Participation, education and pluralism: towards a new extension ethic

The concern driving current debate on agricultural extension is increasingly that of what can be done to help farmers learn how to deal with the complex world around them responsibly and profitably, in such a way that the extension worker is ancillary. This paper seeks to deconstruct and provide a more reasoned assessment of agricultural extension services through a reflection on development paradigms, adult education, individual empowerment, and institutional pluralism. By calling into question the underlying ethical dimensions of agricultural extension, it is possible to develop an alternative paradigm and thereby generate new insights into it. The article concludes that the raison d’être of agricultural extension today must be to create an ethical basis that ensures that extension practices are more inclusive and thus responsive to the needs of farmers and other rural populations, integrating individual expectations into the wider socio-economic, cultural, political, and geographical environment.