De besturing en organisatie van de landbouwvoorlichtingsdienst

J.P. Zuurbier

    Research output: Thesisinternal PhD, WU


    This study examines the organization and management of the Dutch agricultural extension service. The purpose is to gain insights into the functions and utility of extension, as well as to analyse the management policies and processes of the agricultural extension service.

    These objectives were addressed by focussing upon the following questions:
    1. What is meant by agricultural extension?
    2. What specific role and contributions should be expected from agricultural extension?
    3. What path did the Dutch agricultural extension service follow in her development?
    4. Which factors were the most important in influencing this development?
    4. How do management processes and organizational structures affect the agricultural extension functions?
    6. Which factors influence extension's managerial effectiveness?

    In order to answer these questions, part One begins with an analysis of extension concepts, applied to agriculture. An analysis of the literature is provided describing the effects that might be expected from agricultural extension. Part One ends with an overview of the Dutch agricultural extension service.

    Part Two deals with the historical development of agricultural extension in the Netherlands. This analysis emphasizes the rural political circumstances influencing extension developments as well as policy, management and organizational responses. The second part ends with an analysis of factors responsible for the rise and decline of the extension service.

    Part Three contains the analysis of the management structure and processes of the extension service, based on the results of a research project, carried out between 1978 and 1980. This study is built upon different management and organization theoretical perspectives. Also, a study was made of the functioning of district units. Emphases were placed on the factors influencing the managerial effectiveness of these units. This part Three ends with a description and analysis of the way the results were utilized by the extension service.

    The results of part One can be summarized as follows.

    After comparing different definitions of extension and agricultural extension, the following definition of agricultural extension was chosen:

    ,,By agricultural extension is meant all those activities related to informing, helping, educating or influencing those working in agriculture in order to influence their decisionmaking by expanding their knowledge, changing or reinforcing their attitudes or enlarging their awareness; at the same time those playing an extension role or those managing extension are guided by a willingness to be influenced and to foster the self interest of the persons being unfluenced".

    Most studies of the effects of agricultural extension emphasized changes in knowledge, attitudes and behavior. The effects of extension upon the enlargement of knowledge was predominant, where-as ef fects upon changes in attitudes or behavior were less emphasized. Extension was more succesful for groups of higher socio-economic status; the value of extension was seen as neutral to positive.

    The results of part Two can be summarized as follows.

    The origins of the Dutch extension service go back to the end of the last century. Farmers were familiar with travelling teachers who diffused knowledge of new farming methods.

    Although encouraged by provincial farmers' organizations, the phenomenon of travelling teachers was only partly effective. In 1886 a Governmental Commission supported the idea of travelling teachers and further recommended that agricultural and horticultural teachers receive national support with part of their task to be rural extension. The recommendation was adopted. The decision was reinforced by linking the appointed teachers to the governmental Inspector of Agriculture. This occurred in 1906.

    The positive results of the Governmental Commission are partly due to an improvement in the economy, to political stability and to a general feeling that extension should be given national priority in modernizing agriculture.

    Some discontinuities occurred during the years between 1914 and 1930. Reduced governmental budgets slowed the development of the agricultural extentions service.

    The economic crisis of the thirties legitimized a linkage between extension and national agricultural policy instruments. The extension service also expanded by identifying target groups for which a special Service for Small Farms was established.

    During the Second World War the advisory service was more used to implement national production policies. Emphasis was placed on the regional extension strategies.

    Following the war agricultural extension went through an expansive growth period. The main objective of agricultural policy was to aid recovery and promote technical modernization; the extension service also stressed the importance of modernizing the rural community. Specific problems and target groups received attention; extension strategies were intensified.

    Agriculture underwent rapid change. Some reorganizations and adjustments of extension tasks and structures also took place. Uncertainties during the seventies paralled a decline in the capacity of the extension service. A new concept of extension was called for.

    The historical analysis of agricultural extension service reveals periods of expansion and decline. Expansion occurred in times and circumstances when extension received a larger part of the national agricultural budget, but while agricultural incomes, in general, declined.

    Decline occurred in times and circumstances when agricultural incomes increased and when technical development was favourable. Decline was also accompanied with a weakening representation of the extension service on the national level.

    Part Three deals with the management and organization of the extension service and can be summarized as follows.

    First a theoretical perspective describing managerial processes in extension service was laid out. The theory distinguishes managerial and operational processes. Managerial processes can be confined to several issues, consisting of decision making processes and certain conditions influencing those processes. Managerial effectiveness is a measure of the degree of attention paid towards managerial processes.

    The results of a research project, carried out in the years between 1978 and 1980, revealed the importance of the managerial processes and the role of information, some structural components, the involvement of the managers in the district units and some personal characteristics of the managers related to managerial effectiveness.

    These results stressed the importance of placing more attention on managerial functioning in the operation of an effective service. There were increasing demands on the service to match the increasingly sophisticated problems and challenges posed by the clientele and the internal capacities of the extension service.

    The autonomous position and status of the local extension agent is no longer adequate for efficient utilization of their resources.

    The research results were applied in the context of an "Organization- Development" strategy. Organization-Development strategy means a systematic approach to enlarge the capacity of established agencies through internal diagnosis and problem solving, that increases the organization's effectiveness and efficiency.

    The study describes the way the results have been utilized. Mention was made of the positive effects of the strategy in general and of the survey-feedback methods in particular. Some of the success of the strategy might also be explained by favourable conditions within the organization. It was concluded that successful implementation of the organization development strategy was made possible partly by similarities between that strategy and extension strategies.

    Original languageDutch
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Awarding Institution
    • van den Ban, A.W., Promotor
    • Kampfraath, A.A., Promotor, External person
    Award date2 Nov 1984
    Place of PublicationWageningen
    Publication statusPublished - 1984


    • information services
    • advisory centres
    • agriculture
    • institutions
    • organizations
    • theory
    • management
    • administration
    • Netherlands
    • historical records
    • agricultural extension
    • business management

    Cite this

    Zuurbier, J. P. (1984). De besturing en organisatie van de landbouwvoorlichtingsdienst. Wageningen: Zuurbier.