Farmer, extension and research in Sri Lanka : an empirical study of the agricultural knowledge system with special reference to Matara district

M. Wijeratne

    Research output: Thesisinternal PhD, WU


    <br/><strong>Purpose</strong><p>The efficiency of agricultural production increases continuously through the application of scientific knowledge. Agricultural development programmes often aim to improve the generation, transfer and utilization of knowledge. Increase in total production and average yield are often found to be the variables used to measure the return to investment of such development efforts. Many studies underpin the positive trends observed in total quantum or/and average yields of many food crops especially in Asia. Some developing countries even experience an overproduction of grains. On the other hand, small farmers are forced out of agriculture as their units prove increasingly unviable. Research is often not directed at small farmers' problems. Hence, technology development to solve small farmers' problems does often not take place. Therefore, a concern for rural development in the medium term is to mount strategies which at least allow small farmer households to retain a sustainable subsistence. This is a valid concern as the majority of the farm population in most developing nations belongs to the small farm sector and have few alternative sources of livelihood. In Asia, 55 per cent of the farms are 1 ha or below and 73 per cent are 2 ha or below (World Bank:1982:78). In Sri Lanka, the average farm size of the small holding sector is approximately 0.8 ha or 1.9 acres, with 42 per cent of the holdings having less than I acre (0.4 ha). Today, we therefore need alternative strategies to deal with small farmers' problems. Part of the failure to evolve such strategies stems from lack of theoretical underpinning, specially on the part of extension science. Fortunately, this problem is now receiving much attention.<p>Recent developments in extension science have been influenced by several factors. First, extension is increasingly seen as a policy instrument to induce voluntary behaviour change. Second, as physical and economic constraints to agricultural production are removed, the growth of the productivity becomes more directly dependent on the synergic functioning of research and extension. Hence, extension is increasingly seen as a component of an agricultural knowledge system. The <strong>Agricultural Knowledge System (AKS)</strong> model has provided a new perspective for the development of extension science. The model emphasizes that research, extension and utilizers are not separate entities or departments but rather inter-dependent elements in the technology innovation process. This realization stimulated the use of the systems approach to understand the reasons for problems experienced in technology development and utilization.<p>Agriculture is the main income earner in the Sri Lankan economy. The livelihood of the majority of the population is based on agriculture and agro- based industries. Alternative employment opportunities are severely limited, specially in the rural sector which accounts for 79 per cent of the population. Hence, the need for rapid agricultural development has been widely recognized. Today, more and more agricultural land is being developed under large irrigation projects especially in the dry zone; new crops and cropping patterns are introduced; farm mechanization and input use are becoming increasingly popular; the demand for basic ingredients for agricultural development is increasing; new markets are growing for agricultural products; agricultural information receives much attention; large investments are made in agricultural projects and the need for trained manpower in agriculture is increasingly apparent. All these have implications on <strong>demand</strong> for agricultural knowledge. The <strong>supply</strong> of agricultural knowledge is facilitated by investing in research, training and training materials, the opening of new Agricultural Faculties etc. For optimum knowledge utilization, demand and supply of agricultural knowledge should meet. This in turn, requires effective interfaces between research, extension and farmer as well as effective processes of technology development, information exchange and feedback.<p>The <strong>Training and Visit (T&V) System of Agricultural Extension</strong> has been deliberately introduced to fulfil this requirement. The T&V system seeks to increase the interconnectedness between AKS elements (Röling:1988). However, in many developing countries, the system is in the infant stages of implementation. As few extension scientists are engaged in research, empirical investigation of its field impact has been limited. This study reports on such an empirical investigation. In doing so, it contributes to the fast growing body of knowledge of Extension Science. The investigation has been carried out in Matara district, Sri Lanka, home of the University of Ruhuna at which I am presently employed. Matara is an agricultural area dominated by small scale rice farmers. Thus two factors captured my interest to undertake this research -- extension science on one hand and small farmers on the other.<p><strong>Outline of the text</strong><p>This text is divided into four parts. Part I provides the introduction. Part II describes the situation which provides the context for the study while part III gives some aspects of extension theory. Part IV presents the findings and conclusions. Since the study is based on two different samples and three separate analyses, methods used will be described where appropriate. Hence, the traditional chapter lay-out was not followed. The introductory chapter, the only chapter in part I explains the objectives of the study. The second chapter provides a description of the study location. The third discusses the status of the small farmer, the farming systems and the dynamics affecting the socio-economic position of the small farmer. A detailed description of the rice farmers in the area is found in chapter four based on a survey carried out by the author. The fifth chapter outlines the development of the extension system in Sri Lanka, including the formal T&V model. Chapter six, the first chapter of part III gives an overview of extension in agricultural development. Chapter seven provides the conceptual framework for the first research problem -- extension coverage. The eighth chapter explains the development of AKS models and serves as conceptual base for the second research problem -- knowledge dissemination. Chapters nine and ten present the findings for the two research problems which are mainly based on the quantitative analysis. Finally, chapter eleven draws conclusions and makes suggestions for future research.<p>Throughout the text, wherever possible, British units with their metric equivalent were used to present the data but, unavoidable circumstances led me to use metric units sometimes. It has to be mentioned that the policy is to adopt metric units but in practice, British and local units are still found. This has made it difficult to be consistent.
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Awarding Institution
    • Röling, N.G., Promotor
    Award date1 Jun 1988
    Place of PublicationS.l.
    Publication statusPublished - 1988


    • agriculture
    • farming systems
    • research
    • sri lanka
    • agricultural extension


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