Feed the Future
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A Review of Sustainable Finance of Extension Services in Developing Countries

Date Published: 
December 1, 2014

Modernizing Extension and Advisory Services (MEAS) Discussion Paper #6: To feed a growing population and to reduce rural poverty, most developing countries have some type of extension system in place. Often, the extension system is the dizzying mix of a public sector system with extension and advisory services delivered by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), extension-like services provided by private sector businesses in the form of advice and training from input dealers, and market and input access provided by outgrower schemes of large farms. The extension system is predominantly a public sector system in some countries (Vietnam, for example) while in others the role of NGOs appears to predominate; thus, there is no singular typology of pluralistic extension system that describes all developing countries. For development planners and analysts, particularly at the level where decision-makers consider agricultural development policy and strategy within a country, it is critical to ask, how is it best to finance extension activities? Answering this question well within a given country is key to having a sustainable system of extension that delivers essential extension services to the targeted groups to meet country agricultural development goals.

Finding solutions to sustainably financing extension consists of much more than simply asking how many funds should be channeled into the public sector system through both NGOs and private sector input dealers. The financing question also concerns how funds ought to be allocated within the public sector, how the flow of funds is designed, how the funds are controlled and how they are linked to extension programs and activities. Though staffing costs and major capital expenditures (office, demonstration plot development, and vehicles) receive much of the attention in projects, the question of budgeting and access to funds for recurring expenditures within public extension systems (expenditures on items such as fuel, telephone and internet access, electricity, water, supplies for demonstration plots, farm laborers, vehicle repairs and extension teaching supplies and materials) also impacts the sustainability of financing an extension system.