Extension and rural information services provide critical access to the knowledge and information that rural people need to increase the productivity and sustainability of their production systems, and thus improve the quality of their lives and livelihoods.
Over the past twenty years, the World Bank has financed over US$3.9 billion of investment in agricultural extension. Returns on this investment are generally good, helping countries meet food needs, conserve natural resources, and develop human and social capital. Still, sustainability has proved a problem for many national extension services, and they can be characterized by inefficiency and lack of purpose. Knowledge and related information, skills, technologies, and attitudes will play a key role in the sustainable intensification of agriculture and the success of other rural investments. New technologies and markets offer rural households new opportunities but require better access to information.
A growing consensus has recognized that agricultural extension systems must be pluralistic networks of institutions providing varied information and innovation services to rural peoples. Such extension systems must be demand-driven with closer linkages to clients, must become more efficient, and must develop more sustainable sources of financing.Increasingly, extension services are market driven integrated services that are tailor made to meet the needs of the clients.
The World Bank remains committed to assisting its client countries strengthen their agricultural extension and rural information systems as an important element of national innovation systems and strategies to reduce rural poverty.