History of Agricultural Extension


Agricultural extension is an age-old practice that seeks to transfer knowledge and technology from research stations and universities to farmers in rural areas. It aims to bridge the gap between scientific research and the adoption of innovative farm practices by farmers. The origins of agricultural extension can be traced back to ancient civilizations, but it was only in the late 19th century that it gained recognition as a formal profession.

The earliest form of agricultural extension can be seen in the practices of early civilizations such as the Mesopotamians, Egyptians, and Chinese. These societies had a sophisticated understanding of agriculture and often employed extension agents to disseminate new farming techniques to farmers. However, the concept of modern-day agricultural extension was first introduced in Europe in the late 19th century.

The first form of formal agricultural extension can be traced back to Ireland in the late 1800s. Sir Horace Plunkett, a renowned agricultural reformer, established the Co-operative Agricultural Organization Society (CAOS) to promote cooperation among farmers and to provide them with technical assistance and education. The CAOS was the first of its kind and served as a model for agricultural extension across Europe and the United States.

In the United States, agricultural extension was officially established in 1914 with the signing of the Smith-Lever Act. This act created the Cooperative Extension Service as a partnership between the U.S. Department of Agriculture and state land-grant universities. The Cooperative Extension Service aimed to educate and assist farmers in improving their agricultural practices through demonstrations, lectures, and publications.

In the 1920s and 1930s, agricultural extension services expanded across Europe and other parts of the world as governments recognized the need for trained professionals to disseminate new farming techniques to rural farmers. The Soviet Union, in particular, established an extensive system of agricultural extension to improve agricultural production and bolster the country’s economy.

The 1960s and 1970s witnessed a major transformation in agricultural extension with the introduction of new technologies and the Green Revolution. The Green Revolution was a period of significant improvements in agricultural production, mainly in developing countries, due to the introduction of high-yielding crop varieties, fertilizers, and modern farming techniques. This led to the development of the concept of “farmer-to-farmer” extension, where successful farmers were trained and encouraged to share their knowledge and techniques with other farmers.

With the rise of globalization and the need to address pressing issues such as food security and climate change, there has been a shift towards participatory and farmer-centered extension practices. This approach involves working closely with farmers, understanding their needs and challenges, and involving them in the decision-making process. It also includes the use of modern communication technologies, such as mobile phones and the internet, to disseminate information and connect farmers with extension services.

Today, agricultural extension continues to evolve to meet the changing needs of farmers and the agriculture sector. From traditional methods of face-to-face training and demonstrations to modern approaches like e-extension and virtual field schools, agricultural extension plays a critical role in ensuring sustainable agriculture and rural development.

In conclusion, the history of agricultural extension dates back centuries and has witnessed several transformations that have shaped its current form. It has played a vital role in the development of the agriculture sector, and its relevance continues to grow in today’s globalized world. As the world faces new challenges, it is essential to continue investing in agricultural extension to ensure the success and sustainability of the agricultural sector.