Revitalizing Indian Agriculture Extension System through promotion of AEFCs 110210
Revitalizing Indian Agriculture Extension System through
promotion of Agriculture Enterprise Facilitation Centres (AEFC)
Indian agriculture extension system has played a critical role in enhancing food
production in India. The Training and Visit (T & V) system has been key extension
mechanism that led to transfer of technology (lab to land) to Indian farmers. With
this Indian farmers have been able to enhance productivity in most of the
agriculture and allied activities.
However, currently Indian agriculture is going through a transformation phase.
The focus has shifted from production of food grains to income from agriculture.
This has also led to thrust on commercial farming and agri business activities.
While some of the commercial farmers are experiencing agriculture as a successful
enterprise, the large majority of small and marginal farmers are increasingly
realizing that agriculture is not a profitable activity. Recent studies have revealed
that the current agriculture extension system is not able to reach out to the
expectation of majority of farmers in the country. In tune with the transformation
of agriculture in India, there is need to revitalize the agriculture extension system
To start with the current extension system needs to be reoriented to focus on
agriculture as enterprise. However, even now the focus continues to be on
Large majority of small and marginal farmers expect delivery of extension at
village level. However, over the years, number of villages being covered by lowest
level of agriculture functionaries is increasing.
At village level, majority of the farmers either consult the progressive farmer in the
village (many of whom were exposed to technology through T & V System) or the
agriculture input dealers for latest know how in agriculture. There has always
been need for cadre of facilitators at village level. Although recent National
Agriculture Extension Policy advocates for a cadre of village based functionaries,
systematic efforts in this direction is yet to happen.
Increasingly, farmers are looking for time bound tailor made agriculture
information and linkage services. This relates to their typology of land, variety of
crop, agro climatic context and financial capacity. As most of them are illiterate,
they rely more on a person who is available in the village. However, recent
Information Communication and Technology (ICT) initiatives linked to agriculture
are mass based and generic in nature.
Similarly, farmers are searching for ideas on which crop (including variety) to
grow and aspects related to profitability (more on specific agriculture enterprise
options). Current extension system covers more of the package of practices than on
the profitability of the practice (or the enterprise).
With increase in opportunity relating to value addition mainly in case of fruits and
vegetables, farmers are keen on taking up food processing and other value
addition activities. However, the current extension system focuses more on
agriculture production, not so much on value addition.
There has been globalization of several agriculture value chains. In many cases
farmers are not aware, on where their produce is finally consumed. Globalization
has created both opportunities and also posed challenges to Indian farmers. The
effects of globalization are quite visible, when farmers in an area shift from one
crop to other crop, not knowing why they have to change. This require quick
adaptation to changing scenarios both to avail the opportunity and overcome
likely threats. In the current agriculture extension system, there is inadequate
understanding and focus on agriculture value chains. Value Chain Analysis
leading to Pro Poor Value Chain Maximization can be powerful tool in delivery of
agriculture extension in villages of India.
Over the last few decades, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) have played
important role in facilitating agriculture extension and also systematically worked
on themes like organic cultivation and sustainable agriculture. At community
level, there is wider acceptance on the role of CSOs as Agriculture Extension
Facilitator. Although CSOs have demonstrated their relevance and there is
acceptance at community level, there is very limited role CSOs in current
agriculture extension system.
Overall, as the country tries to further revitalize Indian Agriculture Extension
System, there is need to recognize the need to focus on farming as an enterprise,
orienting farmers as entrepreneurs, focus on agriculture value chains and reorient
extension functionaries as Business Development Service (BDS) Provider. While
doing so, we may recognize the need for considering village as delivery point of
extension; involve village based cadre of progressive farmers/entrepreneurs as
extension functionaries and consider role of CSOs as a facilitator.
In this context AEFC is visualized as a block level facilitation centre led by local
Civil Society Organization (CSOs) with focus on providing Business Development
Services (BDS) to Agriculture Micro Enterprises and maximization of specific
Agriculture Value Chains at village level through cadre of Agriculture Enterprise
Facilitators (AEFs). AEFC as a model is expected to revitalize the current
agriculture extension system in India.
*Vrutti – A Livelihoods Resource Centre
19, 1st Main, 1st Cross, Ashwath Nagar, RMV 2nd Stage, Bangalore 560 094, India