This post will introduce you to the basic philosophyand principles behind agricultural extension work. It is a continuation of whatwe already looked at and will help you to improve on your understanding ofagricultural extension. Thus after studying this unit, certain things will berequired of you.  At the end of this post, you should be able to:

·explain vividly the basic philosophybehind agricultural extension

·list and discuss the basicprinciples of agricultural extension.

The Basic Philosophy of AgriculturalExtension

A philosophy is a body of principles governing humanactivities. A philosophy of agricultural extension is, essentially, anunderstanding of ideas which an individual agricultural extension worker holdsabout rural people and rural environment. An extension worker’s philosophyconsists of the ideas he holds as important and which influence his attitudetowards rural people. When these ideas are consciously thought out, they canserve as guidelines to extension work. A sound and positive agriculturalextension philosophy can be an aid to an agricultural extension worker ineffectively moving in the direction his philosophy suggests. If he believesthat rural people are intelligent and capable of making use of educationalopportunities, he is likely to provide such opportunities and assist the peoplein benefiting from them. On the other hand, if he down-grades the capabilitiesof rural people, he is likely to assume the attitude of a snub and consequentlywill encounter negative reaction from the people.

Agricultural extension is based on the philosophy thatrural people are intelligent, capable and desirous of acquiring new informationand making use of it for their family and community improvement. This assumesthat direct approach to the people is required, and that friendly relationshipand mutual trust between the extension worker and the people is assured. Italso means that the extension worker must have a thorough knowledge of thepeoples’ problems.

Extension education is democratic in its approach. Itis based on the principle of helping people to help themselves. The extensionapproach to economic development is, first, develop the people, and they willdevelop their farmland, their livestock, their educational and recreationalinstitutions, their public services and anything else they wish.

Agricultural extension philosophy is based on thepremise that if farm people fully understand their relationship to the naturalresources and other factors they deal with, it is possible for them to attainpersonal satisfaction in their way of life.

Agricultural extension work is based on the idea thateach individual is unique and important. People differ as to values and goalsthey hold.

Extension education fosters action to realize valuesand attain goals which will aid them in establishing new ones. Extensioneducation supports activities to introduce change. Improvement requires change,but change is not necessarily improvement. The key consideration is the qualityand type of change that is acceptable to the people and one that contributes tothe achievement of their goals.

Extension education is also based on the belief thatthe aims and objectives of extension are not static. These must be modified onthe basis of individual and social needs. It is the duty of extension todetermine people’s need and to help them to acquire knowledge that spurs orinspires them to action. The acquisition of knowledge as a basis for action isessential since it is the basic philosophy of extension to teach people how tothink and not what to think. Through the acquisition of ability to think and totake positive action on the basis of mature deliberation, the individual canaccept new ideas and practices which will help to attain a fuller and moresatisfying life.

A sound agricultural extension philosophy always looksahead. We live in changing times and our agricultural extension philosophy mustaccommodate such changes. This means that agricultural extension must have adefinite goal. In addition, each agricultural extension worker must have hispersonal philosophy consisting of what he believes about people and his work.If his philosophy is a sound one, it can weather whatever storm he mayencounter wherever he finds himself.


  1. State the basicphilosophy behind agricultural extension work.
  2. What does asound agricultural extension philosophy means?

The Basic Principles of AgriculturalExtension

Certain basic principles underlie the conduct ofagricultural extension work. These principles differ with respect to the kindof community in which extension education is carried on. The democratic natureof African communities needs to be systematically followed and agriculturalextension workers are therefore enjoined to follow this democratic nature. Thereason for this is that methods adopted by an extension worker are importantfor his ultimate success and because the implications of his methods are ofgreat significance (Obibuaku, 1983).

It is necessary to lay emphasis on this democraticnature because, extension directors and supervisors in Nigeria as in manyex-British colonial territories are known to have a tendency to adoptautocratic approach to extension work (Bauman, 1966). Since they are productsof British education and administration in which the distinction between thesupervisors and the subordinate is unduly emphasized, they favour autocraticmethods, preferring the use of memos and directives to face to-face communication.The subordinates including those who work with farmers, appear to imitate theirsuperiors in their relationship with farmers (Obibuaku, 1983). To counter thistendency, (Johnson et al, 1969) recommended: encouragement of the extensionstaff to adopt an attitude of persuasion through an approach which directsfarmers as typified by such staff comments as ‘’ we told farmers to ‘’and ‘’ wesupervised farmers, directing them ‘’ in what was to be done. Extension work isdirected to changing people’s way of doing things in specific pre-determinedway believed to be desirable for individuals and the entire society. Theobjective is to initiate actions that might lead to improvement on the farms,in the homes and within community institutions. This is a complex understandingand involves a set of principles (Obibuaku, 1983). Extension principles may bedefined as guidelines for the conduct of extension work and these principlesare the bedrock upon which extension service rests. The principles are:

  1. Extensionshould start where the people are. Williams et al., 1984 believed thatextension should work at the level where the people are, that is, at theirlevel of knowledge, understanding, interest and degree of readiness. In orderto be able to assist the people to move to higher levels of aspiration, it isimportant that extension worker should know what the conditions are. It meanspersonal contact with the local condition, and its environment, an understandingof the social structure, the habits, traditions, attitude and economic statusof the people and society. Colonial agriculturists and early extension workersin Nigeria, impressed by the large farms in North America and Western Europe,and despising the peasant farmers prevalent in Nigeria, proceeded to set uplarge government demonstration farms ostensibly to impress the Nigerian farmeror to persuade him to embark on large-sized farms. Several decades elapsed andnot many farmers were persuaded to adopt the new system. According to Obibuaku,1983, the correct approach would have been to start with the peasant system andtry to improve the system and if physical and economic conditions permit, toaspire towards large-sized farms. This was the approach later adopted,particularly in the Northern States, in the production of the relativelysuccessful ‘’ cash crops’’ such as groundnuts and cotton. The first principle thereforeimplies that to succeed with farmers, new ideas must be related to what thefarmer already knows and that with which he is familiar.
  2. Extensionshould be based on the needs and interests of the people which are closelyrelated to improving their livelihood through increasing farm production andtheir physical environment (Williams et at., 1984). It is imperative thereforeto conceptualize the basic needs of the people in the rural set up since theneeds and interests of people vary from one set of people to the other due todifference in culture. Extension can only function if these two variables areput into consideration. It is also imperative to note that extension workersmust gain the confidence of their audience. This is so because farmers are saidto be fatalistic as well as conservative in their attitudes. They are wary to threadon unsure grounds and are unlikely to take action without conviction. This iswhy it is necessary that the extension worker should gain their confidence(Obibuaku, 1983). Unless they are sure of the ability and skill of an extensionworker, they will not be persuaded to accept his recommendations. This is moreso if the extension worker is young and has had little or no farm experience.In that case, he must start with one or two programmes that are likely tosucceed and must work on them until eventual success.
  3. Extensionshould assist farmers to determine their own problems, help them to finddesirable solutions and to encourage them to take action. This assistance doesnot imply that the extension worker’s problems are replica of the farmer’sproblems and does not indicate that the farmers cannot think on their own. Embarkingon this will enable the farmers to have the perception that the extensionworker cares about their problems by assisting them in identifying theirproblems. In proffering solutions to these problems, the extension worker shouldnot in any way solve their problems on their behalf as this will amount toimposing his own value judgement on them.
  4. It is anestablished fact that human beings have unsatisfied wants, this assertion isalso applicable to the farmers. An extension worker cannot go far with peopleunless they want to help themselves, therefore programmes must start with thefelt needs of the people and proceed to others that are also needed by them. Thewants of the people must be kept in reasonable relationship with the effortthey are capable and willing to make. All the people within a community do notwant the same thing at same time, and in the same fashion (Obibuaku, 1983). Tothis end, their values differ and so do their goals and the ability to achieve them.
  5. The principleof co-operative work must be pursued to logical conclusion. This is so becausethe best programmes are those determined by the local people and extensionstaff working together. Planning of programmes with the people is an important partof extension teaching. People understand a programme better and are more likelyto support it if they participate in its creation. Planning is also a learningprocess. By participating in programme planning, people learn to work together.Decisions that are collectively made are stronger and are more acceptable thanthe decisions that are passed and imposed on them from the outside. Ruralpeople tend to resist change until they see the benefit of such a change andthere is no better way of helping them than by involving them in planning forchange.
  6. Extensionworkers should work with all members of the family. The family should beregarded as a working unit in the home and in the field (Williiams et al.,1984). Religion, race or political interests should be put aside in workingwith rural people, extension worker should treat them as rational adults whoare capable of making their own decisions.
  7. The principleof the use of variety of teaching methods is another basic principle. In thiscase, a teaching method can be conceived in teaching a segregated learningunit. This is equally based on the principle of variety is the spice of lifeand that no one method will help to bring out desirable changes in people. Nomethod therefore is an island. The implication of this principle is that, the morethe variety of ways a topic is presented and practised, the quicker the peopletend to grasp the subject matter.
  8. In Africanrural communities, participation in extension programme is voluntary andtherefore programmes must meet the varying needs of individuals. Participationin extension programmes differ significantly in age, sex, education, attitudes,interests, needs and economic and social values. According to Obibuaku (1983),programmes must therefore be attractive and tailored to meet the needs andinterests of the varying groups.
  9. Extensionworkers should provide maximum opportunity for the people to work on programmesthat have been determined by them and the extension agent working together. Thejoint determination of the programmes is one thing and full participation isanother dimension which is crucial to the eventual success of such programmes.The farmers feel fully satisfied when they are given maximum opportunity topractice what they participated in building. The principle of involvement has asound psychological basis in that people are never interested in programmeswhich they have not helped to develop.
  10. Extensionworkers should take advantage of any existing local groups to involve thepeople in extension programmes. The people in rural areas tend to listen moreto the local leaders than even the extension workers since they are powerbrokers and the inability of the extension agent to work with them makes it impossiblefor him to succeed in his programmes. This principle must be strictly adheredto if innovation is to be well adopted by the local people. The existence ofthese local leaders makes it possible for extension agents to spread hisservice over a wide area. There are numerous organizations and groups that arein existence in Nigeria such as farmers’ co-operative societies, farmer’scouncils, village unions. All these groups should be used more intensively ininvolving the people in extension programmes.
  11. Subject mattercovered in extension must have definite purpose and must be specific so thatprogramme would be able to achieve the purpose for which it was established.The subject matter here refers to the content of the extension programme, whichmust be relevant to the lives of the rural people and must therefore be usefulto them. The content of the programme must be presented when it is most neededby the people. This is so because retention falls off rapidly if opportunityfor application of what is learnt is not present. The subject matter coveredmust therefore be attainable within the time available, and within physical andeconomic resources of clientele, and within the social condition and learningability of the participants.
  12. The principleof constant evaluation must be followed. It should appraise periodically itswork in the light of existing and changing conditions so that it can be seenwhether the objective are being achieved. Extension workers have to makeendless decisions and then act according to what they understand to be themandates of their decisions. In a similar vein, the longer a practice has beenfollowed, the harder it is to be objective about its limitations and the harderit is to get at making needed changes. Therefore frequent appraisal will assista long way in arriving at these benefits.
  13. The principleof professionalism should be followed. Extension workers should therefore workwith extension professionals who can sell their programmes to their clientele.Credibility is therefore essential here. It should provide continuous opportunity,additional training and professional improvement for its staff.
  14. Learning is agradual process and therefore results must not be expected too soon. Researchevidence has shown that learners must be exposed to new ideas over a period oftime and in variety of ways before they begin to respond to them. The ruralpeople must not be rushed as they do not learn at the same rate. This principlemust be put in mind when basic things are expected from the rural people. Theadoption rate is therefore to be considered as a gradual process.
  15. Adult learningremains high throughout life. Adults have had years of varied experience, setbeliefs and habits. Their beliefs and habits tend to change very slowly.However many of these have to be changed if progress is to be made. TheExtension workers must therefore use all available strategies in taking care ofthese beliefs and habits.
  16. A closerprinciple to the one just highlighted is the principle that extension iseducational in function through assisting people to make their own decisionsamong various alternatives put before them. Extension workers should not beinvolved with supply activities. The farmers may be expecting the extensionagents to supply them with needed planting materials, fertilizers and fungicides.This is basically contrary to its educational function.
  17. Extensionworkers should promote the use and development of volunteer leaders. It isthrough this forum that extension agents can reach many people and educate themof the need for change. This principle therefore sees the volunteer leaders asloud speaker for extension. Without the use of the volunteer leader, most ofthe planned programmes will not be achieved.
  18. Extensionshould be based on facts and knowledge. This principle can be achieved throughthe process of working closely with the researchers and the farmer. Therefore,extension in this regard will be seen as an intermediary or a link between researcherand the farmer.


  1. What areextension principles?
  2. List at leastten (10) agricultural extension principles.


In this post you have learnt the basic philosophy andprinciples of agricultural extension. It is good to note that the village mustbe the starting point for any extension programme and must address problems identifiedby the farmers themselves which they want solutions to. If the aforementionedphilosophy and principles are followed, the mission of agricultural extensionwill be achieved.


The main points in this unit include the following:

  • Agriculturalextension is based on the philosophy that rural people are intelligent, capableand desirous of acquiring new information and making use of it for their familyand community improvement.
  • Agriculturalextension work is based on the idea that each individual is unique andimportant. People differ as to values and goals they hold. Extension educationfosters action to realize values and attain goals which will aid them inestablishing new ones.
  • A soundagricultural extension philosophy always looks ahead. Since we live in changingtimes, our agricultural extension philosophy must accommodate such changes.
  • Certain basicprinciples underlie the conduct of extension work. These principles differ withrespect to the kind of community in which education is carried on.


  1. Explain clearlythe basic philosophy of agricultural extension
  2. Discuss thevarious extension principles.


Adereti, F.O. and Ajayi, A.O. (2005). Concepts and BasicPrinciples of

Agricultural Extension. In: S.F. Adedoyin (ed).Agricultural

Extension in Nigeria. Publication ofAgricultural Extension

Society of Nigeria, pp.13-20.

Bauman, H., Chan, C. and Johnson, W. (1966). A Report of Agricultural

Credit in Nigeria, CSNRD.

Johnson, G.L. , Scovile, C.J. , Dike, G. K. andEicher, C.K. (1969).

Strategies andRecommendations for Nigeria Rural Development,


Obibuaku, L.O. (1983). Agricultural Extension as aStrategy for

Agricultural Transformation. University of Nigeria Press,

Nsukka Nigeria, 119pp.

Williams, S.K.T. ,Fenley, J.M. and Williams, C. E.(1984). A manual

for Agricultural ExtensionWorkers in Nigeria. Nigeria, Les

Shyraden Publishers.

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