HISTORY OF EXTENSION AND THE ENABLING ENVIRONMENT
Agricultural extension services in Mongolia are quite young and were introduced as a part of agricultural policy reforms. Until 1990, the Government of Mongolia followed a top-down planning system under which collective farms were operated and the decisions regarding the choice of agricultural technology were made at the central level. In other words, agricultural extension was embedded into the political system. As the central planning and collective farming approaches started collapsing and the privatization of state farms started, not to mention the losses of human life and livestock due to poverty, hunger and extreme weather, the need for a formal agricultural extension service was felt for the purposes of technology transfer and the education of farmers in sustainable agricultural development.
Under a loan agreement with the Asian Development Bank, the government established the National Agricultural Extension Center (NAEC) in the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Light Industry in November 1996. The NAEC is the national level umbrella institution for directing and coordinating extension services provided by agricultural extension centers at the provincial (or aimag) level and by the agricultural extension teams at the district (or soum) level. The NAEC also provides technical and business advice to food producers, herders and crop producers with the aim of running their farm businesses profitably. It collaborates with the research institutions and organizes training for local extension workers, subject-matter-specialists and guest advisors from research institutions. Distance learning courses are offered to farmers and herders. Communication and training centers have been opened and Agro-parks have also been established for extension activities. A number of nationals have been sent to overseas institutions for short training or academic degree programs in extension.
The state policy on agricultural extension is to motivate and educate citizens and employers in the rural areas to engage in profitable production under market conditions, develop methods to introduce scientific and technical achievements in the industry, and to advertise and deliver information reflecting state policy. The government has prepared the National Program for Food Security (2009-2016) and the Agricultural Bank of Mongolia handles credit requests of these farmers.
Various challenges are faced by the young agricultural extension service. Even though the extension delivery responsibilities have been passed on to the provincial administrations upon the completion of certain donor-funded projects, financial constraints have not allowed the establishment of agricultural extension centers at all provinces and districts. There are no specific institutes and research programs focusing on extension issues. Physical facilities are quite limited and demonstration farms for animal and crop production have not yet been organized. There is a lack of cooperation among research institutions as well as between research and extension in view of the fact that all research and academic institutions belong to the Ministry of Education while the agricultural extension service is under the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Light Industry.