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Article Index

Governance, funding, and delivery

In this section we cover more recent developments in extension over the past few decades. The governance of extension methods depends on each country’s governmental structure and administration of its extension programme.

In economic theory in general, and international development in particular, the 1980s and 1990s was a period of focus on the market to solve economic and development problems. There was criticism of ‘bloated’ civil service functions such as government extension, where the outcomes and impact did not necessarily justify the costs of salaries and operations. Around that time, institutions loaning money to countries for development, including the International Monetary

Fund and the World Bank, began to introduce structural adjustment programmes – policies attached to new loans that encouraged economic reforms such as privatisation and deregulation. Criticisms of the existing models of extension led to various types of reform, described below.

Privatisation and pluralism

Privatisation involves the transfer of some or all ownership and operational control of extension from government to the private sector. Privatisation results from the desire to reduce the role of government due to central government failings or the complexity of local issues; inability of governments to finance services; or the view that democracy is best served through devolved functions with more participation at local level (6)

Rivera, W.M. 2011. Public sector agricultural extension system reform and the challenges ahead. Journal of Agricultural Education and Extension 17 (2):165–180.
. However, experience has been mixed. While the process has led to the emergence of private consulting companies, small farms – especially those with limited resources to buy extension services – are left out by the private sector unless special public funding is provided to support them.

In this context, recognising the potential contributions of other extension players has led to the concept of pluralism in extension. Pluralism is essentially the coexistence of a number of extension providers and approaches from different sectors. Pluralistic systems recognise the comparative advantages of different types of provider. Coordination is essential in pluralism to prevent duplication of effort and to ensure synergy.


Decentralisation means transferring control of programme planning and management to the level of implementation. This is thought to improve accountability to local users and provide more appropriate programming. However, in many countries decentralisation has resulted in weakening of financial and technical support, and many local governments lack the necessary capacity.

Demand-driven approaches

In this type of approach, farmers are given space to identify their needs and their requirements of extension programmes. Thus they need sufficient capacity and organisation to aggregate their demands, which means strengthening the capacities of farmer groups to articulate their needs and monitor service provision. Participatory extension approaches ensure that services are relevant and responsive to local conditions, and meet actual user needs (7)
Rivera, W.M. 2011. Public sector agricultural extension system reform and the challenges ahead. Journal of Agricultural Education and Extension 17 (2):165–180.
. Service providers are accountable to users, and ideally users should have a choice of service providers.

Market-oriented services

Market-oriented extension provides services focused on linking farmers to markets, often to improve their income. This type of extension may also involve providing services to other actors in the value chain. Currently there is an increasing demand for such market-oriented services.

In conclusion, all philosophies – and methods – have   advantages and disadvantages. It is up to each extension manager to decide what works best in their own context, keeping in mind the nature of the challenge, the clients’ demands, and the resources available for intervention.