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close this bookSoil Conservation Techniques for Hillside Farms (Peace Corps, 1986, 96 p.)
close this folderExtension methodology
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentTimetable of events associated with a ''typical'' two year peace corps volunteer service.
View the documentGuidelines for evaluating extension work
View the documentExtension techniques
View the documentWorking with groups

Extension techniques

A soil conservation extension program almost always faces a challenge initially to generate awareness that soil erosion is a major problem that merits dealing with often farmers do not perceive deforestation or environmental degradation as problems, and may attribute poor production to other factors (lack of credit to buy fertilizers, quality of seed available, lack of modern farm machinery, etc ). One of the first goals of any extensionist, therefore, should be to change same of the attitudes farmers may have and introduce some of the following ideas: The importance in an increasingly crowded society of permanently cultivating the same plots of land while maintaining others in an undisturbed state to protect water sources and wildlife, the simplicity of adopting soil conservation techniques, and the advantages of labor intensive improvements as compared to capital intensive (buying fertilizers, improved seeds, farm machinery) improvements. Only upon generating genuine interest in soil conservation techniques can an extensionist expect farmers to be willing to try out and to care for, any new types of structures or planting systems introduced.

Several methods are available to extensionist attempting to change farmers' attitudes and generate interest in new techniques. Some of the common ones are informal discussions, lectures, films or filmstrips, classroom demonstrations, demonstration lots, field trips, visits from farmers already using the techniques, financial incentives, and soil conservation courses.

Informal discussions with farmers can be one of the extensionist's most effective techniques, especially in more isolated communities and where people may be unaccustomed to receiving courses, attending meetings, or receiving visits from extensionist Informal discussions provide an opportunity to make friends, to have people understand what to expect of the extension program, and to discuss ideas in an informal setting. Friends made in this manner, often turn out to be the first interested collaborators in an area.

More formal presentations such as lectures, films and films strips, and classroom demonstrations (see Appendix 5) made to a group of people, allow for the presentation of more information to more people and the use of visual aids to make some of the ideas clearer. They have the disadvantage, however, of requiring people to attend a meeting at a fixed time, something people may be unaccustomed to or very reluctant to do. These types of presentations are probably most effective when several individuals have already expressed an interest during informal discussions. In communities where people are not accustomed to receiving focal presentations, the format and content of the lecture, film, or demonstration should be designed carefully to ensure that the people attending understand how this will relate to their own farm work.

Demonstration lots are small plantings, carefully prepared and cared for, that demonstrate some or all of the techniques which are to be promoted in an area. "Seeing is believing", and that is the main advantage of this technique. People are given a concrete example, so that when an extensionist talks about digging ditches in the middle of a corn field, planting in contour curves, or using organic fertilizer, farmers will have a clearer concept of what these terms are describing. They also provide a local trial to evaluate the appropriateness of the techniques under local conditions.

Field trips to, or visits from farmers already using soil conservation techniques provide an opportunity to evaluate what is being done in other areas and to consider their appropriateness in the new area. These are especially valuable if there is a chance to discuss the new techniques directly with the farmers involved. This will permit a more thorough consideration of tine and labor involved and the rewards to be expected. Agricultural extensionists should encourage their collaborators to seek out and share their experiences with other farmers in the area. Extensionists might even consider making a "moral contract" with collaborators, requiring them to teach two additional farmers, who in turn will each promise to teach two more farmers. etc. In this way the number of farmers learning and using the techniques increases more and more rapidly with time. The extensionist should be aware that if the model area or farmer has received any special attention or aid to carry out the work, this may be interpreted as a prerequisite to the success of the technique.

Financial incentives (credit, seed, fertilizer, food for work, etc.) are available from many national and international agencies interested in rural development projects. These often are available only for groups of farmers. They can be used to attract participants to a project designed, for example, to bring people together for formal classroom sessions where new techniques are described, followed by carrying out the practices on their own land. In this process, the involved farmers receive benefits from increased production and a longer useful life of their fields. In Appendix 3, an extension program is described in which fifty farmers were involved in such a project. If carried out throughout a region or country, these types of projects can benefit the economy because of greater self-sufficiency in production and can reduce migration to urban areas and avoid often-destabilizing political pressures for rapid land reform measures. This method has the advantages of attracting a larger number of people to be trained during the extension program and the more immediate achievement of economic benefits to a larger number of people. A possible disadvantage of this strategy is that it may overlook the importance of future acceptance of soil conservation techniques by farmers not involved initially. If the same motivating benefits are not available to other farmers, they may not feel that the soil conservation work by itself is worthwhile. Depending on the receptivity and the subsequent extension methodology followed, however, this may not present a problem. In fact, the more immediate high visibility of such a program may allow a great increase in the effectiveness of a Peace Corps Volunteer during a two year service. The high visibility of such a large project could also be important in providing a site for field trips to motivate or train other farmers and extensionists, and a basis for publicizing the success of soil conservation techniques on a regional, national, or international level.

Soil conservation courses allow extensionist to teach a variety of techniques to farmers, more than they may be able to learn by doing their own field work. It should be remembered however, that many people are unaccustomed to learning in a classroom format, and that the courses should involve as much practical fieldwork as possible. Courses are probably most effective in training extension workers, on once several farmers in an area have already tried some soil conservation techniques on their own fields and seem receptive to learning more.