HISTORY OF EXTENSION
AND THE ENABLING / DISABLING ENVIRONMENT
The philosophy of extension was introduced to Iran in 1953 through the U.S. Point4 Program. Prior to that, there was little communication between researchers and farmers as is evident from the fact that although the Shahpasand wheat variety was released in 1930 but it only reached farmers in 1954, when extension agents started demonstrating its high yield trait.
Extension and Development Corps: In 1964, the Imperial Government presented a bill for the establishment of “Extension and Development Corps (EDCs)” on military lines. EDCs were to draw human resources from various categories of high school and university graduates in the fields of agriculture, architecture, economics, poly-technical arts, mechanization, electric and civil engineering, physics, civics, social sciences, and veterinary. Each corpsman was required to spend a total of 18 months in service including a four-month training course and 14 months of residential service in rural districts. University graduates were given the rank of second lieutenant while the high school graduates were given the rank of sergeants even though called “technicians”.
The first four-month training course for the EDCs started on April 1, 1964 at the Academy of Military Sciences. All relevant ministries were involved in this training. Necessary equipment such as sprayers with chemicals, vehicles, extension kits, agricultural inputs including improved seed, and printed extension materials were provided to each corpsman, to cover farming, livestock and horticultural activities. EDCs interventions resulted in the use of 90,000 tons of fertilizer by farmers in 1965, and a fast increase in the number of farmers’ applications for soil tests. In mid-1960s, the extension organization performed three major activities: agricultural extension, home economics, and rural youth.
In 1967, the organizational set-up of the EDCs consisted of a central supervisory office, located in the Central Extension Organization in Tehran; provincial supervisory offices; supervisory links or teams; and general project operation teams functioning at village level. Rural Youth Clubs were formed as each corpsman was required to organize at least one such club, previously known as 4-D clubs, an idea adopted from the USA 4-H Clubs. Mobile Fertilizer Extension Units were also put into operation. Each unit comprised two university graduates in agriculture, a vehicle, and some fertilizer to be used in demonstrations. The unit staff travelled in rural areas to demonstrate the use of fertilizers and discussed fertilizer-related issues with the farmers.
The home economics program that was established in 1957, as a part of general extension program, developed a holistic family approach that covered men, women and youth. The aim was to develop capacities of the families to enable them to improve their standard of living.
Post-1979 Extension Revolution: As the eight-year war raged with Iraq, the Extension Development Corps and Rural Youth Clubs were disbanded. Public extension work continued along with the delivery of agricultural inputs to the farmers. Agricultural Service Centers were established at the county level. While the Ministry of Agriculture retained responsibility for extension, a new institution called Jihad-e-Sazandegi was created to alleviate rural poverty, and later upgraded to the ministry level. Rural libraries, youth centers, festivals, rural theatres, and agricultural and non-agricultural training courses were organized for farm families. The top down planning of extension programs continued.