Monday, July 7, 2014

Major Concerns of Extension

Extension is applied teaching, a means of transforming people's capabilities, beliefs, ideas, and above all, infusing the faith that they can help themselves.
Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature School on Blog
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid with Ms Melly C Tenorio
738 DZRB AM Band, 8 to 9 evening class, Monday to Friday
 The aim of extension is to narrow down the gap of potential and actual production - that obtained in research institutions and that on the farmers' fields.   

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.
— From the desk of an extension worker

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 palsy will increase from the present figure of 9 million MT to 14 million MT. We would then become a consistent net exporter office 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 recent hearing 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. Favorable market conditions 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 if contributed largely by minimal disturbance of biological and physical conditions.
·         Farm by-products and wastes, such as hay and ma­nure, are put to use.
·         Labor is entirely provided by the family.

Extension should be able to first identify these good points and preserve them. The introduced technology should look at both increased production and these 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, the enterprise system, 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 requires intensive, and too often, expensive.

(1) infrastructure which may later turn out as "white elephants",
(2) research with sophisticated facilities and too many consultants and assistants,
(3) mechanization combines get stuck in rice paddies and grains cake or germinate in silos and bins, 
(4) hired labor disputes end in strikes and court cases,
(5) big invest­ment/capital which 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. Even as it is being offered for privatization there are no apparent takers. 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 very 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 diversifications, and integrated land reform breaking up large estates, including sugarlands and coconut lands, and the subdivision of properties resulting in unecon­omic farm sizes, certain approaches may be adapted to increase pro­ductivity, such as multiple cropping, agro-processing and integra­tion-related projects. Another diversification model is for coconut lands.

The ordinary coconut farmer can indulge in the following activities, namely (a) copra making, (b) intercropping 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 assist in bringing 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; and later, 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. Very recently, we began to think on the chromo­somes and genes in 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 mushroom in coastal areas, hillsides and suburbs of urban centers. Definitely these areas are productive and a large part is unsuitable for agriculture. Exten­sion should be able to identify the sectoral and ecological divisions of the geographic profile 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, cause siltation and low water supply on the plains. Low river flow and a low water table result in salt water intrusion through backflow and seepage destroying farm lands. Pangasinan, Pampanga, Bulacan and the Ilocos provinces have reported cases of salination. We are also aware that a 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. Coalition of developed areas leads to integrated area development, a process that is community-led or government assisted, or both. There are communities that develop even without government support. One such case is found in Quezon, Palawan, a remote town. Many development programs start with a grand design and heavy infrastructure. The Australian project in Samar is infra­structure-oriented, not geared straight to the alleviation of the plight of the masses. The 8-inch thick road built from the A $50 million 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 the extension depends on linkage network and complementation with all sectors o 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. To show the nature and extent of networking and complementation in which extension is involve, we study the four sets of factors that affect the post-production system of the grain industry.

 This includes the marketing aspect. This example is being singled out because of its significance. Some 10 to 37 percent of our national rice production is than 1 percent, and the US with less than 5 percent in postharvest losses. 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 non­essential 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. 

UPLB, seat of Agricultural Extension in the Philippines and Southeast Asia 

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 95 million population, the hypothetical population structure looks like a squat or broad-based pyramid where the young people mainly 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, degeneration of the environment, unem­ployment, inflation, malnutrition, disease, alienation of the youth, the decline of the belief 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.~
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.

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