This post will introduce you to the basic philosophy and principles behind agricultural extension work. It is a continuation of what we already looked at and will help you to improve on your understanding of agricultural extension. Thus after studying this unit, certain things will be required of you.  At the end of this post, you should be able to:

· explain vividly the basic philosophy behind agricultural extension

· list and discuss the basic principles of agricultural extension.

The Basic Philosophy of Agricultural Extension

A philosophy is a body of principles governing human activities. A philosophy of agricultural extension is, essentially, an understanding of ideas which an individual agricultural extension worker holds about rural people and rural environment. An extension worker’s philosophy consists of the ideas he holds as important and which influence his attitude towards rural people. When these ideas are consciously thought out, they can serve as guidelines to extension work. A sound and positive agricultural extension philosophy can be an aid to an agricultural extension worker in effectively moving in the direction his philosophy suggests. If he believes that rural people are intelligent and capable of making use of educational opportunities, he is likely to provide such opportunities and assist the people in benefiting from them. On the other hand, if he down-grades the capabilities of rural people, he is likely to assume the attitude of a snub and consequently will encounter negative reaction from the people.

Agricultural extension is based on the philosophy that rural people are intelligent, capable and desirous of acquiring new information and making use of it for their family and community improvement. This assumes that direct approach to the people is required, and that friendly relationship and mutual trust between the extension worker and the people is assured. It also means that the extension worker must have a thorough knowledge of the peoples’ problems.

Extension education is democratic in its approach. It is based on the principle of helping people to help themselves. The extension approach to economic development is, first, develop the people, and they will develop their farmland, their livestock, their educational and recreational institutions, their public services and anything else they wish.

Agricultural extension philosophy is based on the premise that if farm people fully understand their relationship to the natural resources and other factors they deal with, it is possible for them to attain personal satisfaction in their way of life.

Agricultural extension work is based on the idea that each individual is unique and important. People differ as to values and goals they hold.

Extension education fosters action to realize values and attain goals which will aid them in establishing new ones. Extension education supports activities to introduce change. Improvement requires change, but change is not necessarily improvement. The key consideration is the quality and type of change that is acceptable to the people and one that contributes to the achievement of their goals.

Extension education is also based on the belief that the aims and objectives of extension are not static. These must be modified on the basis of individual and social needs. It is the duty of extension to determine people’s need and to help them to acquire knowledge that spurs or inspires them to action. The acquisition of knowledge as a basis for action is essential since it is the basic philosophy of extension to teach people how to think and not what to think. Through the acquisition of ability to think and to take positive action on the basis of mature deliberation, the individual can accept new ideas and practices which will help to attain a fuller and more satisfying life.

A sound agricultural extension philosophy always looks ahead. We live in changing times and our agricultural extension philosophy must accommodate such changes. This means that agricultural extension must have a definite goal. In addition, each agricultural extension worker must have his personal philosophy consisting of what he believes about people and his work. If his philosophy is a sound one, it can weather whatever storm he may encounter wherever he finds himself.


  1. State the basic philosophy behind agricultural extension work.
  2. What does a sound agricultural extension philosophy means?

The Basic Principles of Agricultural Extension

Certain basic principles underlie the conduct of agricultural extension work. These principles differ with respect to the kind of community in which extension education is carried on. The democratic nature of African communities needs to be systematically followed and agricultural extension workers are therefore enjoined to follow this democratic nature. The reason for this is that methods adopted by an extension worker are important for his ultimate success and because the implications of his methods are of great significance (Obibuaku, 1983).

It is necessary to lay emphasis on this democratic nature because, extension directors and supervisors in Nigeria as in many ex-British colonial territories are known to have a tendency to adopt autocratic approach to extension work (Bauman, 1966). Since they are products of British education and administration in which the distinction between the supervisors and the subordinate is unduly emphasized, they favour autocratic methods, preferring the use of memos and directives to face to-face communication. The subordinates including those who work with farmers, appear to imitate their superiors in their relationship with farmers (Obibuaku, 1983). To counter this tendency, (Johnson et al, 1969) recommended: encouragement of the extension staff to adopt an attitude of persuasion through an approach which directs farmers as typified by such staff comments as ‘’ we told farmers to ‘’and ‘’ we supervised farmers, directing them ‘’ in what was to be done. Extension work is directed to changing people’s way of doing things in specific pre-determined way believed to be desirable for individuals and the entire society. The objective is to initiate actions that might lead to improvement on the farms, in the homes and within community institutions. This is a complex understanding and involves a set of principles (Obibuaku, 1983). Extension principles may be defined as guidelines for the conduct of extension work and these principles are the bedrock upon which extension service rests. The principles are:

  1. Extension should start where the people are. Williams et al., 1984 believed that extension should work at the level where the people are, that is, at their level of knowledge, understanding, interest and degree of readiness. In order to be able to assist the people to move to higher levels of aspiration, it is important that extension worker should know what the conditions are. It means personal contact with the local condition, and its environment, an understanding of the social structure, the habits, traditions, attitude and economic status of the people and society. Colonial agriculturists and early extension workers in Nigeria, impressed by the large farms in North America and Western Europe, and despising the peasant farmers prevalent in Nigeria, proceeded to set up large government demonstration farms ostensibly to impress the Nigerian farmer or to persuade him to embark on large-sized farms. Several decades elapsed and not many farmers were persuaded to adopt the new system. According to Obibuaku, 1983, the correct approach would have been to start with the peasant system and try to improve the system and if physical and economic conditions permit, to aspire towards large-sized farms. This was the approach later adopted, particularly in the Northern States, in the production of the relatively successful ‘’ cash crops’’ such as groundnuts and cotton. The first principle therefore implies that to succeed with farmers, new ideas must be related to what the farmer already knows and that with which he is familiar.
  2. Extension should be based on the needs and interests of the people which are closely related to improving their livelihood through increasing farm production and their physical environment (Williams et at., 1984). It is imperative therefore to conceptualize the basic needs of the people in the rural set up since the needs and interests of people vary from one set of people to the other due to difference in culture. Extension can only function if these two variables are put into consideration. It is also imperative to note that extension workers must gain the confidence of their audience. This is so because farmers are said to be fatalistic as well as conservative in their attitudes. They are wary to thread on unsure grounds and are unlikely to take action without conviction. This is why it is necessary that the extension worker should gain their confidence (Obibuaku, 1983). Unless they are sure of the ability and skill of an extension worker, they will not be persuaded to accept his recommendations. This is more so if the extension worker is young and has had little or no farm experience. In that case, he must start with one or two programmes that are likely to succeed and must work on them until eventual success.
  3. Extension should assist farmers to determine their own problems, help them to find desirable solutions and to encourage them to take action. This assistance does not imply that the extension worker’s problems are replica of the farmer’s problems and does not indicate that the farmers cannot think on their own. Embarking on this will enable the farmers to have the perception that the extension worker cares about their problems by assisting them in identifying their problems. In proffering solutions to these problems, the extension worker should not in any way solve their problems on their behalf as this will amount to imposing his own value judgement on them.
  4. It is an established fact that human beings have unsatisfied wants, this assertion is also applicable to the farmers. An extension worker cannot go far with people unless they want to help themselves, therefore programmes must start with the felt needs of the people and proceed to others that are also needed by them. The wants of the people must be kept in reasonable relationship with the effort they are capable and willing to make. All the people within a community do not want the same thing at same time, and in the same fashion (Obibuaku, 1983). To this end, their values differ and so do their goals and the ability to achieve them.
  5. The principle of co-operative work must be pursued to logical conclusion. This is so because the best programmes are those determined by the local people and extension staff working together. Planning of programmes with the people is an important part of extension teaching. People understand a programme better and are more likely to support it if they participate in its creation. Planning is also a learning process. By participating in programme planning, people learn to work together. Decisions that are collectively made are stronger and are more acceptable than the decisions that are passed and imposed on them from the outside. Rural people tend to resist change until they see the benefit of such a change and there is no better way of helping them than by involving them in planning for change.
  6. Extension workers should work with all members of the family. The family should be regarded as a working unit in the home and in the field (Williiams et al., 1984). Religion, race or political interests should be put aside in working with rural people, extension worker should treat them as rational adults who are capable of making their own decisions.
  7. The principle of the use of variety of teaching methods is another basic principle. In this case, a teaching method can be conceived in teaching a segregated learning unit. This is equally based on the principle of variety is the spice of life and that no one method will help to bring out desirable changes in people. No method therefore is an island. The implication of this principle is that, the more the variety of ways a topic is presented and practised, the quicker the people tend to grasp the subject matter.
  8. In African rural communities, participation in extension programme is voluntary and therefore programmes must meet the varying needs of individuals. Participation in extension programmes differ significantly in age, sex, education, attitudes, interests, needs and economic and social values. According to Obibuaku (1983), programmes must therefore be attractive and tailored to meet the needs and interests of the varying groups.
  9. Extension workers should provide maximum opportunity for the people to work on programmes that have been determined by them and the extension agent working together. The joint determination of the programmes is one thing and full participation is another dimension which is crucial to the eventual success of such programmes. The farmers feel fully satisfied when they are given maximum opportunity to practice what they participated in building. The principle of involvement has a sound psychological basis in that people are never interested in programmes which they have not helped to develop.
  10. Extension workers should take advantage of any existing local groups to involve the people in extension programmes. The people in rural areas tend to listen more to the local leaders than even the extension workers since they are power brokers and the inability of the extension agent to work with them makes it impossible for him to succeed in his programmes. This principle must be strictly adhered to if innovation is to be well adopted by the local people. The existence of these local leaders makes it possible for extension agents to spread his service over a wide area. There are numerous organizations and groups that are in existence in Nigeria such as farmers’ co-operative societies, farmer’s councils, village unions. All these groups should be used more intensively in involving the people in extension programmes.
  11. Subject matter covered in extension must have definite purpose and must be specific so that programme would be able to achieve the purpose for which it was established. The subject matter here refers to the content of the extension programme, which must be relevant to the lives of the rural people and must therefore be useful to them. The content of the programme must be presented when it is most needed by the people. This is so because retention falls off rapidly if opportunity for application of what is learnt is not present. The subject matter covered must therefore be attainable within the time available, and within physical and economic resources of clientele, and within the social condition and learning ability of the participants.
  12. The principle of constant evaluation must be followed. It should appraise periodically its work in the light of existing and changing conditions so that it can be seen whether the objective are being achieved. Extension workers have to make endless decisions and then act according to what they understand to be the mandates of their decisions. In a similar vein, the longer a practice has been followed, the harder it is to be objective about its limitations and the harder it is to get at making needed changes. Therefore frequent appraisal will assist a long way in arriving at these benefits.
  13. The principle of professionalism should be followed. Extension workers should therefore work with extension professionals who can sell their programmes to their clientele. Credibility is therefore essential here. It should provide continuous opportunity, additional training and professional improvement for its staff.
  14. Learning is a gradual process and therefore results must not be expected too soon. Research evidence has shown that learners must be exposed to new ideas over a period of time and in variety of ways before they begin to respond to them. The rural people must not be rushed as they do not learn at the same rate. This principle must be put in mind when basic things are expected from the rural people. The adoption rate is therefore to be considered as a gradual process.
  15. Adult learning remains high throughout life. Adults have had years of varied experience, set beliefs and habits. Their beliefs and habits tend to change very slowly. However many of these have to be changed if progress is to be made. The Extension workers must therefore use all available strategies in taking care of these beliefs and habits.
  16. A closer principle to the one just highlighted is the principle that extension is educational in function through assisting people to make their own decisions among various alternatives put before them. Extension workers should not be involved with supply activities. The farmers may be expecting the extension agents to supply them with needed planting materials, fertilizers and fungicides. This is basically contrary to its educational function.
  17. Extension workers should promote the use and development of volunteer leaders. It is through this forum that extension agents can reach many people and educate them of the need for change. This principle therefore sees the volunteer leaders as loud speaker for extension. Without the use of the volunteer leader, most of the planned programmes will not be achieved.
  18. Extension should be based on facts and knowledge. This principle can be achieved through the process of working closely with the researchers and the farmer. Therefore, extension in this regard will be seen as an intermediary or a link between researcher and the farmer.


  1. What are extension principles?
  2. List at least ten (10) agricultural extension principles.


In this post you have learnt the basic philosophy and principles of agricultural extension. It is good to note that the village must be the starting point for any extension programme and must address problems identified by the farmers themselves which they want solutions to. If the aforementioned philosophy and principles are followed, the mission of agricultural extension will be achieved.


The main points in this unit include the following:

  • Agricultural extension is based on the philosophy that rural people are intelligent, capable and desirous of acquiring new information and making use of it for their family and community improvement.
  • Agricultural extension work is based on the idea that each individual is unique and important. People differ as to values and goals they hold. Extension education fosters action to realize values and attain goals which will aid them in establishing new ones.
  • A sound agricultural extension philosophy always looks ahead. Since we live in changing times, our agricultural extension philosophy must accommodate such changes.
  • Certain basic principles underlie the conduct of extension work. These principles differ with respect to the kind of community in which education is carried on.


  1. Explain clearly the basic philosophy of agricultural extension
  2. Discuss the various extension principles.


Adereti, F.O. and Ajayi, A.O. (2005). Concepts and Basic Principles of

Agricultural Extension. In: S.F. Adedoyin (ed). Agricultural

Extension in Nigeria. Publication of Agricultural Extension

Society of Nigeria, pp.13-20.

Bauman, H., Chan, C. and Johnson, W. (1966). A Report of Agricultural

Credit in Nigeria, CSNRD.

Johnson, G.L. , Scovile, C.J. , Dike, G. K. and Eicher, C.K. (1969).

Strategies and Recommendations for Nigeria Rural Development,


Obibuaku, L.O. (1983). Agricultural Extension as a Strategy for

Agricultural Transformation. University of Nigeria Press,

Nsukka Nigeria, 119pp.

Williams, S.K.T. ,Fenley, J.M. and Williams, C. E. (1984). A manual

for Agricultural Extension Workers in Nigeria. Nigeria, Les

Shyraden Publishers.