Extension and Pastoral Development: Past, Present and Future

Research reports and studies
December 1994
Catherine Butcher

Most pastoral development programmes include aspects of extension but extension is rarely given emphasis per se. The intention here is to clarify past contradictions in extension approaches with nomadic pastoralists, to review current ideas, and to outline future directions evolving from current thought. Extension design, rather than extension content, is given precedence but design can seldom be looked at alone, in isolation from content.

Extension is seen conventionally as information delivery to farmers (Moris 1991). Alongside information delivery, training in the use of new technology may be given and, as a start, a definition that covers information delivery and training in new technology is adequate. Contemporary literature on extension includes, however, a third facet; the creation of farmers' institutions that take decisions and facilitate information exchange. The definition of extension used here includes all three aspects; provision of information, training and institution creation.

In reviewing the literature on extension and pastoralism, two principal features become apparent. First, the majority of articles, reports and books deal exclusively with sub-Saharan Africa. Second, the term `extension' is used less in the pastoral context than in issues related to livestock in mixed-farming systems. Much of the pastoral literature has a clear extension element, but terms such as development, management and administration are preferred.

The limited impact of extension in the pastoral sector is widely recognised (Odell and Odell 1980, Sandford 1983, Baxter 1985, Moris 1991, Bonfiglioli 1992, de Haan 1993). Characteristics common to most pastoral environments mean that traditional extension models are often inappropriate for use in pastoral systems. Reasons given for this in the literature include characteristics of the physical environment and wider socio-political factors, which are largely beyond the control of either the pastoralists themselves or the existing or planned extension service. These wider issues – such as the low population density in pastoral areas, or the physical and political marginality of pastoralists – lie beyond the scope of this review. The following discussion concentrates on those aspects of extension which are amenable to reform.

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