Wednesday, September 28, 2011

ComArt - Extension - Catalyst for Rural Development

Assignment in Communication and Change (CA217)
Dr Abe V Rotor

Differentiate Education from Extension. How does media support extension today? Think of an extension program most relevant to your course. Specify and describe. Use short bond in your own handwriting. For 3CA3 and 5CA3 sections.

STOU professor on live television lecture.

Nationwide radio and television centralized control panel, Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University campus, Thailand. There are more than 250,000 students enrolled in this university without walls. Another Thai open university has one-half million students. Lower photo: Printed extension materials.

Interview: Dr Abe Rotor and Professor Suchin Phongsak

Your program:
If it is of high quality, people will respect you.
If it is relevant, people will need you.
If it is measurable, people will trust you.
If it is innovative, people will follow you.

National Food and Agriculture Council, prime mover of the Philippine's food self-sufficiency program, 1971. In less than ten years the country became a net exporter of rice and other food commodities.

It is a great honor and pleasure to share with you my views and experiences on the concerns of extension in grassroots education and technology transfer. I will concentrate on agriculture since this is the universal thrust of extension. Besides, agriculture is the base of our economy and eighty percent of our population directly or indirectly depends on it. The following are the most important concerns of extension in the Philippines:

1. There is a wide gap between available technology and the level or degree of field application.

This gap is traced to limited resources and opportunities as well as attitudinal problems. The actual farm yield is only 40 percent of the potential yield, and 25 to 30 percent of experiment station yield.

It means therefore that the problem lies not on the lack of technology but on the poor use of technology at the farmers' fields. Based on economic farm yield, our annual production of palay will increase from the present figure of 9 million MT to 14 million MT. We would then become a consistent net exporter of rice like Thailand, the world's top rice exporter today. The aim of extension in this case is the effective and prompt transfer of the technology that narrows down the yield gap.

2. Adoption of technology on the farm should be tied closely with agricultural business.

In a dialogue on the present rice problem conducted by the Senate's committee on science and technology, the Philippine Rice Research Institute or PHILRICE testified that rice production in experimental fields has leveled up to 5 MT/ha while farmers are getting yields of only 3 MT/ ha or below.

It is favorable market conditions that stimulate production and enhance the plowing back of income to pay for the technology and hired labor in farming. Farming should be therefore an enterprise rather than a mere means of livelihood. Most farms in the country are run by subsistent families. Extension should be able to design a balanced program that has the integrated technology and agribusiness components.

3. Appropriate technology in developing countries is more of innovation than modernization.

Technology builds up an existing practice. We take the case of "payatak" rice farming in Samar, a very traditional practice, almost zero tillage. Here, the field is trampled by carabaos, planted with old rice seedlings, then left entirely to nature. The yield obtained is very low but there are certain favorable aspects of this practice.

• The family food needs are supplemented by carabao milk and curds, fish, frog and snails. These edible species live naturally on the wetland and survive the short summer in the carabao wallows.
• Ecology balance is contributed largely by minimal disturbance of biological and physical conditions of the farm.
• Farm by-products and wastes, such as hay and manure, are put to use.
• Labor is maximized, provided by members the family and immediate community.

Extension should be able to first identify these good points and preserve them. The introduced technology should look at both increased production and these above benefits as its objectives.

4. Technology should be recognized in the context of both research and enterprise systems developed through intermediate stages.

The research system bridges the laboratory and experimental field, whereas the enterprise system bridges the farm and the market. Both systems are linked by partnership and collaboration among scientists, engineers, agriculturists, farmers, etc. The idea is to provide channels and a network through which the product of research becomes ultimately useful by the consuming public.

Extension should likewise be aware that modern technology is intensive, and too often, expensive.

(1) infrastructures later turn out as "white elephants;"
(2) research is sophisticated requiring expensive facilities, consultants and staff;
(3) on mechanization, combines get stuck in rice paddies; grains cake or germinate in silos and bins;
(4) hired labor disputes results in strikes and court cases; and
(5) big investments/capital end up eating operational funds putting the project to a stop.

The once ultra modern Food Terminal Incorporated (FTI) attests to the fact that progress is not synonymous to modern technology. FTI is not an isolated case of non-performing assets of the government worth billions of pesos.

Extension should be aware of the necessity to undertake a careful and accurate assessment of situations and projections, and put behind seemingly beautiful package deals offered by other countries, including grants and donations.

Extension should be instrumental in pilot or module testing before embarking into full adoption of modern technology.

5. Productivity of shrinking farms can be increased through crop and product diversification.

Land reform broke up large estates, including sugarlands and coconut lands. Subdivision of these properties resulted in uneconomic farm sizes. There are approaches to increase productivity, such as multiple cropping, agro-processing and integration of related projects. There are diversification model for coconut lands.

The ordinary coconut farmer can indulge in the following activities, namely
(a) copra making,
(b) inter-cropping with cash crops such as grains and legumes, and
(c) animal production (goat, carabao and cattle raised between coconut trees).

To accomplish all this, extension will have to bring in the services of government agencies as well as those of the private sector. Farmers will be organized into cooperatives as a pre-condition of collective production and marketing.

Hypothetically, integration is of two kinds, horizontal and vertical, and the combination of both. This HV integration model applies in areas where the principal crop is rice, corn or sugarcane. It can also apply in non-traditional areas. Extension should be able to accomplish farm plans and programs based on integration concepts and models. But it is advisable that successful projects be used as models.

6. Holistic development considers the major division of the geographic profile and recognizes their ecological interrelationship.

Twentieth century agriculture started with the opening of frontiers of production; pushing development towards marginal areas - uplands, hillsides, swamps and sea coasts. This movement was followed by the manipulation of nature on the species level, creating desirable varieties of plants and breeds of animals at the same time improving their agronomy and husbandry. Recently, agriculture has started producing Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) - plants and animals - through what we term today as genetic engineering.

Today, with our high population rate of 2.8 percent, which is one of the highest in the world, marginal settlements have mushroomed in coastal areas, hillsides and suburbs of urban centers.
Extension should help identify the sectoral and ecological divisions of the geographic profile of these areas, and design programs based on their peculiar physical and biological characteristics, and on their effects to the whole system.

We are witnessing many cases where destructive upland and hillside farming has led to erosion, which in turn, caused siltation and decreased water supply. Decreased river flow and sinking water table result in salt water intrusion through backflow and seepage destroying farm lands as a consequence. Pangasinan, Pampanga, Bulacan and the Ilocos provinces have reported cases of salination. We are also aware that reduced vegetative cover leads to changes in the micro-climate which in turn affect adversely the whole ecosystem.

Perhaps we can reduce the size of the profile under study into a model of a dam site. It maybe as small as a village catchment to a huge power and irrigation project. The model described in this example is found in Sta. Barbara, Iloilo, a water catchment for irrigation. The project consists of a watershed (forest and woodland) with an area of 200 hectares, a catchment which can hold water to irrigate effectively 50 hectares and generate electricity for one sitio. Freshwater fish is raised as part of the project's income. The main source of income is the irrigation fee. China, Japan and many European countries have advanced technology in water catchment that no drop of precious water is lost, so to speak.

Area development maybe initiated by nucleus projects. Later, if these projects become successful, similar or related projects can be put up, or the original projects expanded. Consolidation of developed areas leads to integrated area development, a process that is community-led or government assisted, or both.

Many development programs start with a grand design and heavy infrastructure. A foreign-funded project in Samar is infrastructure-oriented, and not directed to the alleviation of the plight of the masses. The 8-inch thick road built from a multi-million dollars grant could have been in the form of village bodegas, school houses, informal education of farmers and fishermen, initial capital for small business, cooperative development, and such programs addressed to meet the felt needs of the poor community.

7. The success of extension depends on linkage network and complementation with all sectors of society.

The extension agent is at the center of many activities. He provides information about the market. He translates researches into primers and takes a hand in their field application, identifies sources of input and credit, and helps make them available. He is a technician, teacher, consultant, community worker, and above all, a catalyst.

Extension works on a cycle of activities, namely, (1) information, (2) determining needs and problems, (3) setting objectives, (4) program preparation, (5) making the work plan, (6) coordination, and (7) evaluation.

8. It is important to first knock down the false notions as well as fallacies of development before developing an extension program.

Among these are the following:

(1.) The felt needs of the poor revolve mainly on their survival motives and therefore non-material and aesthetic values are non¬essential to them. This is not true. People deprived of material things equally seek approval, security, affection, self-esteem, recognition, and even power. The hierarchy of needs by Wilgard, adopted from Maslow is based on the priority principle and not on the principle of exclusion if one has not attained the motives of the lower level.

(2.) One root cause of low productivity is the lazy nature of people. Indolence, according to Jose Rizal is traced to a natural cause wherein the metabolic rate is slowed down by extreme weather conditions (heat and high humidity), while leisure is commonplace because of the endowed environment. We pointed out that colonialism and feudalism dampen the spirit to work and aim high. Today neo-colonialism and neo-feudalism still exist in our society. One other reason for low productivity is the prevalence of malnutrition and diseases which reduce body resistance and drive.

(3.) Foreign investment in the country stimulates economic growth. In certain ways this is true. The question arises when we equate the gains between the foreign investor and the host country which provides labor that is paid cheap and prime land not compensated well enough. Other issues that do not favor equitable distribution of profits can be explained by the poor implementation of our policies and laws which sometimes result in the manipulation of profits favoring the foreign investors. This is not to mention the exploitative nature of joint ventures under the guise of natural agreements.

(4.) A progressive rural society naturally depends upon a strong agricultural economy which in turn is dependent on people who provide the much needed labor in the agricultural frontiers. But the frontiers have long been shrunk and vastly exploited, and the farms now reduced in size. Even intensive farming cannot absorb rural labor. That is why there is an exodus to urban areas. Today more than half of our population lives in cities and big towns. With 1.6 million new Filipinos added to our 90 million population, the hypothetical population structure looks like a squat or broad-based pyramid where the young people mainly infants and children are at the base. These are highly dependent upon a narrow stratum of working population. The average Filipino today is an early teener. Such population structure and the attendant demography of a young population do not lend a healthy picture to our economic recovery unless drastic measures are adopted to arrest our runaway population growth.

(5.) The majority of people are concerned with matters that affect themselves, their family and close friends over a short period of time. Long term objectives are not very common to the ordinary person. It is true that marginal communities do not plan much ahead. Affluence, on the other hand, propels people to plan for the future and the next generation. It enlarges the people's concern for other people and for larger community, and creates national and international consciousness.

(6) Stimuli to growth are distinct from the factors that limit it. In his book The Limits to Growth, Dr. Meadows explains that the very stimuli to growth could negate growth itself. Population can strip the economy of ecosystems. Industry spews wastes that destroy the environment. Exploitation of natural resources may lead to irreversible decline.


Our Philippine society is not an isolated case. All nations, including the developed ones, suffer in varying degrees the same age-old problems of poverty, degradation of the environment, unemployment, inflation, malnutrition, disease, alienation of the youth, the decline of people's trust in the institutions, and the rejection of traditional values. The endless search for their solutions is also man's unending dream. We draw much hope in extension, for extension is applied teaching, a means of transforming people beliefs, ideas, and above all, infusing the faith that they can help themselves.~

Author and wife, pose with Vietnamese alumni, HoChiMinh University of Technology, Vietnam. HCMUT focuses on technology dissemination on the grassroots.

New buildings have been built after liberation and reunification on the university's sprawling campus half an hour drive from the heart of the city - Ho Chi Minh, formerly Saigon. HCMUT is the country's primier center of technology extension using multi-media.

HCMUT publishes manuals and extension bulletins in the varied fields of development in post-war Vietnam.

Presented to the UST Graduate School during a faculty development seminar on the Social Commitment of Education; reference paper HoChiMinh University of Technology Vietnam 2006, and Sokhothai Thammathirat Open University, Bangkok, 2010

A note of simple expression of thanks and gratitude to all followers, participants and viewers of Living with Nature - School on Blog. Your contribution has greatly helped us expand in the number and variety of lessons and coverage. This is very encouraging as we are about to begin our fourth year with hundreds of pageviews daily from different parts of the world. We have now more than 2,000 posts, with a number of lessons regularly updated and edited for added information and easier access. The lessons are also linked with radio and outreach programs. We invite you to help in enhancing a greater multiplier effect. You may wish to contribute by any means, from disseminating the lessons in your area yourselves, or by donating to our current extension work and radio broadcast (school-on-air) through Philippine National Bank dollar account No. 372756300038 or 372756300020 (peso account). Living with Nature-School on Blog is purely a voluntary effort to bring functional literacy to millions who lack access to formal education, and to augment formal learning as well as experiential knowledge. - Dr Abercio V Rotor

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