Technical Liason and Support 0/ 5/ /
r Personnel in Technology Dissemination
Emerging countries and international donor agencies have long
recognized the formidable task of disseminating information to large
numbers of small holders as one of the ingredients of successful
agricultural development. In fact, most countries with colonies developed
some type of extension service during the colonial period. (Swanson and
Claar 1984) These were continued in a modified form after independence.
However, in spite of international assistance, progress in improving them
has been slow and many LDC's consider the performance of their extension
services to be unsatisfactory.
Assistance in extension by international donors has been spotty over
the years. In the case of USAID, the requests for extension assistance
dropped to a rather low ebb during the 70's and early 80's. (Nobe 1984)
During that period USAID carried out a great many projects with extension
functions but they have usually been operated as independent entities.
In the 60's USAID undertook several significant institution building
projects along the lines of the Land Grant model (e.g. Pakistan, India,
Sierra Leone.) Although these efforts involved extension in various ways,
the country's extension service was inevitably not a part of these
Prepared by: John B. Claar
Director of INTERPAKS
University of Illinois
It became clear in these cases that extension, as one of the few
units of government that reached all of the way to the village level was
tightly held by government and that universities were not in a very good
position to take on something so large, so spaciously distributed, and
with so many different roles to perform. Rebuilding an extension service
into an effective unit not only involved many barriers of a semi-political
nature, it was also an expensive proposition. As a result, USAID spent
much of its efforts on improving agriculture research. However, the need
to improve knowledge transfer persists and in recent years USAID has
increased its efforts in this direction, including sane new institution
building projects in the field. In addition, as will be discussed
presently, such USAID supported projects as Farming Systems Research have
great implications for Extension.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN has worked at
improving extension in developing countries rather continuously. In
addition to supporting many extension personnel in the field, they have
given the training of extension workers a great deal of attention.
However, as important as these initiatives have been, extension has
continued to have a great many problems. These problems that plague the
traditional extension service have been well documented. (Sigman and
Swanson 1984) Generally, extension services have been very poorly funded
with far too high a percentage of the total budget going into salary
emoluments as contrasted with operations. They have usually been top
down conceptually, frequently attempting to help achieve pre-determined
national production goals. Extension staffs, frequently from urban
backgrounds, have been poorly trained, especially in practical farming,
have suffered from low status in the employment system, and lacked
incentives for excellent performance. They have also been poorly
supported in the field. Poor housing and associated living conditions
made field assignments undesirable from a family viewpoint and from a
professional perspective, lack of mobility and the tools of the trade,
such as demonstration equipment, greatly limited effectiveness and dulled
In addition, extension's form and image have been greatly affected
by the assignment of a wide variety of semi-political and administrative
activities that frequently reduced credibility with clients. (Rogers 1983)
But perhaps the greatest problem of all in explaining extension's
performance has been the paucity of "farmer ready" usable technology
moving through the system. Frequently the information available has been
geared to maximum yields and experiment station conditions, the type of
technology most applicable to large farmers. Frequently studies of LDC's
report that technical know how exists in the country to increase yields
markedly but is not being applied by farmers. (York 1982) Such gaps
between extension and research are almost universal. Extension inevitably
has been mainly a distribution system and has focused on its field
operations. It has generally failed to provide for accessing and
preparing information for dissemination. In a study by Swanson and Rassi,
Asia and Africa reported about 6% of their extension staffs to be made
up of extension specialists, compared to about 19% in the U.S. and
Thus extension in many developing countries may be likened to a
retail store without ties to a dependable wholesaler, or a large
distribution system waiting for someone else to turn on the material that
is expected to flow through it. This paper will focus on this latter
problem with an emphasis on suggesting solutions. But first, two major
developments with great impact on extension must be reviewed. These two
developments while in no sense substitutes, have been aimed at solving
many of the problems noted above and helped rekindle interest in improving
The Training and Visit System
The first of these is the widespread adoption of the Training and
Visit system which was pioneered by the World Bank as a solution to the
many problems plaguing extension services. (Benor, Harrison and Baxter
Basically T&V involves a farmer-contact system, greatly improved
training, an enhanced status for extension workers, improved farmer/agent
ratios and the development of a group of technical subject matter
extension specialists. The system also places emphasis on field work
and requires both disciplined training and teaching. There can be little
doubt that this effort has greatly improved extension in many countries.
Yet many criticisms have been leveled at it. Those with substance seem
to be that it is top-down and discipline oriented rather than farmer
oriented, it is not sufficiently flexible to deal with a wide variety
of conditions, is quite expensive, especially where agriculture is not
highly productive, such as in rain-fed or semi-arid conditions, and has
not solved the research-extension gap very well. In a recent World Bank
report, the training of field agents to better understand farm conditions
and farmers problems and to access more small farmer technology were given
high priority for future attention in T&V.
Farmina Systems Research/E
The second broad development with great implications for extension
is the Farming Systems Research movement. Farming systems research places
emphasis on finding out what farmers' problems are, and upon doing
research to solve them in the farmers' frame of reference. Normally,
field surveys of farmers are made and proposed technology that considers
the farmers total system is tested and demonstrated on the farmers fields.
The audience is quite familiar with this approach and with its
history. Therefore, it will not be explained in detail. (Hildebrand 1983)
But the implications of this approach to extension operations will be
In most societies farmers are free to accept or reject the
recommendations from research and extension. The implications of the
situation is that technology must be viewed by farmers as consistent with
their decision-making criteria if they are to utilize it.
This is especially true in the case of small farmers where household
criteria are generally nuch more important than market criteria in
decision-making and production activities are closely screened as to their
effects on such things as family labor, stability or production, personal
tastes, capital requirements and planting sequences. Farming systems
research relates to such things and creates enlarged options for extension
by generating information that can more readily be used in the small
farmer setting. In fact FSP/E interacts directly with the farmer in many
ways. Thus the margin of research activity is extended toward extension
type work and a greater intermediate zone of needed interaction is
The implications for extension of a country undertaking an FSR
program are many.
Extension and research share a continuum. Figure 1 shows one
approach to visualizing this continuum and the gaps that frequently
occur. In general, extension occupies the right side and research the
left side. This all too pat and comfortable division can result in
serious failures in achieving the objectives of both organizations in
serving the host country. Traditionally, extension has emphasized its
field operations and researched its laboratories and experimental plots.
Hence, an artificial administrative line has been drawn between sections
of the continuum, which causes disfunctions. This line, labeled a
"functional gap", in Figure 1, is very common and it reduces the
effectiveness of both extension and research organizations.
There is no place in this continuum for a vertical line between the
functions of research and extension. Each of the organizations must reach
significantly across the "functional gap" in Figure 1 in order to perform
well or even acceptably. At best, any line must be slanted and it must
reach from pole to pole through the technology development and technology
For example, as already noted in FSP/E, the research team leaves
its traditional venue and works extensively with farmers also. These
AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH- EXTENSION CONTINUUM
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contacts involve problem and resource assessment, field testing, and
demonstrations on farmers' fields. These activities take research all
the way to the right side of the continuum. Extension is in an excellent
position to help with those things. Extension has a major stake in
helping research to identify problems needing research and to assist with
adapting research information to different soil and climatic conditions;
hence a part of extensions' role takes it into the technology development
section of the continuum. Conversely, to be sure their work is
operational, researchers must see technology tried under farmer conditions
and understand problems that farmers are encountering. Therefore, the
line between these two highly related organizations must be slanted or
even curved. (Shaner 1984) Also, if successful, FSR/E will yield a new
type of more complex technology for extension to use in diffusion, which
will have far-reaching effects on how it does their work. This type of
technology that is oriented to specific farming conditions cannot be
applied blindly from farm to farm and will require a management approach
These facts have implications for how both FSR/E and extension are
organized and conducted. Functional gaps between them are very costly
in terms of performance and will become increasingly unpopular. Special
steps will need to be taken to make extension a full partner in the
farming systems research program. The FSR/E approach includes a number
of areas such as on-farm demonstrations that could just as easily be
defined as part of extension's mission. Clearly, extension can facilitate
these and other activities and at the same time benefit from them
directly. It is important to both organizations that these linkage
functions be done well.
Working closely with FSP/E programs will usually involve a major
shift in the philosophy and focus of extension services. Same extension
services see their major goal as encouraging farmers to meet sane
pre-determined production targets or quotas. In this case, most work
in a top-down authoritarian style, and a shift to a farmer-centered
approach may have to start with a change in the basic purpose of the
organization. Many "new" things for extension may be involved in the
FGR/E project area.
For example, there are extensive implications for the training of
extension workers that arise from the FSR/E approach:
a. Training of future extension workers should include Farming
Systems Research and the use of a clientele-centered approach for
b. Field agents need to be taught respect for farmers, to place
priority on field work, and to work in a farmer-centered mode that
relates technology to the resources and goals of farmers.
c. Field agents will need to be comfortable with farming practices,
how to put on demonstrations and to advise farmers about emerging
techniques. This is much more practical knowledge than they have
The objectives and missions of the extension service, at least in
the project area, should be stated so that they are consistent with the
In addition, incentives for excellent performance should be
developed, evaluation criteria should be used that are consistent with
the new objectives.
Still another area of special need in FSR/E project areas involves
personnel management. Many extension personnel are moved frequently.
Care should be taken by extension to leave personnel in one location in
the project area long enough for them to establish credibility and have
some impact in order to relate systems technology to farmers. Priority
should be placed on field service to the farmer in the project area, and
extension administrators should try to avoid disturbing local plans with
While several of these factors may be viewed as just "good extension
work," they are especially important in the FSR/E project areas because
of the attempt that is being made by FSB/E to understand the farming
systems in use, the criteria that farmers use in decision-making and in
suggesting new technology that is suited to the farmer's situation. These
tasks, which are made at the same time more important and reachable by
FSR/E, have special implications for persons in extension who are mainly
responsible for the subject matter content in extension.
From this brief discussion of traditional extension, the innovations
introduced through the implementation of such projects as T&V and FSR/E,
one thing stands out. Extension in developing countries has not yet
achieved a satisfactory linkage with sources of information. (Axinn,
The fact that much technology is said to have been available for
years in some countries without adaptation for extension use suggests
strongly that extension services have not organized themselves to secure
and adapt information for their use in the field.
International experience indicates that technical extension personnel
are the keys to successful linkage with information sources and getting
such information to flow through. Generally speaking, technical support
and liaison personnel are scarce in the extension services of developing
countries and where they exist, as in T&V, have in many countries not
been able to carry out these functions in a satisfactory manner. Yet
in the U.S. where such specialists make up nearly 20% of the average
extension staff, they are given credit for successfully integrating with
research and providing both content and quality controls. Most LDC's
do have some extension specialists but these problems continue
Setting up a corps of extension specialists then does not
automatically yield the desirable results. What are the keys to making
such a system work?
The job is complex, involving subtleties in attitudes and
relationships. Sometimes the information simply may not be available.
Too, knowledge sources must cooperate; and how technical personnel are
deployed may be as critical to their success.
This role is so critical and, where there is no history or tradition,
sufficiently difficult that it will be treated in considerable detail.
While setting up a corps of technical liaison and support personnel
may not be a panacea for all extensions problems, it appears to be a
necessary component that is presently undervalued by many and frequently
Technical Liaison and Support Staffs in Extension
There is a growing recognition in international circles that an
adequate, effective corps of Technical Liaison and Support Personnel is
essential to effective knowledge transfer and that effective models are
not in place. Extension must be able to reach out to all knowledge
sources to acquire inputs. And extension, to the extent necessary, must
have the internal capability to acquire and adapt technology for use by
its clients. Farming Systems Research projects which emphasize testing
and demonstrations make extension's job easier in this regard. However,
even in these cases, systematic technical liaison, as contrasted with
administrative liaison, is essential, including liaison on the research
projects. Extension can help in fact, needs to help in its own self
interest with all field aspects of research, from identifying problems
to testing technology. Research and extension have a vested interest
in each other and both need to set up liaison mechanisms for the other
to plug into. Therefore, research and extension services need to remember
that solving the research-extension gap requires giving as well as
taking. (Claar and Watts 1984)
In view of the mutual values that can accrue from such liaison, it
is nothing short of amazing that linkage with research continues to be
viewed as a major problem along with inadequate "content" in extension.
Of course, extension and research do share a continuum and when the
pressure for results is on, it is all too easy to suggest that the other
end of the continuum has failed. Too, the two organizations may be
competing for scarce dollars and there may be fear of making the other
look good. However, the more general problem seems to be that countries
put a low priority on the whole continuum, thus leaving the total function
It should be easy to sell these two organizations, in their own self
interest, to try and help each other do its job. In fact, such an
attitude of mutual support is the starting point and an essential
condition for a successful relationship. Project should be designed to
make such self-interest obvious and liaison and support not only expected
but easy. Support in extension has two meanings in this context. Support
for research by involvement in all aspects of farmers' contact for
research projects. But as significant as this is, the need for support
of field staff within extension is equally critical to performance. In
fact, such Technical Liaison and Support Staff (sometimes called extension
specialists) are at one time a primary source of content, training,
backstopping, and quality control.
It may not be an overstatement to say that many countries in the
developing world discovered the importance of a field system and
implemented it without an equally firm understanding of the parallel need
for support. Whatever the reason, it now seems time to correct the
imbalance where it exists and to develop a whole extension system with
greater emphasis on content. This topic will be addressed through
questions and answers.
What are Technical Liaison and Support Personnel?
These are personnel who are usually specialized by disciplines or
commodities, who are concerned with the quanitity and quality of
technology and related information to be disseminated by extension
services. Some are vertical specialists, such as commodity specialists;
others work on systems, such as farm management specialists. Still others
cut across disciplines, such as engineers. They are concerned with
subject matter availability, with its accuracy, its applicability, putting
it into useful forms, program development, supporting the system as it
is disseminated evaluating impact, and feeding problems to research.
Such personnel will give about equal attention to interacting with
research development and to preparing information and instructing the
extension staff in its use. In summary, while they are not supervisors,
these support personnel must be concerned with all aspects of acquiring
and moving information through the extension system and getting it applied
by farmers. Hence the job description must be very flexible so that
problems can be dealt with on a individual basis.
What are some of the ccmpetencies that should be stressed?
Technical liaison and support personnel are difficult to find because
they need to be educated so that they can be respected by researchers
and interact with them on research activities. Ideally, they should have
the same type of training as researchers, plus instruction in teaching
techniques, methods, and adult education. It is important that they also
have better than average speaking and writing skills in order to perform
their various roles.
But there is one other aspect of the work of liaison and support
staffs that is very important. They must have an in-depth understanding
of the practical aspects of farming. They must understand the farming
systems of farmers in a given area and why farmers are using them. They
must be at home in setting out demonstrations and in consulting with field
agents and farmers about problems in their fields. This practical
understanding is especially important since in many developing country
situations practical knowledge of farming and farmers is quite inadequate
among new employees.
What are the specific tasks to be covered in the job description?
Several of these have already been alluded to. A summary of the
main aspects follows:
Technical liaison and support personnel are not administrative
supervisors of field staff. This assignment should be carried by an
administrative officer. TL&S personnel instruct, prepare materials and
programs, and assist the field agent in using the material accurately
and wisely. Hence, it is important the TL&S personnel travel with agents
to farms periodically to observe and counsel field agents as problems
arise. TS&L personnel are first, last and always content people, program
developers, trainers and coaches in the use of subject matter to solve
Liaison role. There are many things that must be integrated and
brought together in order for many new innovations to be recommended.
For example, credit may be needed, new seeds stocked, and special
fertilizers or pest control capability developed.
In addition to maintaining liaison with technology sources, TL&S
personnel need to view them as a clientele. For these units that provide
services to the farmer can also be a channel to providing information
to them. Hence, TL&S personnel need to provide information about what
the extension service is recommending to farmers to the leadership levels
of related organizations, and encourage them to help in dissemination.
They are not regulatory personnel. In order for these personnel
to perform these roles they need to be viewed as a "friend" and supporter
to the extension staff and the organizations with which they are expected
to conduct liaison. Therefore, they would not be asked to administer
regulations for government or to be involved with punitive actions either
within or outside extension. Such assignments would seriously impair
the open communication which needs to exist between these people and their
Specific aspects of the job description
a. Seeking out relevant technical information from all sources. This
function includes interacting with research colleagues as well as
monitoring external sources. It means integrating information from
a recommendation that farmers can understand and apply readily.
It means developing programs that utilize mass media and other
methods in tandem and taking part as the program is implemented.
b. Interpreting technology and trend information for field use. This
involves fitting it to categories of farmers, and packaging it into
usuable, saleable programs.
c. Training extension workers and teaching them how to use the
information effectively. This includes but must not be limited to
formal training. Extension TL&S staff must know each of the field
staff in their area of responsibility and work with them in field
situations so that they can coach them through problem areas and
improve their competence and security. Therefore, informed training
may be more important than formal training in getting the job done.
d. Making direct presentations or working with communication personnel
to develop mass media to targeted audiences.
e. Advising research colleagues of problems encountered by farmers and
facilitating opportunities for the researchers to observe them.
This means inviting research colleagues to travel with them to
observe field problems or to take part in programs with extension
personnel and/or farmers.
f. Communicating with related organizations in their subject matter
field to facilitate linkage and coordination. This includes
suppliers and marketing firms who can advise on problems as well
as help pass on information to their clients.
g. Backstopping agents as they encounter problems in the field and
providing appropriate remedial training. Many field agents, because
of limited practical training, may be wary of exposure to farmers'
practical field problems. This should be a challenge to the TS&L
personnel to provide remedial training.
h. Monitoring experiences of farmers and programs in agricultural
development. Following up with agents and farmers to get reactions
to new technology and to see what new problems the farmers have
observed is a critical part of the specialist's job.
Are there any special things to keep in mind in deploying TL&S personnel?
The employment of even a well trained TL&S staff does not guarantee
effective performance of the role. And there are a number of things that
need to be planned to facilitate performance.
Research and extension missions. The missions of these organizations
should specifically state a policy of mutual support and liaison so that
all staff are aware of it. Such policies should provide for both formal
and informal assistance and lateral as well as vertical liaison. That
is, all staff should view the personnel of the other organization as
"family," and give their needs priority attention. This joint decision
by the Directors of both organizations to set a favorable environment
for linkage and mutual support is a key to successful performance of these
highly related functions.
Mobility. Mobility for these staff members who must relate to many
groups outside, as well as the extension staff per se, is of paramount
importance. Such personnel are scarce in most countries and travel time
is not very productive. Design teams need to provide for the mobility
required by the job secription. There is a tendency to cut back
everything equally when cuts must be made in budgets. These personnel,
in a large measure, determine the content and technical quality of the
whole organization and if they are not able to perform, the quality of
extension's performance will suffer. Providing TS&L staff with the tools
and mobility for their job should be the last thing to cut. There is
no reason to maintain a plumbing system if there isn't any water.
Structure. Much of the impact of extension is determined by whether
technology is accessed and brought into the system. Therefore deploying
staff to make this critical job easy should be carefully considered in
project design. Structuring the TL&S staff along the same lines as the
research staff can facilitate carnunication in several ways. For example,
if commodity or farming systems assignments are made in research, making
assignments along the same divisions in both extension and research will
facilitate work. Nothing makes working together more difficult than being
organized along different lines or covering different geographical areas.
Reasons for difference are superficial and nust not be tolerated.
Office location. It is possible to have excellent mutual support
when people are housed apart from each other, especially if telephone
and written messages are reliable and readily available. At the same
time, the author knows of a case where two people who where physically
in the same office didn't speak to each other for years.
However, in the main, proximity does facilitate communication and
joint activity, such as traveling together to observe research underway.
Therefore, design teams should consider deploying TL&S staff so that their
office locations place them close to their counterpart researchers as
well as to research sites. It may be especially desirable to locate sane
of these personnel at field research stations or universities that are
active in agricultural research. Such office locations tend to enhance
the credibility of TL&S personnel and the understanding of their technical
roles. In this way extension personnel can take leadership for field
days and research and extension personnel can work together in explaining
research and how to apply it.
Joint research and extension appointments. In the USA this technique
has been utilized widely to facilitate the smooth functioning of the
research-extension continuum. Some such extension specialist staffs have
as high as 60-70% part-time appointments in research. This helps to
eliminate differences in quality and training between these two groups
of highly related staff, as well as insuring that communication gaps won't
exist. This may be especially workable at field stations where the two
roles may be quite compatible and save much travel to the site from the
Instructional support services. TL&S personnel should have most
of their training in subject matter, although hopefully the will have
had some training in the educational phases of their work. Nevertheless,
instructional aids and communications techniques are very important to
getting the job done. Therefore the availability of persons specializing
in transmitting messages are important counterparts to technical and
administrative personnel in program planning and execution.
Availability of communicators who are partners in determining how
to transmit messages as well as helping develop tools and materials to
do so should be one of the areas considered by design teams. Facilities
to perform these roles must also be available. Too often, if such
personnel and facilities exist, they operate as separate program thrusts
rather than as partners with extension in the communication process.
The organizational patterns for research and extension varies so
greatly that using organization charts to represent ideas is fought with
considerable risk. The following figures are partial and will be used
to suggest two broad approaches to research extension linkage and the
deployment of extension, technology, liaison and support personnel.
What are some of the organizational options that might be considered?
1. The normal organization model for technical liaison and support
staffs attaches them to the Director's office or at the provincial
level to similar administrative units. Frequently they report
directly to an Associate, Assistant, or Deputy Director for Technical
Services. Figure 2 shows such separate organizations, in which an
FSP/E project has been added in one or more provinces. In such
organizations, functional gaps between research and extension are
frequently if not universally found. Something more is needed.
In this separate system, an added option (Figure 2A) could be to
establish personnel to perform the liaison functions. It is well
to differentiate between administrative liaison at various levels
and technical liaison. Technical liaison might well be performed
by one or more of the Extension Technical Liaison and Support Staff.
Assigning such liaison personnel should greatly improve
caununications and cooperation. However, unless the liaison
personnel are supported by an effective technical liaison and support
staff in extension, problems in utilizing the information within
extension may be expected.
2. Another interesting approach is to set up a joint technical adaptive
research and extension support unit. Figure 3 displays a division
director who is jointly employed by the Research and Extension
Separate Research and Extension Organizations
S Technical Liaison
I and Support Personnel
Separate Research and Extension Oraanizations
- Administrative Deputy Director for Deputy Director
Liaison Technical Services for Field Services
Technical Liaison Technical Liaison
Directors and who reports to each of the Directors for their
respective functions, under the watchful eye of a Director General.
It was pointed out earlier that it is difficult to classify a number
of the functions on the Research Extension Continuum as research
or extension. This especially true in such areas as problem
identification, field testing and preparing recommendations for field
use. So why not put these highly related, farmer oriented activities
under the same leadership. Carrying out this approach of course
requires close cooperation between extension and research.
Another option with this general approach would be for the Director
of the technical research and extension support division to report
formally to a Director General, while working informally with both
the Director of Research and Director of Extension for their
particular functions. In this latter structure, the Director of
the Technical Division would act very much like Department Heads
do in land grant colleges. This approach has nuch to recommend it,
not only for affecting close cooperation, but also for keeping the
personnel oriented to their subject matter functions.
In either of these latter approaches, adaptive research would be
a function of the Technical Division. In the case of farming systems
research projects, they would also likely be placed in this division
for administration. Option B suggests that such teams might be drawn
from both the research and extension units. (Johnson and Claar 1984)
Cbviously there is a wide variety of structures for extension and
research units to carry out their functions. The two described above
suggest ways for mutual support to be effected because it is critical
to both units in their own self-interest. Figures 2 and 2A are
examples of a cooperative approach, while Figures 3 and 3A represent
an integrated system. The important point is that design teams of
special projects should keep the long-time functioning of research
and extension in mind and plan for the essential linkage, regardless
of the form they choose.
Finally, there is another area where research and extension need
to work closely together. This is in identifying the problems that
constrained their progress in stimulating agriculture development
and in reporting them to superiors and planning units, together with
suggestions for change. For example, low fixed prices may make the
adoption of technology unfeasible or provide little incentive for
farmers to market their supplies.
After all, research and extension organizations are a part of a
country's mechanisms for achieving certain ends in agriculture
development. Each must function well to justify public support. Gaps
or lack of functional support between extension and research will become
increasingly intolerable in the years ahead. Extension services
frequently take a constant flow of technology into the system for
granted. A checklist of selected frequently forgotten aspects of setting
up a TL&S staff in extension follows:
Director General for Research
Director of Research
I II Director of
\ -- i --
- Liaison and Support
Director Technical Adaptive
Research and Extension Support
ii | L
Director General for Extension and Research
Director of Research
Director of Extension
Technical Adaptive Research and
Extension Support Division
Liaison and Support Staff
A Checklist of Inportant Considerations
in Setting up or Operating a TL&S Group
1. Develop an in-depth understanding with knowledge sources, starting
at the top. Don't take it for granted. Developing a memorandum
of understanding between extension and major knowledge sources should
enhance the relationship and provide greater continuity. Many a
good idea doesn't pay off because the supporting steps weren't
taken. Some elements of an agreement might be:
Extension and research will provide mutual support as a priority
part of their job. Facilitating research should be a part of each
extension workers job and facilitating dissemination a part of each
Things that Extension might agree to do:
a. Provide information to researchers about problems that are
encountered in the field, with a meeting between appropriate
people in the organization no less than once a year to discuss
mutual concerns and provide assistance in making needed surveys.
b. Invite researchers or otherwise facilitate appropriate research
personnel to visit farmers to see such problems first hand and
to discuss need with farmers.
c. Help identify and make contacts with farmers needed in
facilitating research activities and field testing technology.
d. Make personnel available to assist with the day to day
supervision of field tests and demonstrations.
e. Maintain a corp of technical liaison personnel which will have
a major assignment in facilitating the above functions and
enhancing the transfer of information to extension for
dissemination. And organize and house them to enhance the
performance of these activities.
f. To assign extension personnel as appropriate to workgroups on
task forces of research personnel such as Farming Systems
Research groups, who have extension related functions to perform
and which have regular need for farmer contact.
Some things research might agree to do
To cooperate with extension personnel in performing the various
research functions which involve farmer contact and identification
of problems needing research. These functions and how extension
will be involved need to be spelled out in detail, including the
procedure for doing so.
To take part in the training of extension personnel as feasible
To take part in fielddays as feasible to help explain research.
To make farm visits on request by extension to help identify
problems with which extension needs help.
To work with extension personnel to help decide what should be
recommended to farmers based on research results. This involves
extrapolating from specific research results as well as
simplification without loss of validity.
2. There is no perfect place for TL&S personnel to be housed as the
very essence of their role involves frequent and in depth contact
between the extension field system and knowledge sources. But other
things being equal the accessing of information and its introduction
into the extension system will be enhanced by proximity and
involvement with research personnel.
3. Work with research counterparts will be benefitted by having similar
organziational structure in extension and research. Barriers are
reduced when administration units have the same subject matter
components and role definitions. For example, including wheat among
the responsibilities of a field crop person in one of the units as
a part of cereal grains in the other may impede ccmtunication.
4. Place high priority on employing people with the credentials and
attitudes that will enhance their acceptability to researchers and
other sources of technical personnel; and then provide them with
the tools of their profession. However, practical knowledge of
farming and familiarity with field problems must go hand in hand
with the ability to understand and communicate with technical
sources. The ability to reduce complex things to understandable
terms and to write and speak are also also important abilities but
must not take priority over the first two. Ability to relate to
extension agents and farmers is usually enhanced by a genuine concern
for their performance and welfare. Therefore, one frequently hears
about employing persons in the role who "like people". When linked
with the other requirements, this is an important consideration but
again can not substitute for technical competence and practical field
5. Don't develop a mechanical inflexible role for TL&S personnel.
Technical liaison and support staff are to train and facilitate the
performance of extension personnel as needed. Therefore, the
approach to their work must be very flexible. Too often such
personnel work only in formal teaching situations and do not work
with extension agents in the field. Some extension agents are able
to attend workshop sessions and then proceed directly to using the
information in the field. But others, a great many others, will
be unsure of themselves either because they didn't grasp it fully
or because the dissemination of the information per se may expose
the agent to related practical field questions with which they feel
Therefore, using technical support personnel only for training in
formal situations will not get the job done. Extension must have
enough of such personnel to follow up with specific agents in making
farm visits. The specialist should observe, support and demonstrate
as needed to insure that the field agent is able to perform on their
This role is called backstopping. It is frequently missing or very
poorly done. Obviously, technical support personnel must either
have transportation or be located close to both knowledge sources
and field personnel.
One excellent way to train agents is for the technical specialist
to function as guest lecturer with an agents farmers. This helps
insure transferrence and provides security to the agent as he or
she hears the questions answered that will be involved with
follow-up. If field visits together are not possible this guest
lecturer approach will be very useful in augmenting training
workshops. Helping the agent with field demonstrations is also both
excellent training and a major step in insuring the practical
knowledge of field staff.
In other words, the training role of the TL&S personnel does not
end with a formal workshop regarding new technology. Instead it
6. Use mass media and other aids in tandem with field programs. Some
extension services do not have mass media or the capability to
provide visual aids to agents in the field. But where they exist,
they should be planned and used together as a part of the
dissemination system in parallel and not as separates.
How to put out demonstrations or answers to typical questions about
a given technology or problem are examples of support materials of
high priority that specialists might provide. Visuals to help people
understand by seeing as well as bearing are important too, especially
where part of the clientele are illiterate or poorly prepared.
7. Determining progress and new problems must be a concern of all TL&S
staff. Efforts to determine these things may be extension wide or
even performed together with research colleagues. But TL&S personnel
should press for such work and gather the information as best they
can within their own sphere of operations. Being able to form good
judgments of these matters is essential to developing an effective
plan of work for the next season and in helping guide research and
8. TL&S personnel must clearly not be administrative personnel, as they
must be viewed as friends and helpers of the agents. Yet,
administrative personnel must be able to ask them for appropriate
help, such as providing backstopping for specific personnel. It
is essential too that extension TL&S personnel report the results
of such work to administration as well as providing early warning
to administrators about problems that appear to be emerging (e.g. the
build-up of insects or diseases.) Hence TL&S personnel should report
conditions and problems to administration but should not be
responsible in any way for personnel actions.
9. Finally, spend some money on helping extension TL&S personnel keep
up to date and well informed. A good principle is to employ only
as many field staff as you can keep trained and supported.
10. Keep in mind that the role of the TL&S staff is to enhance the use
of agricultural information to solve problems and to support
development, with special but not exclusive reference to extension.
Input suppliers and others who contact farmers are important clients
of research and extension. They need to know what is being
recommended to farmers so that they can stock it, or supply it.
And if they know what extension is stressing, they can help
disseminate general information to farmers along with their specific
product. This is a natural area in which research and extension
personnel can cooperate.
1) bar. Extension: A Reference Manual (Second Edition) edited by Burton
Swanson, FAO, Rome: Swanson and Claar discuss the evolution and
status of Extension Services. 1984 Ch.1 pp.1-19.
2) K. C. Nobe Organizational Constraints to Greater Involvement in
Agency for International Development funded AGr. Programs in Less
Developed Countries, in Knowledge Transfer in Developing Countries;
Status Constraints, Outlook, edited by J. B. Claar and L. H. Watts
INTERPAKS, University of Illinois. 1984 pp.22-30.
3) Viki Segman and Burton Swanson Problem Facing National Agr. Ext. in
Developing Countries INTERPAKS No. 3 University of Illinois 1984,
Sigman and Swanson made a survey of problems as seen by extension
4) Everett M. Rogers, Diffusion of Innovations (Third Edition) The Free
Press, New York 1983 pp.318-319 and 329-330. In these pages, Rogers
discusses the importance of credibility as it relates to change agent
5) In a USAID supported study in 1982 it was found that the technology
existed to increase production of cereals from 50 to 70% and
vegetable from 160 to 260% if it were applied by farmers. The study
concluded that the information was not generally available through
extension nor was it profitable to apply it to several crops under
current policy. Strategies for Accelerating Agriculture Develoment,
The International Agr. Dev. Ser. U.S.D.A. July 1982 p. 7
6) Burton Swanson and Jafar Rassi, International Directory of National
Extension Systems, College of Education, University of Illinois,
7) The T&V system has been supported widely by the World Bank. A new
edition of the original statement by D. Benor and J. O. Harrison.
The new publication is by D. Benor, J. 0. Harrison and M. Baxter,
Agricultural Extension: The Training and Visit System, World Bank,
Washington D.C. 1984
8) Peter E. Hildebrand, The Farming Systems Approach to Technoloay
Development Transfer Utah State University, Logan, Utah 1983.
9) Willis W. Shaner Linking Extension with FSR. Knowledge Transfer in
Developing Countries. Edited by J. B. Claar and Lowell Watts.
University of Illinois, 1984. Shaner develops a matrix showing the
desirable interrelationships between extension and research T&V
report in FSR projects! pp.45-55.
10) George Axinn and Sudhakar Thorat, Modernizing World Agriculture,
Praeger Publishers, New York, Washington, London, 1977 pp. 127.
11) For a comprehensive discussion of these interrelationships see
Knowledge Transfer in Developing Countries: Status, Contraints.
Outlook edited by J.B. Claar and L. H. Watts, INTERPAKS, University
of Illinois, Urbana, 1984. pp.11-12
12) S. Johnson and J. B. Claar. Intersection of Farming Systems Research
and Extension Organizational Implications. Annual Farming Systems
Research Workshop, Kansas State University, October 8-10, 1984.