With the presented book the editors provide a new and important contribution to the worldwide discussion about the setup and functioning of agricultural extension and service delivery approaches. They present a selected sample of case studies from all over the world, which show a variety of contracting arrangements for extension, that can help to sustainably secure funding of efficient extension services delivery. After a short introduction and a first chapter reviewing the results of the international debate on organising and financing agricultural extension, the 18 case-studies are arranged in six different sections, followed by a last, concluding chapter, that provides an overall analysis of the cases.
The first section with the headline “Offloading public sector extension delivery services” describes examples of Chile, Germany, Estonia and The Netherlands. Unifying theme of these cases is the formerly existing public (state- or country-wide) extension system, that partially or totally shifted the delivery of extension to private or privatised suppliers. These delivering organisations are still funded for parts of their services by public treasury. Yet, development goes clearly into the direction of full independence from the state and hence full cost recovery through clients payments. Most interesting seem the cases of Chile and The Netherlands, where the move towards contracting out and privatising extension delivery already started some ten to twenty years ago and where changing political frameworks and the implementing experiences led to a remarkable history of steady adaptation to the given customer demands and political objectives.
The second section is headlined “Contracting to promote environmental services”, and shows two examples from Australia and Madagascar. Both cases rather describe regionally limited but very interesting programmes for environmental protection and development. Extension, as an important part of these programmes comes in, where the NGO or citizien association, that is contracted by the government, gives advice to individuals or initiatives, on how to sustainably manage their natural resources and on how to organise effectively.
“Contracting for input services” is the headline of section three, which provides cases from Bangladesh, Mali and the USA (Illinois). The common theme of these examples is rather content than organisation or methodology, all three are about the provision of strongly production related, specialised extension packages on the efficient use of specific inputs (hybrid seeds, veterinary drugs, precision agriculture inputs). But while the US case is a quite classical farmer-paid extension provision, interesting for its clearcut information and service packages the individual farmer can order, in the Mali case state financed extension is delivered by private input suppliers (veterinarians). It is definitely very interesting to follow-up the development of this case, as well as the Bangladeshi one, where, by project-funded farmers trainings, the input supply services of a medium sized private seeds trading enterprise are supported. As publicly funded extension services are delivered by private input suppliers or are closely linked to the interests of one specific trading enterprise, unfair competition may lead to imbalances in the input supply markets.
Section four is about “Contracting for specialized services” and the cases from Colombia, Trinidad&Tobago and Vietnam show, how private or semi-private organisations can successfully take over specific extension tasks, an existing public extension department is not prepared for. Especially well is this shown with the case of Trinindad&Tobago, where a mass-media campaign was contracted out to private media producers who, in cooperation with the subject specialists from the extension department, could produce powerful formats to attract the interest of the whole population to a very dangerous pest problem.
Section five cites two cases. One of them, comparable to the already cited US example, describes the functioning of commercially run production consultancy in the Lousiana cotton growing business. Information and service delivery packages are bought by individual farmers or farm-enterprises. The Portugal example describes the implementation of an EU-programme on Integrated Pest Management (IPM) through a farmers association. The section headline is: “Farmers contracting for commercial advisory services”.
In the last case study section the editors gathered another four interesting
examples of contractual arrangements, they found too hard to put together under
a unifying headline. “Other contractual arrangements for extension services”
cites four cases from:
- China, with an example of a very government dominated extension effort in one prefecture, implemented to spread the introduction of hybrid rice
- Finland, with a national extension system, which ever since its emergence 100 years ago was a contracting system with independent Rural Advisory Centers that delivered state financed extension. Of specific importance is the adaptation of this system to decreasing public funds and changing demands from its clientele.
- Mozambique, where extension to a majority of farmers 15 years ago was not existent at all and where a mixed system of public funding and public and private delivery is projected and yet to be implemented.
- Uganda, where the underfinanced public extension system is considered by rural development projects and NGOs as a unique source of extension skills and subject knowledge and thus contracted for the implementation of their specific rural development programmes.
With the 18 cited case studies the editors give an almost overwhelming impression
of the variety of contractual arrangements for agricultural extension all over
the world. The reader can find examples of still very recent moves towards more
participatory and decentralised approaches, whose conceptions integrate the
latest conclusions of the international extension services debate (Mozambique),
and she/he can find examples, where considerable practical experience with contracting
already led to various adaptations and changes in the systems (Netherlands,
The reader can find examples of nation- or statewide extension systems as well as regionally limited pilot or project approaches.
And she/he can find an incredible multitude of extension contents on offer. The range goes from participatory forestry planning (Madagascar) to the selling of clearly defined information and service packages for precision agriculture (USA).
A striking fact is, that even very similar and clearcut objectives like the broad introduction of hybrid seeds are approached very differently under different geographical and political frame-conditions (Bangladesh, China). This underlines one of the editors recommendations for practioners, that no recipes for contracting arrangements can be given.
The authors of most cases are rather openly discussing the advantages and the
problems that were experienced with the planning and implementation of the described
contracting arrangements. However, as most cases are still very “young”,
many of the real problems may not have shown up yet, the envisaged and fastly
visible advantages outweigh experienced difficulties by far. In that respect
it are definitely the already longterm tested cases of Chile, Finland, The Netherlands
and the US, that provide a most realistic picture of the pros and cons of contracting.
In Chile, the only long term example with contracted advisory services under
the conditions of subsistence agriculture, two findings seem striking:
1. It takes a long time and a lot of patience and will of all stakeholders to develop a well functioning advisory system on a contract basis.
2. Under the conditions of subsistence and small scale farming, an effective advisory system, whether delivery is contracted or done by state employees, needs considerable public funding.
The richness of the characterised approaches at the same time makes reading sometimes tiring and even though most of the case studies follow a similar sequence in description (case and context description, impact analysis, sustainability and replicability of the example and lessons learned) the kind and structure of information under the headings differ strongly from example to example. Given the big differences in frame conditions and a highly varying time horizon (s.a.), comparability is sometimes a problem. As the editors already mention in their introduction, the reader may as well not always agree with their arrangement and combination of the case-studies in the given sections.
The special value added of the book is the first and the last chapter, written by the editors. Chapter one gives a very comprehensive overview of the results of the recent debate and developments in the agricultural extension sector and it provides the reader with most relevant questions and criteria in order to find a “filing structure” for the presented examples and to evaluate them accordingly. It as well helps the busy reader, who only wants to pick out one or two case studies, that are most interesting for her/him. With the first chapter the most relevant considerations for the design of contracting approaches are presented, including policy issues in contracting extension services, requirements for successful contracting and recommendations for policy and planning practitioners. Chapter 20 provides a summary and an analysis of the most important findings, cross-cutting the whole sample of case-studies. Thus it helps to gain overview and adds a most valuable general perspective to the individual analysis, each of the case study authors has provided in her/his text. However, given the big diversity of cases and descriptions, the generalized positive findings, especially on social and environmental issues, are drawn a bit light handed, based on only few available examples and attributing all positive outcomes to the fact, that a contract arrangement was in place. Thus, the reader may be provided with an overly optimistic picture of the potentials of contracting.
All in all, the book is an important contribution for discussion and for practice, as it gives a range of inspiring examples for contracting and at the same time provides the relevant questions and criteria for comparison and evaluation. Thus it can help practicioners to better design contracting arrangements and to influence more effectively the ongoing process of privatisation and outsourcing of tasks hitherto considered public tasks. Going attentively through the results of the analysis in the first and last chapter, should give clear hints to the political decision makers about the potentials as well as the absolute limits of such a process in their specific situation.
Katz E., 2002. Financial Participation in Practice. Experiences with Participation of Clients in the Financing of Extension Services. In: BeraterInnen News 1/2002, LBL Zürich.
Die finanzielle Beteiligung von Bauern an Beratungsdienstleistungen wurde in den letzten Jahren zum vieldiskutierten Thema in der ländlichen Entwicklung. Bisher wurde eine Vielzahl von Ideen dazu ausprobiert, Erfahrungen mit z.T. auch noch nicht ausgereiften Ansätzen wurden gesammelt.
Khin Mar Cho, 2002. Agricultural Extension in Myanmar. In: BeraterInnen News 1/2002, LBL, Zürich.
Die Bevölkerung Myanmars wird auf ca. 60 Mio Menschen im Jahre 2010 anwachsen, der lokale Reiskonsum wird dann 20 Mio Tonnen sein. Das Land war über lange Zeit unter zentraler Verwaltung, es gibt keine auf lokalen Gemeinschaften basierenden Organisationen in den ländlichen Gebieten. Bis heute setzt Myanmar auf einen klassischen, landesweiten Beratungsansatz, die Autorin schlägt eine neue, partizipative Vorgehensweise vor.
Christoplos, I., Farrington,J., Kidd, A.D., 2001. Extension, Poverty and Vulnerability: Inception report of a study for the Neuchâtel Initiative. ODI Working Paper 144.