Currently, extension programs are offered in universities in many countries around the world. In some countries and universities they are known as “Agricultural Extension” or “Extension Services”. These types of programs were originally designed for developing practical agriculture skills and education. Professionals from several disciplines offer knowledge and research in fields related to agriculture to support farmer in rural areas. International organizations, such as World Bank and The United Nations offer support to some of these programs too, by allocating funds and sharing technical planning and advice.
With the advent of new technologies and the development of new alternatives of long distance education, extension programs also started to include other areas of study. Many of the most prestigious universities already have extension programs as part of their curricula for several disciplines on a variety of fields, and many of them also have entire schools dedicated to agricultural extension only.
Most Outstanding Extension Programs
The most outstanding extension programs are located in developed countries, such as The United States of America, Canada, Europe or Australia. Because of their development, excellent techniques and funds are available to them. Their extension programs were initially oriented to agriculture and then evolved to a wider offer. Some examples of those programs are:
- PennState Extensión: It is a branch of Penn State University located in the State of Pennsylvania, U.S.A. and is dedicated to agriculture.
- University of Illinois, Extension: it is located in the State of Illinois, U.S.A. and is also dedicated to agriculture.
- University of Harvard, University of California Los Angeles, among others, all of them offer extension programs on a variety of fields, such as art, science and many more.
- Ontario Agriculture College: located in Ontario, Canada which is the most important and renowned College in agriculture in that country.
Developing countries in Latin America, Africa, Asia or Africa, have also developed their own structure for extension programs. Their experiences differ from western developed countries because these countries have different levels of development. Extension programs exist to transfer agricultural technology to the farmers and help them grow and establish techniques and innovations.
Agricultural Extension in Pakistan
In countries like Pakistan, agriculture has a major role in its society; more than 50% of their population lives in rural areas and it sustains more than 70% of them. Its economy is highly dependent from agriculture and therefore private and public sectors make significant efforts to support it. In similar situation are countries in Africa and Asia, although their economies have different levels of dependence from agriculture, as well as different local and social conditions. Universities have come to help solving that situation by offering extension programs related to agriculture, which offer an excellent source of training for the citizens. Some of the most relevant universities offering extension programs in these areas are:
- University of Agriculture, Faisalabad, Pakistan: located in Faisalabad, Punjab, and established in 1906, it has 11 faculties dedicated to agriculture in different related fields. In addition, the Institute of Agricultural Extension and Rural Development is a branch of it and offers agricultural extension and distance education programs.
- Arid Agriculture University Rawalpindi, Pakistan: Established in 1994, its Extension Department started to function since 2003. Its major curriculum is mostly oriented to agriculture, but in the last year it has included other programs such as Journalism or Administration.
- University of Nigeria: located in Nigeria, Africa and its Extension Department functions since 1965. It took until 1981 to get fully organized and be able to offer better agriculture programs.
Besides all the above, universities in developing countries are also having an important progress in extension programs as long distance education. In many of those countries, it has become the perfect alternative to solve problems related to transportation and necessary mobility to access universities. Virtual education has increased its presence among those countries. It is possible to conclude that around the world it has become a tendency to include extension programs, either in agricultural or other fields, in university curricula.