Winter 1985 // Volume 23 // Number 4

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International Extension - A Needed Focus


International Extension - A Needed Focus

Extension education is a worldwide phenomenon. In the U.S., it has matured from a very humble beginning to its present status. As it matured, it changed-its audience focus, content, methodologies, financing. When I was a young Extension agent, I was told that if we were completely successful in fulfilling our mission, we'd work ourselves out of a job. Of course, we didn't really believe it. But have we? Some say we're no longer needed by the commercial farmer audience (now less than 1 % of the population of the U.S.); that this group is now being well-served by the private sector. A few would even say our youth education programs aren't needed because public and semi-public agency programs are now available to them. The need to increase our emphasis on community resource development is frequently mentioned, as is our need to increase emphasis to meet the educational needs of small farmers (now slightly over 2% of the U.S. population).

Another program area frequently cited as one needing more emphasis is international extension. There are two foci to this program. One includes educational activities conducted with U.S. citizens. Patton made a strong case for this in the September/October, 1984, issue of the Journal of Extension in his article, "Extension-A Citizen of the World." The other focus has received no attention in the Journal recently, and such attention is past due.

During the past two years, I've received 15 manuscripts relating to Extension work in developing countries. Many of these manuscripts dealt with specific programs or activities including: a description of an Extension program in the Gaza area of Israel, the impact of showing films in India, examining communications in the "training and visit system" in Sri Lanka, achieving development goals in Honduras, and similar topics. One manuscript discussed the pros and cons of an American working in a developing country and another reported on validating a specific evaluation model in Nigeria.

These and similar manuscripts present a dilemma for the Journal. We feel an obligation to recognize the creative and productive work being done in developing countries, but we know that for a large majority of our readers, this isn't their primary focus. We do feel, however, that most have at least a passing interest in what's going on in the international scene. At one extreme, some predict Extension's primary contribution in the future will be in continuing to help developing nations through Extension-type programs.

To focus on this phase of Extension, I've selected an article that describes a model for Extension in a developing nation. It offers high potential for positive results and illustrates how the basic principles of Extension education, developed through experiences, can be adapted to a unique culture. If we can help develop and operate this type of Extension in the developing world, we'll probably make a very important contribution toward solving some of the basic problems existing in the world today. In his book Freedom and Development, Julius Nyerere says: "People cannot be developed; they can only develop themselves." We can facilitate that development by helping develop Extension education programs throughout the world.

Roger L. Lawrence, Editor