. This will depend on how large a turn-out is expected and how many people are involved in organizing the day. For all of the different tasks, responsibilities need to be clearly designated.

Highly orchestrated events such as these are especially prone to being upset by unforeseen problems. Contingency plans should be made for late arrivals, rain or slow moving groups. In general, field days tend to move more slowly than they are meant to. That being the case, it is often useful to choose someone to monitor the progress of the day overall. This person can than be responsible for setting any contingency plans in motion should they prove necessary.

The work involved in putting on a field day can be divided into stages. There are initial meetings at which decisions are made concerning field day topics, guests and the division of responsibilities among planners. These are followed by a period of early preparation during which presentations are rehearsed, invitations are sent out and meetings are held about routing of guests (see TOOLS section). Then come last minute preparations such as cooking, assembling materials for demonstrations and clearing brush from paths where guests will walk. Finally, the field day itself is held: someone greets the guests, demonstrations are given, a big meal is eaten, and someone thanks the guests for coming and sends them home while a clean-up crew goes to work. Follow-up contacts are then initiated and continued over the course of the next few weeks or months.

In everything that happens, the thrust of the day is enjoyment and excitement. To keep the appropriate tempo, then, individual presentations should not exceed half an hour and the entire sequence of activities before the day-ending feast should be completed in under three hours. Note that sufficient time is necessary at both the beginning and end of the day for guests to travel to and from their homes. This often means that special accomodations - water, shade, chairs - will be necessary to deal with extremes of weather.


A field day schedule:



9:00-10:00 a.m.

Guests arrive from nearby villages.


Welcome by master of ceremonies.


Guided tours of demonstrations - Guests will be escorted in three groups around the village to observe the first of three sets of demonstrations:


I. Threshing and milling of grains


II. Drying of grains, vegetables and fruits


III. Storage of grains, vegetables and fruits


All three groups will meet for refreshments under the large cotton tree.


Groups will observe their second set of demonstrations.


Groups will observe their third set of demonstrations.


A meal will be served under the large cotton tree.


Closing remarks by the master of ceremonies

• A list of responsibilities to be covered by field day planners:

- Invitations

- Clear paths and standing/sitting area around demonstration sites (see below)

- Set up and moving of benches and chairs

- Master or Mistress of Ceremonies

- Guides

- Demonstrators

- Refreshments and water

- Troubleshooting

- Entertainment

- Meal preparation

- Clean-up

- Follow-up

• See Chapter Six MANAGEMENT for planning tools.

• See the previous subchapter for TOOL checklist for all kinds of demonstrations

Considerations in preparing a route for guests:

• Clear obstacles such as roots, stumps and rocks and cut back over-hanging branches.

• Cut the trail wide enough for two people to walk side by side.

• Clear an area around each demonstration larger than that which would fit the expected tour groups comfortably.

• Avoid trails that double back on each other in an "5" pattern so that demonstrations compete with each other for farmers' attention.

• Avoid steep and tiring trails.

• Build sturdy bridges over streams or marshy areas.

• Avoid areas that do not drain well.


Mass media


Vehicles of information normally classed under the heading of "mass media" - television, radio, newspapers, magazines, newsletters -- can be used by extension agents. Usually, Peace Corps extensionists involved in mass communication efforts adapt other training methods to a larger audience size. Role plays and dramas are shifted from verandahs and village clearings to stages where a hundred or more people can view them simultaneously. Poster designs originally intended only for local use can prove successful enough at calling attention to some new aspect of agriculture to warrant mass production and distribution through Ministry channels over a much wider area.

Media within the realm of possibility for extension work can use include periodicals, ag fairs and radio. Periodicals can be used as discussion starters in farmer meetings where at least a portion of those present are literate. Agricultural fairs are conducted in many developing countries to encourage agricultural development. Volunteers can make use of these fairs by encouraging some of the farmers in certain areas to compete for prizes in farm produce competitions. Such prizes can be a valuable form of reward and recognition for a farmer's achievements. Radio provides the most exciting opportunity of any of the standard mass communication devices. This medium can be put to use as a simple information vehicle - to relay announcements of upcoming farmer meetings in an area, for example, or it can be employed in more creative ways. Extensionists with experience in radio broadcasting and production may be able to work within Ministry channels to produce simple and yet highly effective advertisments on the radio for new techniques. Serialized skits, songs and humorous stories are very popular in countries where national radio stations receive widespread attention.


A serialized radio dialogue promoting new agricultural practices:

(Suggestions: Keep the format of the dialogue simple, and do not alter it until the advertisment has caught on. Use the same actors' voices throughout the serial. Use the same piece of music throughout the serial as a theme song.)

Tape 1 (January 15 - February 15) Popular song is heard, ten seconds. Music fades.

"Juan, aren't you going to the fields today to clear a new patch of ground for planting this year?

"No, Felipe. I won't need to clear away brush this year. Since I started applying cow dung and grain husks to my garden, I haven't had to move to a new location every time the rains come.'

"You mean cow dung and grain husks can help your garden?"

"Yes, you mix it in the soil as you plant and the ground yields better harvests."

"Digs mio, Juan! I don't know where you get these ideasl"

Music comes up as radio announcer intones: "Contact your Ministry of Agriculture extension agent today."

Music up full.

(60 sec.)

Tape 2 (February 15 - March 15) Popular song is heard, ten seconds. Music fades.

"Juan, aren't you going to the fields today to set traps for the rodents eating our garden?"

"No, Felipe. Last year I built a fence around my garden and it is keeping the animals away very effectively."

"You mean the fence you built is strong enough to keep all the rodents away?"

"Yes, I used wire to build the fence and rodents cannot grew through it?"

"Digs Mio Juan! I don't know where you get these ideas!"

Music comes up as radio announcer intones: "Contact your Ministry of Agriculture extension agent today.

Music up full.

(60 sec.)

Tape 5 (May 1 - May 30)

"Juan, aren't you going to the market today to sell your vegetables?"

"No, Felipe. I dried many of my vegetables this year in the sun and am keeping them for my own use rather than selling them."

"You mean drying vegetables in the sun can keep them from spoiling quickly?"

"Yes, by cutting them thin and drying them on racks I can keep them for up to three months."

"Dios Mio, Juan! I don't know where you get these ideas!".

Music comes up as radio announcer intones: "Contact your Ministry of Agriculture extension agent today."

Music up full.

(60 sec.)

List of mass communication techniques suited to the extension agent's role in working with small farmers.

• Role plays and skits for large audiences.

• Posters for widespread distribution

• Culturally appropriate signs in a few strategic locations.

• Use of periodicals in discussion groups.

• Agricultural fairs.

• Radio serials.

• Newsletters.

P-8 Audio-visual Communications Teaching Aids, P.C. ICE.