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Philosophy and principles

Depending on the underlying political, economic, and social philosophies and programme goals, there are varying philosophies and methods of advisory services.

The dominant paradigm in the 1970s and 1980s (which still exists today) was transfer of technology, a linear approach (Figure 1) that aims to persuade farmers to adopt new technologies, such as high-yielding varieties of rice and maize.

As practitioners saw that this approach was not necessarily meeting farmers’ needs, more participatory approaches came about, where farmers articulate demand and are involved in research and extension activities.

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Figure 1. Linear approach

The linear philosophy was replaced by systems approaches such as farming systems research and extension, which merges research and extension in multi-disciplinary teams. A spin-off of this was the agricultural knowledge and information systems approach (Figure 2), emphasising links between research, education, extension, and farmers.

During the 2000s, these systems approaches evolved into the agricultural innovation systems approach. An innovation system includes all the actors that bring new products, processes, and forms of organisation into economic use (2)

Hall, A., Janssen, W., Pehu, E. and Rajalahti, R. 2006. Enhancing agricultural innovation: How to go beyond the strengthening of research systems. Washington, DC: World Bank.
. The framework includes the institutions and policies that affect how the actors interact. For more information see Global Good Practice Note 13.

Other extension philosophies are based on adult education. These include the United States cooperative extension system, farmer field schools (FFS) (Note 2), and farmer study circles (Note 20). Many of these approaches are based on work of the Brazilian educator Paulo Freire, who called for empowerment through education rather than a ‘banking’ approach to learning where the empty learner receives ‘deposits’ from the teacher.

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Figure 2. Agricultural knowledge and information systems approach

There are many more philosophies that are based on empowerment principles. These include farmer first, farmer-to-farmer extension (Note 7), and other participatory approaches.