iranIran is a West Asian country with a unique location linking it geographically to western, central and southern Asia. The Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman border Iran in the south and the Caspian Sea in the north. Iran’s capital is Tehran. The population of this oil- and natural gas-rich country was about 75 million in 2011.  Iran is divided into 31 provinces, which are further divided into counties, and sub-divided into districts and sub-districts. The country’s terrain is mountainous. The northern part has rain forests while the eastern part is covered by a large desert and a few salt lakes. Coastline areas of the Caspian Sea, the Persian Gulf, the Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf of Oman constitute plains. The climate of Iran is mostly arid or semi-arid, with tropical climate dominant along the Caspian coast and the rain forests in the north. Winters are bitter in the western areas with heavy snowfall on higher altitudes.



The agriculture sector contributes 10 percent to the national GDP and employs about 30 percent of the population. Wheat crop covers more than half of the cultivable land. Rice and barley are also grown as major crops. Other crops, including vegetables and fruits, are cotton, sugarcane, sugar beets, tea, tobacco, potatoes, dates, figs, pistachios, walnuts and almonds. Among livestock, sheep are most popular, with other animals being goats, cattle, donkeys, horses and water buffalo. Fishery is concentrated mainly along the Caspian coast, while shrimp farming is done in salty marshes of the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman.

Most farms are smaller than 10 hectares. Agricultural development is constrained by water scarcity due to low rainfall and poor irrigation system, as well as the lack of public and private investment, land tenure disputes, traditional cultivation practices, and excessive use of chemical fertilizers, plus two-third of the arable land is not under cultivation.

Key Statistics and Indicators




Agricultural land (sq km)

Agricultural land (% of land area)

Arable land (hectares)

Arable land (% of land area)

Arable land (hectares per person)











Fertilizer consumption (kg per hectare of arable land)



Agriculture, value added (% of GDP)

Food production index (2004-2006 = 100)

Food exports (% of merchandise exports)

Food imports (% of merchandise imports)









GNI per capita, Atlas method (current US$)



Literacy rate, adult total (% of people ages 15 and above)

Literacy rate, youth female (% of females ages 15-24)

Literacy rate, youth male (% of males ages 15-24)

Ratio of young literate females to males (% ages 15-24)

Ratio of female to male secondary enrollment (%)











Mobile cellular subscriptions (per 100 people)

Internet users (per 100 people)





Population, total

Population density (people per sq. km of land area)

Rural population

Rural population (% of total population)

Agricultural population (% of total population)*

Total economically active population

Total economically active population in agriculture*

Total economically active population in agriculture (in %

    of total economically active population)

Female economically active population in agriculture (% of

     total economically active population in agriculture)*



















Sources:The World Bank; *Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations FAO 


History of extension and the enabling/disabling environment

The philosophy of extension was introduced to Iran in 1953 through the U.S. Point4 Program. Prior to that, there was little communication between researchers and farmers as is evident from the fact that although the Shahpasand wheat variety was released in 1930 but it only reached farmers  in 1954, when extension agents started demonstrating its high yield trait.

Extension and Development Corps

In 1964, the Imperial Government presented a bill for the establishment of “Extension and Development Corps (EDCs)” on military lines. EDCs were to draw human resources from various categories of high school and university graduates in the fields of agriculture, architecture, economics, poly-technical arts, mechanization, electric and civil engineering, physics, civics, social sciences, and veterinary. Each corpsman was required to spend a total of 18 months in service including a four-month training course and 14 months of residential service in rural districts. University graduates were given the rank of second lieutenant while the high school graduates were given the rank of sergeants even though called “technicians”.

The first four-month training course for the EDCs started on April 1, 1964 at the Academy of Military Sciences. All relevant ministries were involved in this training. Necessary equipment such as sprayers with chemicals, vehicles, extension kits, agricultural inputs including improved seed, and printed extension materials were provided to each corpsman, to cover farming, livestock and horticultural activities. EDCs interventions resulted in the use of 90,000 tons of fertilizer by farmers in 1965, and a fast increase in the number of farmers’ applications for soil tests. In mid-1960s, the extension organization performed three major activities: agricultural extension, home economics, and rural youth.

In 1967, the organizational set-up of the EDCs consisted of a central supervisory office, located in the Central Extension Organization in Tehran; provincial supervisory offices; supervisory links or teams; and general project operation teams functioning at village level. Rural Youth Clubs were formed as each corpsman was required to organize at least one such club, previously known as 4-D clubs, an idea adopted from the USA 4-H Clubs. Mobile Fertilizer Extension Units were also put into operation. Each unit comprised two university graduates in agriculture, a vehicle, and some fertilizer to be used in demonstrations. The unit staff travelled in rural areas to demonstrate the use of fertilizers and discussed fertilizer-related issues with the farmers.

The home economics program that was established in 1957, as a part of general extension program, developed a holistic family approach that covered men, women and youth. The aim was to develop capacities of the families to enable them to improve their standard of living.

Post-1979 Extension Revolution

As the eight-year war raged with Iraq, the Extension Development Corps and Rural Youth Clubs were disbanded. Public extension work continued along with the delivery of agricultural inputs to the farmers. Agricultural Service Centers were established at the county level. While the Ministry of Agriculture retained responsibility for extension, a new institution called Jihad-e-Sazandegi was created to alleviate rural poverty, and later upgraded to the ministry level. Rural libraries, youth centers, festivals, rural theatres, and agricultural and non-agricultural training courses were organized for farm families. The top down planning of extension programs continued.

Merger of two ministries

During most part of 1990s, both ministries (i.e. Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Jihad-e-Sazandegi) performed public extension functions without any coordination between them. After years of efforts, however, both ministries were merged into one ministry named as Ministry of Jihad-e-Agriculture (MOJA) in 2001.Within the MOJA was established the Deputy Ministry of Extension and Farming System. At the request of the Iranian government, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) provided technical assistance to the Deputy Ministry, and a number of recommendations were implemented. An FAO project on reforming extension was in the process of being formulated for further assistance, but it could not materialize due to a change in government. Since then at least some of the reforms seem to have been reversed, the major one being the transfer of extension function back to the Agricultural Research, Education and Extension Organization in 2007, even though extension was substantially weakened when previously put together with research and education before the creation of the Deputy Ministry for Extension and Farming, with research taking the lion’s share in resources. Presently, the page for extension has been left blank on the website of AREEO.

Situation in 2012

While extension remains by and large a public function, performed by the Agricultural Research, Education and Extension Organization, there is a clear official trend to transfer the responsibility for extension to the private sector and cooperatives just as has been done for the provision of agricultural inputs. The 4th Five-Year Development Plan (2005-2010) of Iran indicates possibility of certain governmental responsibilities to be handed over to the private sector. Anticipating partial or full privatization of extension, the Ministry of Jihad-e-Agriculture has already reduced the extension bureaucracy and its staff. Needed extension coverage of rural and nomadic women and youth is also being emphasized.

Agricultural Service Centers have been re-equipped as needed and agricultural graduates are being used as “Corps of Development”. Recent trends in extension, apart from the move towards privatization, include the establishment of rural extension education centers; assessment of extension needs; provision of support to community-based organizations, NGOs and cooperatives; joint on-farm activities by research and extension; women’s empowerment; encouragement of rural leadership; establishment of rural clubs, rural training centers, county level extension homes, rural libraries, extension education centers and rural parks; incentives for best producers and facilitators; and organization of rural exhibitions. Some of the problems faced by the extension organization are dependence on other ministries due to shortage of human and financial resources, a lack of coordination among ministry’s departments, and poor linkages between research, extension and relevant institutions.

The concern for a growing number of unemployed agricultural graduates has led to the creation of an NGO, “Organization of Agriculture and Natural Resources Engineering System”, which monitors agricultural activities. There also exists an active professional extension association in Iran called the Iranian Agricultural Extension and Education Association .

Iran, being a country with plenty of oil and gas resources, has not been a recipient of donors’ assistance in conventional sense, with the exception of humanitarian aid received from other countries and multi-lateral development agencies in the times of natural disasters like earthquakes. There are indications that Iran is eager to offer financial and technical assistance to other developing countries. However, current political developments in the region and economic sanctions imposed by certain countries and the United Nations against Iran on the nuclear issue have not allowed the country to contribute much to the international rural and agricultural development.

Extension Providers

Major institutions providing extension/advisory services

Public Institutions

Ministry of Jihad-e-Agriculture Website

Agricultural Research, Education & Extension Organization
The Ministry of Jihad-e-Agriculture is responsible for providing public extension services to the farmers, and this function is performed by its Agricultural Research, Education and Extension Organization (AREEO). AREEO is headed by a Deputy Minister, who is assisted by three Deputy Heads one of whom is responsible for extension, education and human resource development. AREEO comprises an elaborate network of 21 research institutes (one of them is for technical and vocational higher education), 30 agricultural and natural resources research centers, and 35 training centers, mostly in agriculture but some in fisheries and natural resources, scattered throughout the country.

In 2003, the number of public professional extension staff in Iran was about 6,497, out of which only 7 percent were women. The number of local extension agents was about 37,326 including 6.4 percent women. A farmers-based NGO called Farmer House had 81-person extension staff in 2011. In spite of effort, the current number of extension staff at the national and provincial levels could not be obtained.

Agricultural universities
Iran has several agricultural universities. Most of these universities offer degree programs in agricultural extension, and some of them have extension type outreach activities as part of their programs. Their extension faulty is also involved in consulting. Names of a few agricultural universities are given below.

  • University of Tehran, Karaj College of Agriculture and Natural Resources
  • University of Tabriz, Faculty of Agriculture
  • Ferdowsi University
  • Gorgan University of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources
  • Arak University, College of Agricultural Science and Education
  • Guilan University, Faculty of Agriculture
  • Islamic Azad University, Faculties of Agriculture (a private institution with campuses located in several cities)

Non-Public Institutions

Private sector

Perhaps the very first initiative towards private advisory service was taken in Iran around 2001 when a few private extension advisory agencies were established in Hamadan Province. In 2003 eight such agencies existed in different cities of the province. Their names, locations and extension coverage from 2001 to 2003 are presented in Table 2. No information could be obtained on the present status of these eight private agencies and their activities.

Table 2: Extension coverage by private agencies in Hamadan Province of Iran as of 2003


Name of Private Extension Agency

Number of Districts Covered

Number of Villages Covered

Number of People Educated (persons/day)

Number of Courses Organized








Sabzgostar Hegmatan

















Hooshavaran Gharb











Sonboleh Sam Alvand










Source: Dr. Hossein S. Fami (2003). Country Paper on the Islamic Republic of Iran; presented at the seminar “Enhancement of Extension Systems in Agriculture”, held at Faisalabad, Pakistan, 15-20 December, 2003; organized by the Asian Productivity Organization, Tokyo

The constraints identified during this extension privatization experiment included difficulty in accessing transportation facilities and teaching aids; lack of access to subject-matter specialists (SMSs); financial dependency on the public extension system; little independence in policy formulation; absence of coordination between public and private extension organizations; and unfavorable attitude of the farmers and public extension staff towards private agencies’ capacity and potential. According to a study, relevant experts in the Ilan Province are of the view that outsourcing is the most feasible modality for privatization of extension in Iran under which the government pays to the private sector for providing specific extension services to the farmers.

Even though the government has been encouraging the private sector’s entry into the field of extension as a matter of policy, there is no private company, in a real sense, which is fully engaged in the delivery of extension services. Of course, there are dozens of companies in Iran involved in selling agricultural inputs, equipment, and farm machinery which perform some extension activities like exhibitions, demonstrations, and training to promote the sale of fertilizers, pesticides and farm machinery. Names and locations of some of these companies are as follows.

  • Jiroft Tractor Manufacturing Company, Tehran (builds tractors)
  • Sazeh Kesht Kaveh Boukan Company, Boukan (builds mould board plows)
  • Ghateat-e-Ahangari Khorasan Company, Mashhad (builds heavy duty disk harrows)
  • Hamedan Machine Barzegar Company, Tehran (builds land levelers, power harrows and seed drills)
  • Badeleh Company, Sari (builds rotavators)
  • Niroo-Moharakeh Company, Khorasan (builds power sprayers/atomizers)
  • Arya Tabriz Keshavarz Manufacturing Company, Tabriz (builds grain threshers)
  • Technojaleh Company, Tehran (builds sprinklers and aluminum irrigation equipment)

Non-governmental organizations

Iran has incredibly over 2,500 NGOs, but not all of them are firmly established and active. A considerable number of NGOs concentrate on women’s concerns and development matters. Many NGOs have been founded by enthusiastic young persons. Subject areas covered by the NGOs include environment, children wellbeing, and training. No particular NGO was found to be exclusively involved in extension, but extension or relevant activities are undertaken by certain NGOs which participate in rural development programs funded by the government or donor agencies. Some NGOs have their websites, but they are mostly in Persian. Names of a few NGOs are as follows.

  • Women Organization Against Environment Pollution
  • Hamyaran NGO Resource Center
  • Noavaran Innovation Group
  • Institute for Women’s Studies and Research
  • Center for Women Participation
  • Iran’s Green Society
  • Association for Supporting the Socially Vulnerable

Farmers-based associations, cooperatives and societies

There are quite a few farmers-based associations in Iran. The most prominent is the Farmers’ House, which has been directly engaged in carrying out extension activities. The Farmers’ House enjoys an NGO status, and has an extension staff of 81 persons. The organization targets rural population including men and women farmers.

The Ministry of Cooperatives, Labor and Social Welfare is responsible for cooperatives matters. Agricultural production cooperatives in Iran have a long history. During the last decade, the Ministry of Jihad-e-Agriculture devoted considerable amount of time and funding to the establishment and strengthening of such cooperatives. There are success stories but most agricultural cooperatives confront problems of insufficient capital, high interest rate on loans, lack of facilities and information for marketing the produce, shortage of stations for processing and value addition, absence of suitable storage warehouses, and the involvement of several bureaucracies in the supervision of cooperatives. Names of a few cooperatives, unions and related institutions in Iran are as follows; the websites are in Persian.

  • Central Organization for Rural Cooperatives of Iran (CORC
  • Central Union of Rural and Agricultural Cooperatives of Iran (CURACI
  • Supervision and Coordination Central Union of Rural and Agricultural Cooperatives of Iran (SCURA)
  • Iran Chamber of Cooperatives
  • Central Union of Iran Animal Farmers (CUIAF
  • Iran Oilseeds and Vegetable Oil Processing Factories Cooperative (Farda Cooperative)
  • Mollah-Al-Movahedin Credit Cooperative (MAMCC
  • Pishgaman Kavir Cooperative Company (PKYCC

List of Extension Providers

icon target The following list shows an excerpt from the GFRAS Directory of Extension Providers for Iran. Some of these entries may be specially marked for having more detailed information in the database of the Worldwide Extension Study WWES.


Training options for extension professionals

Pre-service training in extension may be obtained at any of the agricultural universities and colleges in Iran mentioned in an earlier section. For in-service training of the extension staff, there are as many as 35 training centers operated by the Agricultural Research, Education and Extension Organization (AREEO), which are located in different parts of the country. While most of the centers offer training in agricultural subjects, some conduct training in fisheries, and natural resources. Names of some of the training centers are mentioned below.

  • Applied Science and Technology Training Center
  • Ministry of Jihad-e-Agriculture Training Center
  • Tehran Agricultural Training Center
  • Dr. Javanshir Natural Resources Training Center
  • Gilan Agricultural Training Center
  • Isfahan Agricultural Training Center
  • Mirza Kouchak Khan Fisheries Training Center
  • Bushehr Fisheries Training Center


Info-mediaries and information and communication technology (ict) for agriculture and extension

In Iran, the Supreme Council of Information and Communication Technology (SCICT) is responsible for developing regulations and facilitating conditions for ICT development in public and private institutions. The country also has the Research Institute for ICT.

Following are the main ICT initiatives and projects launched in Iran in recent years:

  • The first Iranian village, Shakooh, equipped with the Internet access (2000)
  • The organization of Rural ICT Application Conference (2003)
  • Provision of financial support by UNDP for Internet connection in four small villages including Maymak in Damavand Province (2004)
  • National Rural ICT Strategic Plan (2005)
  • 10,000 Rural ICT Tele-Service Centers (2005)
  • Establishment of two Rural Tele-Centers, one in Gharnabad (2004), and the other in East Livan (2005)
  • The organization of Local Rural ICT Application Conference (2005)
  • Continued participation of the Agricultural Scientific Information & Documentation Center of the Agricultural Research, Education and Extension Organization in the AGRIS/CARIS developed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
  • The development of Management Information System (MIS) for the agricultural extension organization
  • Attempts made to develop e-learning models for higher education in agricultural extension and education


Resources and references

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Allahyari, M.S. (2009). Agricultural sustainability: Implications for extension systems. African Journal of Agricultural Research Vol. 4 (9), Pp. 781-786, September, 2009. 

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Asadi, A., A. Rezaei and A. Rezvanfar (2008). Improvement mechanisms of Management Information System (MIS) in Iran’s agricultural extension organization. American Journal of Agricultural and Biological Sciences  3 (2): 462-467, 2008. Available at:

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Dinpanah, G. and F. Zand (2012). Study of strategies of agricultural extension privatization in Mazandaran Province, Iran. International Research Journal of Applied and Basic Sciences, Vol. 3 (9): 1859-1866. Available at:

Fami, H.S. (2003). Country Paper of Islamic Republic of Iran. Presented at the Seminar “Enhancement of Extension Systems in Agriculture”, held at Faisalabad, Pakistan, 15-20 December, 2003, organized by the Asian Productivity Organization, Tokyo. Also available in the e-book Enhancement of Extension Systems in Agriculture, edited by V.P. Sharma; URL:

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