It would be only a cliché to reiterate that the world population is ramping up at a phenomenal rate. What calls for urgent attention is to cultivate more food for the present and, more importantly, future generations using our ever-limited resources.
How? The only salvation seems to lie in the employment of sustainable modern production technologies and management practices to harvest optimum yields which are the eventual consequences of the development process.
In this context, agricultural extension plays a significant role in disseminating recommended production packages, linking agri-scientists and farmers as well as educating the farming community.
The phrase ‘agricultural development’ essentially refers to the increased production and food security across the globe as well as increase in the productivity of land, labor and capital in agriculture. Decreased food prices, self-sufficiency and enhanced purchasing power of the urban poor also come under its umbrella.
Agricultural extension and advisory services are mostly provided by the public sector through Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) especially in the developing world, although in some industrialized countries, the same services are provided by the private sector charging some fee. MOA uses extension as a policy tool to promote agricultural development.
While extensive research for this in Pakistan is still a dream, however, what ever little is been done, its results are made available to farmers through network of extension systems. Agricultural scientists generate innovative production packages and after their validation according to local climatic conditions, they are rendered to farmers.
The technology developed should be ecologically sound, economically viable, socially just and meet with the needs of the present population without compromising future generations. Technology may be categorized as material technology (implements, agrochemicals, hybrids, breeds, and vaccines) and knowledge based technology (technical knowledge and management skills).
Material technology is yet simpler to transfer and in most cases is produced and distributed by private sector whilst knowledge based technology is taught through extension systems. Material technology requires technical knowledge for its use that is also provided by the extension officials in most of the cases. For example, if farmers use a sprayer to supply agrochemicals, they need to know how to operate, adjust, calibrate, and clean the equipment. So both technologies are closely intertwined.
For agro technologies to be relevant to local needs, researchers, extension workers and farmers must play important roles in identifying research problems, adopting the recommendations to local conditions and providing feedback to researchers about innovations that have been developed. Extension workers should participate in adaptive research trials as it allows them to become familiar with the technologies they are expected to promote.
The 3rd important function of extension is education of the farmers.
Several approaches in this regard have been developed like Training and Visit System (T&V) and Farmer Field Schools (FFS) etc. Education enables farmers in better making their decisions, budget planning and knowledge of markets. The focus of the extension officials should be on developing indigenous knowledge. Most of the work force in the world is engaged in farming, so through extension, vast human resources can be trained.
Generally, environmental issues emerge from the human use of natural resources. By educating the farmers, this issue can be solved. We must make the farmers aware about misuse of the natural resources and what are the consequences using unsustainable production practices. We must teach them the productive as well as sustainable methods that preserve our natural resources for future generations.