Adapting to new challenges: extension theory and practice for the 21st century
Garforth, C. (2010) Adapting to new challenges: extension theory and practice for the 21st century. In: International Conference on Agricultural Extension (Agrex 10), 26-28 October 2010, Universiti Putra Malaysia, pp. 1-11. (Keynote Paper)
Official URL: http://www.apeec.upm.edu.my/agrex10/moreinfo.html
Twenty first century challenges facing agriculture include climate change, threats to food security for a growing population and downward economic pressures on rural livelihoods. Addressing these challenges will require innovation in extension theory, policy and education, at a time when the dominance of the state in the provision of knowledge and information services to farmers and rural entrepreneurs continues to decline. This paper suggests that extension theory is catching up with and helping us to understand innovative extension practice, and therefore provides a platform for improving rural development policies and strategies. Innovation is now less likely to be spoken of as something to be passed on to farmers, than as a continuing process of creativity and adaptation that can be nurtured and sustained. Innovation systems and innovation platforms are concepts that recognise the multiple factors that lead to farmers’ developing, adapting and applying new ideas and the importance of linking all actors in the value chain to ensure producers can access appropriate information and advice for decision making at all stages in the production process. Concepts of social learning, group development and solidarity, social capital, collective action and empowerment all help to explain and therefore to apply more effectively group extension approaches in building confidence and sustaining innovation. A challenge facing educators is to ensure the curricula for aspiring extension professionals in our higher education institutions are regularly reviewed and keep up with current and future developments in theory, policy and practice.
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