Management of Extension Systems in Addressing Income Enhancement of Farmers

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Since independence, extension in India has experienced much structural, conceptual and institutional change. From top down and trickling down approach of Community development program to bottom up approach in ATMA, extension system in country has experienced many challenges. This period also saw sea of change in Indian agriculture like from subsistence to commercialized, mono cropping to diversification etc. Problems of small and fragmented landholding, yield plateau, green revolution aftermath, dependency on monsoon etc. led to thinking of different extension approaches and systems to cater the need of the Indian farmers in achieving  commercialization, profitability,  diversification, efficiency and sustainability.

Earlier approaches and lessons learnt

Government of India had started community development programme (CDP) in 1952 for all round socio-economic transformation of the rural people. Along with agricultural production emphasis was also given on employment, education, health, housing etc. This was based on principle of trickledown theory. After one year government started National Extension System in 1993 to cater the need of staff and fund for the development work at village on the basis of self help. Both these programs helped in establishing organized administrative set up at national, state, district, block and village level. It resulted into introduction of modern technology in agriculture and establishment of institutions (school, agricultural credit society, hospital etc) at village level. However benefits of CDP could not trickle down from rich to small farmers, it failed to develop leadership among villagers, failed to change behaviour of people and lacked the participation of people. At administrative level also absence of clear cut functional responsibilities at various levels was the major weakness.

In 1974, government introduced T and V system for reformed extension and intensive agricultural extension which involved regular visit to farmers and training to extension personnel. It was improved management system of agricultural extension that involved time bound work, monitoring and reporting of the activities aimed at developing lined professional extension service. To overcome the problem of limited staff, it introduced the concept of contact farmers which was link between village extension worker and farmers.

Some important features of the T and V system were:

  1. Selection of contact farmers for information dissemination
  2. Appointment of full time extension worker for extension work exclusively
  3. In a unified extension system, single line of command from extension worker to extension headquarter
  4. Fixed and regular visit by VEW to farmers for dissemination of information about the crops
  5. Regular training to extension staff to keep them abreast about new technologies
  6. It introduced the system of feedback from the farmers through extension workers to researchers
  7. Established monitoring and evaluation procedure

However this approach also had many limitations viz. poor linkage between research and extension, reduced frequency of training and sometime failure to conduct the training. More emphasis was given on the farmers neglecting youths and women in the villages.  It was more staff intensive, some state found it difficult to provide the required staff and meet out high cost of implementation.

By the early 1990’s  expert recognized the important contribution of T and V system in country but at the same time based on prevalent situation acknowledge the need of broad based extension system based on demand driven, location specific and farming system approach. At the same time there was need to promote farmers participation in program planning and implementation, ensure their financial sustainability. Therefore, with the assistance of World Bank, National Agricultural Technology project (NATP) was started in 1998 with aim of improving the efficiency of ICAR and to improve effectiveness and financial sustainability of technology dissemination system accountable to the farmers. Under this project, one important component was Innovations in Technology Dissemination (ITD), which aimed at developing a transfer of Technology (TOT) system that is demand driven, well integrated with research and financially sustainable and accountable to stake holders.

Agricultural Technology Management Agency (ATMA).

The Innovations in Technology Dissemination (ITD) component of NATP was implemented in 28 districts of seven selected village in the country on pilot basis and consequently extended to whole county. The key institution in implementing this new approach was the Agricultural Technology Management Agency (ATMA). ATMA was responsible for facilitating and coordinating “farmer-led” extension activities within each district. Following were the key elements of the ATMA model.

  1. Decentralizing Extension
  2. Strategic Planning
  3. Market-Driven Extension
  4. Farming Systems Approach
  5. Broad-Based Extension and Integrated Delivery of Services
  6. Research-Extension-Farmer-Market Linkages
  7. Mobilization of Communities
  8. Team work
  9. Public Private Partnership
  10. Impact of ICT Interventions in ITD
  11. Gender sensitization

After testing the success of ATMA on pilot basis, government planned to scale it up to national level. Government started Support to State Extension Programs for Extension Reforms project (SSEPER) which was operationalized through ATMA. Government scaled up ATMA or ATMA-like institutions to all states of India, across 262 districts (about one-third of all districts in India) in 2005. The organisational set up of the earlier model of ATMA is given in fig.1. ATMA is an autonomous organization registered under the “Societies Registration Act of 1860” that has considerable operational flexibility regarding receiving and dispensing the funds, entering into contract and maintaining revolving fund.

Fig. Organsational structure of ATMA from NATP (1998) to SSEPER (2010)

ATMA is headed by a Project Director who serves as chair of the ATMA Management Committee (AMC), which includes the heads of all line departments and the heads of research organizations within the district, including the Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) and Zonal Research Station (ZRS). The ATMA Governing Board (GB) sets program priorities and provides guidance for research and implementation of extension programs in district. The GB is chaired by the District Magistrate or Collector in the district; the ATMA PD serves as Member Secretary. ATMA Management Committee serves as the Secretariat of the GB and helps coordinate and integrate research and extension activities within the district.

Farm Information and Advisory Centers (FIACs) at the block-level has two arms, namely; Block Technology Teams (BTTs) and Farmers Advisory Committee (FACs). BTT includes technical officers from the Departments of Agriculture, Horticulture, Plant Protection, Soil Conservation, Animal Husbandry (including Veterinary Service), Fisheries, Sericulture, Cooperatives and Marketing. The role of the BTT is to consult with the Farmer Advisory Committee (FAC) which consists of farmers from different socio economic categories and then to develop a comprehensive extension program called a Block Action Plan (BAC) that is consistent with farmer needs. FIGs are organized at the village level along crop or product lines in achieving the aim pursuing this market-driven approach to extension.

Under the situation of low growth in agriculture sector and with the aim to strengthen research–extension–farmer–market linkages; need to organize farmers into commodity interest groups; in 2007, government planned to expand the ATMA to cover all the districts of the country. However these efforts were not supported by additional funding and extension personnel. Working Group on Agricultural Extension (WGAE) in 2007, identified many constraints in ATMA implementation viz. lack of qualified personnel at all levels, absence of a formal mechanism to support extension delivery below the block level, lack of convergence with other central and state projects and inadequate infrastructure support at state agriculture management and extension training institutes (SAMETIs) etc. In the year of 2010 government planned for increased funding and support to ATMA that resulted in revision of both SSEPER and ATMA giving more financial and human resources to ATMA.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fig.2: Revised structure of ATMA

Positive aspects of the ATMA

  1. Bottom up approach helped in increasing accountability and ownership of the program to stakeholders.
  2. Decentralization helped in improving managerial and administrative capacities and technical skill of the extension personnel.
  3. Feedback and monitoring by FAC helped developing sense of participation among the farmers in the program.
  4. Linkages with SAU and KVK strengthened in revised ATMA model, as they are included in planning process at all stages.
  5. It provided better platform for integration and convergence of rural development programs with extension activities of agriculture and line department.
  6. Provision of monitoring and evaluation at various level- block, district and state.

 

However there are few limitations and drawbacks of the ATMA model. Staff provided below block level as Farmer Friend are contractual, Extension officer working at block level may not interested in working with contractual staff. Problem of attitudinal barriers, lack of motivation and burden of duties other than extension work limited the efficiency and whole heartily contribution of extension worker.  Many time success of the ATMA at district level depended on the nature of leadership provided by district collector to ATMA governing board and ATMA management committee. This model also criticized for making extension system more bureaucratic by giving whole control to district collector at the district level. Many times FAC are not represented by all types of farmers in nature and spirit. However to see the actual impact of ATMA, like pilot based  ATMA, impact studies are also necessary to delineate the various factors that are contributing to success of the ATMA and to identify the constraining factors so that they can be overcome for success of the ATMA for achieving target of doubling farmers income set by the government.

Management of Extension Systems in Addressing Income Enhancement of Farmers

Extension system should focus on pre- production and post- production aspects in farming along with focus on production aspect. In pre-production, type of crop to be selected, selection of suitable varieties, input needed, enterprise selection and availability of market are the important factors that needs to be addressed. At state/regional level, there is need to develop regional crop planning which is scientifically developed based on resource endowment and resource constraints of the area. Extension system should be well aware about the crop planning of their area and suggest farmers’ crops accordingly. A high price of the inputs is the big problem faced by the farmers. This can be reduced by collective purchasing. Farmers producers’ organizations (FPO) in Maharashtra state have shown that by collective purchase by FPO, farmers can save up to 25-30 per cent of input cost. Extension system therefore can play important role in mobilising farmers in different collectives like Cooperatives, Framers clubs, Farmers producer companies etc. Though it is small, but is an important step towards doubling the income of the farmers.

In post production activities, extension system should help farmers in linking them to market. There are many new avenues for marketing like e NAM, e-mandi of the government and ICT also enabled farmers to link directly with the consumers. Extension system needs to identify different avenues of marketing to farmer and make farmers aware about it. For marketing, again extension system can play big role in organising farmers into different collectives which will give more bargaining power to farmers, more economy of scale and more prices to their produce than as individual farmer.

Extension system keeping in mind the demographic dividend of rural population can motivate the rural youth to start agro based enterprises so that value addition can be promoted at village level. This will help in giving more income to entrepreneurs, farmers and more employment at the village level. Necessary training for the starting and sustaining the enterprise may be given to youths. Extension system can motivate more and more FPO for value addition of agricultural produce.

In gist, management of extension system should focus on following aspects for enhancing income of the farmers.

  1. More use of ICT to overcome the staff constraints and to exploit the opportunity of high mobile penetration in rural areas.
  2. Moe emphasis on group approach- by mobilising farmers in different groups, head of that group can act as contact farmer for the extension system which will help in facilitating the information dissemination to farmers at low cost and within short time.
  3. Promotion of linkages between farmers, research institutions and KVKs. Extension should ensure that flow of information is not one way from researchers to farmers but farmers’ innovations, wisdom and ITK also should be valued and communicated to researchers for documentations and testing of the validity for better adoption of such practices.
  4. More proactive role in pre production and post production aspects as mentioned above.
  5. Focus not only on farmers but youth and women in the village. Both can be involved in nonfarm activities as many studies have shown that nonfarm activities will play important role in doubling income of the farmers.
  6. Focus on desired behavioural change- Extension system need to promote information seeking behaviour and curiosity motivation among the farmers so that rather than extension agent going to farmers every time, farmers themselves should felt the need and go the research institute or extension agent for seeking solution of the problem. Principle of social learning can be harnessed by identifying social networks of farmers.
  7. Pluralistic extension services need synergy and convergence. In ATMA this problem is addressed by incorporating provision of public private partnership which needs to be strengthened and expand by including other actors like NGO, FPO etc.

 

Thus, enhancing the income of farmers will require synergistic convergence in public-private partnership mode with focus on Market-led Extension.  This will also require new set of competencies of extension professionals, particularly managerial competencies.