Academic journal article Human Ecology

Modes of Communication and Effectiveness of Agroforestry Extension in Eastern India

Academic journal article Human Ecology

Modes of Communication and Effectiveness of Agroforestry Extension in Eastern India

Article excerpt

Anthony Glendinning, [1]

Ajay Mahapatra [2]

C. Paul Mitchell [2,3]

Development of extension in agroforestry draws on the application of the innovation-diffusion process in agriculture. To be effective, agroforestry extension needs to fit the dynamics of the target farming system, the local socioeconomic and technological systems, and land use constraints. Failure of agroforestry extension has been blamed on inadequate and inappropriate methods, but there have been few studies to identify those factors that determine a farmer's awareness of or attitude to, agroforestry. The present study focused on the modes of communication used in extension and how they affected adoption of agroforestry in a subsistence farming region of eastern India. The decision to adopt agroforestry was found to be determined by the farmers' attitude to agroforestry, which in turn was shaped by information received through farmer-to-farmer and farmer-to-extension contact. The mode of communication was important and, to be effective, needs to be customized for each target group.

KEY WORDS: agroforestry; extension; communication; India; adoption.


Forestry extension systems have developed in response to the need for more effective means of dissemination of forestry technologies among rural communities (Sim and Hilmi, 1987). Community participation, and supporting communities, has become an increasing concern of farm forestry projects, as it has become apparent that without local involvement rural development programmes are much less likely to succeed (Foley and Barnard, 1984; Kerkhoff, 1990; Shepherd, 1985). Lack of local participation in tree planting programmes promoted by central governmental agencies has been linked to a failure to communicate with rural target populations. Indeed, the limited spread of tree farming, particularly among poorer sections of rural communities, has convinced policy analysts that communication-extension systems are of as much importance as demonstrating the economic potential of farm forestry development. This shift of focus toward participatory extension has been part of a broader movement towards the increased involve ment of local people in rural development programmes (Raintree and Hoskins, 1990). In this, social forestry extension systems have come to be viewed as a key tool in promoting local participation (Chambers, 1983; Kramer, 1987).

One of the identified weaknesses of forestry extension systems in the past has been a "top-down" approach with a rigid design, resulting in a one-way flow of communication (Chambers, 1983; Hardcastle, 1987; Shepherd, 1985). This tended to treat farm forestry development as a technical issue, lacking a truly social component and lacking the effective lines of communication between people and project essential to participatory approaches (De Vries, 1980; Ratnarajah, 1981). Indeed, Sim and Hilmi (1987) considered that the main purpose of extension systems should be to assist potential participants to place adoption decisions in context. The views of local people and communities could then be relayed to planners in order to develop policies that would meet perceived need. Shortfalls would be addressed by facilitating a two-way flow of communication between users and planners (Bentley, 1982). Thus, successful farm forestry development is dependent upon design compatibility with perceived need as well as the use of the "right" structures, media, and messages for dissemination. In regions where smallholders predominate, promoting change within the existing farming system may therefore require substantial diversion of resources in order to develop effective communication systems, skills, and media.

Despite a range of extension approaches that have been used to promote farm forestry participation in developing countries, including India, the impact of "effective" communication systems, skills, and media to attain programme objectives has seldom been critically evaluated. …

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