Click here for search results

Module 3 - Investments in Agricultural Extension and Information Services

Box 3.2 Returns to investment in extension and information services

Evaluations have often criticized extension for low efficiency and lack of equity in service provision but report relatively high cost/benefit ratios (Perraton et al. 1983). Rates of return on extension investments in developing countries have generally ranged from 5 percent to more than 50 percent (Evenson 1997). A recent metastudy of 289 studies of economic returns to agricultural research and extension found median rates of return of 58 percent for extension investments, 49 percent for research investments, and 36 percent for investments in research and extension combined (Alston et al. 2000). Because the methodological problems are daunting and rates of return are highly variable even for the same program, there is considerable need for additional evaluation of extension impacts.

Source: Gautam 2000; Feder, Murgai, and Quizon 2003

Rationale for Investment

The success of rural development programs depends largely on rural people’s decisions on a host of questions, such as what to grow, where to sell, how to maintain soil fertility, and how to manage common grazing areas. Most clients of extension are farmers, both women and men, but many other rural people who are not economically active in farming also rely on extension and information services to inform and influence rural household decisions.


Past returns to extension investment have been variable but often high (box 3.2). Future increases in agricultural production and rural income must come from intensification rather than “extensification” of agriculture. 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. Globalization and the need to trade in a global environment requires farmers and other rural people to become more competitive by acquiring more knowledge to base decisions on and new skills to implement those decisions.


Although agriculture remains critically important for their economic well-being, rural people need other options and expect more information than in the past, including information on healthcare and nutrition, consumer products, and government and other programs. Many farmers want to stop farming (or will be forced to stop because of lack of competitiveness) and will seek information, education, and alternative skills to prepare for new employment.


Nav Dot 

Permanent URL for this page: