Project final report

Agricultural extension approaches - Final report

Date released
06 July 2018
Publication Code

Lauren Rickards


This project surveyed approaches to agricultural extension ('practice change') and new ideas about improved ways forward. It reviewed recent evolutions in agricultural extension around the world, with a focus on ACIAR's priority regions.

Farm households and rural communities face more and bigger challenges because of climate change. Agricultural extension is important to improve farming, reduce rural poverty, and build community capacities. Extension is important as a 'boundary institution' - connecting actors in the rural innovation system - but its effectiveness and suitability are uneven and contested. Although stories of success exist, they do not necessarily define or measure success meaningfully, and much mainstream extension languishes in its attempts to improve farming. ACIAR has implemented agricultural extension among vulnerable farming communities in partner countries, and knows well the challenges involved.

The project critically evaluated academic research about agricultural extension to identify its main assumptions, research objects and implicit theoretical paradigms. It looked outside the agricultural extension literature for potential insights and valuable approaches to agricultural extension. It examined how two areas of literature could enrich our understanding of agricultural extension: 'practice theory', which analyses social life in terms of shared 'practices' (e.g. commuting, emailing, dining, irrigating, or selling grain), and masculinity studies, which look at how different people, ideas, policies and practices are gendered masculine or feminine.

This project generated useful insights and knowledge about agricultural extension for ACIAR to draw on and share. It synthesised lessons and worked towards new research questions about what agricultural extension is and could be.

Return to the project page: Agricultural extension approaches