The paper is organized into three main sections, with two parts to each section. The first section is on agricultural extension. Major changes have occurred in agricultural extension and new trends continue to affect its reform and development. These changes and trends are analyzed for their impact on development. At the same time, new extension-type programmes and projects have been advanced internationally to combat the massive problem of poverty and food security, specifically in rural communities. One of these programmes – FAO’s Special Programme for Food Security (SPFS) – is reviewed, and its contribution to improved production and income generation by poor rural families is in general favourably considered, although long-range political support, strong leadership and adequate initial investment are crucial to its success.
The second section discusses rural development. In the first part, the various pathways out of poverty are examined, of which improvements in agriculture and resultant income generation represent only one of these pathways. In the second part, agricultural extension is differentiated from rural extension, and the proposal is put forward to develop communication services as a form of “rural extension” to provide both agricultural and non-agricultural information to rural populations. As a rural development instrument, communication holds great promise for serving those in rural areas who work the land as well as those who do not work the land.
The third section focuses specifically on the issue of food security. The challenges, factors and perspectives of food security are reviewed, and the argument made that food security is a public good as well as a social and economic good.