Extension Services in Agriculture
New technologies are developed through research for development in a sector but these technologies can only be fruitful if reached to the end users and / or applied accordingly. Agriculture is no exception to this rule. In order to transfer new technologies to the farming community, the extension services in public and private sector perform this basic task and component of development process.
Agricultural extension is recognized as a potent and critical force in the development process. It has been defined as "a service or system which assists farm people through educational procedures in improving farming methods and techniques, increasing production efficiency and income, bettering their levels of living, and lifting the social and educational standards of rural life." (Maunder, 1973).
Functions generally attributed to agricultural extension include "to communicate agricultural research findings and recommendations to farm people, and to bring farm people into contact with sources of practical and useful information through organized group action". Activities of extension involve "agents working with farmers to teach improved farming practices, new techniques, and more productive or more efficient technologies organized within a system with administrative direction and support." (Axinn, 1988).
The format of any extension service reflects the underlying culture, philosophies and priorities of the political, economic and social environment in which it is evolved. According to a recent survey conducted by FAO, Pakistan’s investment in agricultural extension during the year 2009 was US$ 86,923,170, and the extension agent to active rural population ratio was 1: 6,881. The cadres of Field Assistant and Veterinary Assistant in various wings of Agriculture Department in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are considered to be the front line soldiers of agriculture extension force. As a rule the more efficient and dedicated the extension worker is, the more rapid is the technology transfer process leading to rapid positive change appraised from the developed technologies.
Like many other countries, extension work has a rich history in Pakistan. During 1960s and 1970s, Pakistan’s extension services played a distinct role along with research and other stakeholders in bringing about the Green Revolution. During 1970’s the country’s extension services significantly benefited from major projects funded by the World Bank when the Training & Visit system of extension was being promoted. However, with the passage of time and many problems in this particular sector, the extension work and methodologies could not prosper according to the needs and therefore criticized for its less than satisfactory performance.
Table 1: Number of Key Agricultural Extension Staff in Provinces of Pakistan as in 2011
Number of Agriculture Officers
Number of Field Assistants
Gilgit and Baltistan
Source: PowerPoint presentation made by the Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (March, 2011) in the Roundtable Discussion on Agriculture and Water, organized by the Planning Commission, USAID, The Embassy of Netherland and the World Bank
Table 2: Number of Key Livestock Extension Staff in Various Provinces of Pakistan as in 2008
Number of Veterinary Officers
Number of Veterinary Assistants
Source: Afzal, M. (2008). Overview of Agricultural Research and Extension in Pakistan. Pakistan Agricultural Research Council
For the purpose of in-service training in agriculture sector, the following institutes are used by agricultural staff in the country:
Analysis of the above information reveals that the number of Field Assistants and Veterinary Assistants in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are much less than other provinces and there is a need to enhance, both qualitatively and quantitatively, these front line soldiers of agriculture extension in the province to ensure proper technology transfer to the farming community for sustained agricultural growth. Moreover, there is only one in-service training institute in the province as against five institutes in Punjab. Therefore, it would also be appropriate to up-grade the existing sole institute besides establishing new ones to cater the agriculture extension needs of the province.