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The private sector's role in agricultural extension systems: potential and limitations


  • Gershon Feder
  • Regina Birner
  • Jock R. Anderson


Purpose - The poor performance of public agricultural extension systems in developing countries engendered interest in pluralistic concepts of extension involving a variety of service providers. Within the reform agenda, modalities relying on private-sector providers were perceived as a path to improvement. This paper aims to assess the potential and limitations of such modalities. Design/methodology/approach - The paper discusses the conceptual underpinnings of these extension approaches, highlights theoretical and practical challenges inherent in their design, and provides an assessment of several performance-based case studies described in the formal and informal literature. Findings - Many of the modalities reviewed entail partnerships between the public sector, farmers' organizations or communities, and private-sector providers. The paper concludes that while private-sector participation can overcome some of the deficiencies of public extension systems, there are also challenges that have been faced, including misuse of public funds, insufficient accountability to farmers, inequitable provision of service, inadequate quality, and limited coverage of the wide range of farmers' needs. Practical implications - The review suggests that private-sector involvement in extension is no panacea. Extension systems need not be uniform, and will require different providers for different clienteles, with public providers and funding focusing more on smaller-scale and less commercial farmers. The public sector may need to provide some regulatory oversight of private-sector extension activities, particularly when public funding is involved. Originality/value - The paper draws conclusions from a diverse range of experiences, some of which are recent, and provides comparative insights. It may be of interest to development scholars and practitioners.

Suggested Citation

  • Gershon Feder & Regina Birner & Jock R. Anderson, 2011. "The private sector's role in agricultural extension systems: potential and limitations," Journal of Agribusiness in Developing and Emerging Economies, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 1(1), pages 31-54, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:eme:jadepp:v:1:y:2011:i:1:p:31-54

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    Cited by:

    1. Patience B. Rwamigisa & Regina Birner & Margaret N. Mangheni & Arseni Semana, 2018. "How to promote institutional reforms in the agricultural sector? A case study of Uganda's National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS)," Development Policy Review, Overseas Development Institute, vol. 36(5), pages 607-627, September.
    2. Niu, Chiyu & Ragasa, Catherine, 2018. "Selective attention and information loss in the lab-to-farm knowledge chain: The case of Malawian agricultural extension programs," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 165(C), pages 147-163.
    3. Meena, M.S. & Singh, K.M. & Swanson, B.E., 2013. "Pluralistic Agricultural Extension System in India: Innovations and Constraints," MPRA Paper 48324, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 14 Jul 2013.
    4. Magnan, Nicholas & Spielman, David J. & Gulati, Kajal, 2013. "Female social networks and learning about a new technology in eastern Uttar Pradesh, India," 2013 Annual Meeting, August 4-6, 2013, Washington, D.C. 150688, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
    5. Wuepper, David & Roleff, Nikolaus & Finger, Robert, 2021. "Does it matter who advises farmers? Pest management choices with public and private extension," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 99(C).
    6. Adu-Baffour, Ferdinand & Daum, Thomas & Birner, Regina, 2018. "Can Big Companies’ Initiatives to Promote Mechanization Benefit Small Farms in Africa? A Case Study from Zambia," Discussion Papers 273521, University of Bonn, Center for Development Research (ZEF).
    7. Singh, K.M. & Meena, M.S. & Swanson, B.E. & Reddy, M.N. & Bahal, R., 2014. "In-depth Study of the Pluralistic Agricultural Extension System in India," MPRA Paper 59461, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 23 Sep 2014.
    8. Birner, Regina & Sekher, Madhushree & Raabe, Katharina, 2012. "Reforming the public administration for food security and agricultural development : Insights from an empirical study in Karnataka," IFPRI discussion papers 1175, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    9. Martey, Edward & Etwire, Prince M. & Mockshell, Jonathan, 2021. "Climate-smart cowpea adoption and welfare effects of comprehensive agricultural training programs," Technology in Society, Elsevier, vol. 64(C).
    10. Kassem, Hazem S. & Alotaibi, Bader Alhafi & Muddassir, Muhammad & Herab, Ahmed, 2021. "Factors influencing farmers’ satisfaction with the quality of agricultural extension services," Evaluation and Program Planning, Elsevier, vol. 85(C).
    11. Ghinoi, Stefano & Wesz Junior, Valdemar João & Piras, Simone, 2018. "Political debates and agricultural policies: Discourse coalitions behind the creation of Brazil’s Pronaf," Land Use Policy, Elsevier, vol. 76(C), pages 68-80.
    12. Ortiz, Oscar & Orrego, Ricardo & Pradel, Willy & Gildemacher, Peter & Castillo, Renee & Otiniano, Ronal & Gabriel, Julio & Vallejo, Juan & Torres, Omar & Woldegiorgis, Gemebredin & Damene, Belew & Kak, 2013. "Insights into potato innovation systems in Bolivia, Ethiopia, Peru and Uganda," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 114(C), pages 73-83.
    13. Kamanda, Josey & Birner, Regina & Bantilan, Cynthia, 2017. "The “efficient boundaries” of international agricultural research: A conceptual framework with empirical illustrations," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 150(C), pages 78-85.
    14. Ragasa, Catherine & Ulimwengu, John M. & Randriamamonjy, Josee & Badibanga, Thaddée, 2013. "Assessment of the capacity, incentives, and performance of agricultural extension agents in western Democratic Republic of the Congo:," IFPRI discussion papers 1283, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    15. Moglia, Magnus & Alexander, Kim S. & Thephavanh, Manithaythip & Thammavong, Phomma & Sodahak, Viengkham & Khounsy, Bountom & Vorlasan, Sysavanh & Larson, Silva & Connell, John & Case, Peter, 2018. "A Bayesian network model to explore practice change by smallholder rice farmers in Lao PDR," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 164(C), pages 84-94.
    16. Ragasa, Catherine & Berhane, Guush & Tadesse, Fanaye & Taffesse, Alemayehu Seyoum, 2012. "Gender differences in access to extension services and agricultural productivity:," ESSP working papers 49, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    17. Morgan, Stephen N. & Mason, Nicole M. & Maredia, Mywish K., 2020. "Lead-farmer extension and smallholder valuation of new agricultural technologies in Tanzania," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 97(C).
    18. Adu-Baffour, Ferdinand & Daum, Thomas & Birner, Regina, 2019. "Can small farms benefit from big companies’ initiatives to promote mechanization in Africa? A case study from Zambia," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 84(C), pages 133-145.
    19. Alexander, Kim S. & Parry, Lucy & Thammavong, Phomma & Sacklokham, Silinthone & Pasouvang, Somphanh & Connell, John G. & Jovanovic, Tom & Moglia, Magnus & Larson, Silva & Case, Peter, 2018. "Rice farming systems in Southern Lao PDR: Interpreting farmers’ agricultural production decisions using Q methodology," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 160(C), pages 1-10.
    20. Hammond, Jim & Rosenblum, Nathaniel & Breseman, Dana & Gorman, Léo & Manners, Rhys & van Wijk, Mark T. & Sibomana, Milindi & Remans, Roseline & Vanlauwe, Bernard & Schut, Marc, 2020. "Towards actionable farm typologies: Scaling adoption of agricultural inputs in Rwanda," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 183(C).
    21. Baiyegunhi, L.J.S. & Majokweni, Z.P. & Ferrer, S.R.D., 2019. "Impact of outsourced agricultural extension program on smallholder farmers’ net farm income in Msinga, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa," Technology in Society, Elsevier, vol. 57(C), pages 1-7.
    22. Birner, Regina & Anderson, Jock R., 2015. "Strengthening Agricultural Governance in an Interconnected World," 2015 Conference, August 9-14, 2015, Milan, Italy 211345, International Association of Agricultural Economists.
    23. Pant, Bhaskar & Rathi, Alpa & Rathi, Anshul, 2012. "Effectiveness of Crop Advisory Services in Aurangabad District of Maharashtra in India," International Journal of Agricultural Management and Development (IJAMAD), Iranian Association of Agricultural Economics, vol. 2(4).
    24. Ragasa, Catherine & Berhane, Guush & Tadesse, Fanaye & Taffesse, Alemayehu Seyoum, 2013. "Quality Matters and Not Quantity: Evidence on Productivity Impacts of Extension Service Provision in Ethiopia," 2013 Annual Meeting, August 4-6, 2013, Washington, D.C. 150487, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.

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