What do Agrilinks Users Think About the Future of Extension?
- Extension and advisory services of 2050 will look completely different from today.
- Extension and advisory services are no longer needed.
- Extension and advisory services will continually evolve to meet current challenges.
While there were just 22 responses, it is interesting to see what the trends are, and you can continue to engage in this discussion and add your thoughts using the comments section below. There are also some upcoming events to discuss the future of extension in November 2019 and March 2020.
Some 91 percent of respondents either agreed or strongly agreed that extension and advisory services of 2050 will look completely different from today. Nine percent of respondents strongly disagreed with this statement.
Most respondents disagreed that extension and advisory services are no longer needed. Only five percent of respondents agreed with this statement, and another five percent were neutral about it.
The final question about the evolution of extension services also had a lot of agreement. Eighty-one percent of respondents agreed that extension would continually evolve. Nearly 10 percent disagreed and another 10 percent were neutral about the statement.
It may help to understand the thinking behind these results by looking back 30 years. What did extension look like in 1989? Did people think advisory services would change a lot in 30 years? Did extension change a lot? Was it more or less needed from 1989 to 2019? Or just needed in a different way?
Extension in the late 1980s was just coming off the heyday of the training and visit system in many countries around the world. It was still very public sector focused, with emphasis on crops and production. 1989 was a lot closer to the Green Revolution era when there was much focus on inputs such as improved seed, irrigation, and fertilizers to solve problems of production and food insecurity. This was in the days before more holistic extension programs came about that also considered other aspects such marketing and other clientele besides male household heads.
Reforms in extension were just starting as a result of neoliberal economic thinking and the structural adjustment programs implemented by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. Thus compared to 30 years ago, extension services look different; they are more decentralized, pluralistic, market-focused, and gender-sensitive.
Thirty years ago there was not much talk of climate change. The future looks very different on the natural resources and climate front – what will this mean for extension? Resources are likely to become more and more scarce – might extension have a larger role to play in conflict resolution between users of natural resources such as water or grazing lands? Will it need to evolve?
Other new topics of today include agripreneurship, and related to that, youth in agriculture and particularly in extension. The current extension force in many parts of the world is retiring; who will replace them? Should they be replaced? What will the new recruits look like and will they work for the public sector or might they be self-employed?
With regard to technology, we have come an amazing way in the past 30 years. Should we assume that this trajectory will continue, or will it start to level off? Will extension be able to adapt, to digitize, to change how they communicate? Should they do so? Perhaps the reason that some respondents thought extension would not evolve or look different in 30 years was that they believed that extension needs to keep to tried and tested means of outreach such as face-to-face or radio.
The poll showed that Agrilinks users believed that extension services of 2050 will look very different from today and that the services will continually evolve to meet current challenges. Respondents did not believe that extension services are no longer needed. Those of us involved in supporting, implementing, and evaluating extension and advisory services may want to stop for a minute and think: what should extension look like in the year 2050? How can it be more sustainable, effective, and relevant? How can we make it better?