On the Path to Sustainable Agricultural Development: Enhancing Extension Agents’ Contribution
The role of agricultural development agents in innovation-development efforts is very complex, and sometimes misunderstood not only by the general public, but also by the agents themselves. The paper describes common mistakes made in agricultural development programs, and discusses strategies and changes necessary in the education, operation, and management of agricultural extension agents to better address the needs and realities of the people and environments they are working with, and to improve their contribution to sustainable development. Among the most important transformations are 1) engaging in sound program development (e.g., analysis of situation, priority setting, design and implementation, and evaluation (Logic Model) (UW-E, 2003)); 2) adequately using participatory methods and better integrating extension efforts with local dynamics and Indigenous Knowledge Systems; 3) better understanding and addressing the pro-innovation bias and better preventing negative and unexpected consequences of development; 4) moving from a transfer of technology mindset to a co-creation of knowledge framework (Rölling, 2004); 5) creating and maintaining interdisciplinary work teams (including social scientists); and 6) integrating, collaborating, and working with people in all angles of the pyramids of access and power.
Keywords: Sustainable Agricultural Development, Extension Agent, Indigenous Knowledge Systems, Transfer of Technology, Interdisciplinary, Participatory Methods, Consequences, Change
Dr. Maria Navarro
Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist, Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education, and Communication