Extension’s Imagined Beneficiary and the Challenge of Practical Agricultural Pedagogies

Trent Brown

1University Of Melbourne, Carlton, Australia

Agricultural extension providers have historically assumed the beneficiaries of their interventions are primarily practicing farmers, already in possession of core agricultural skills, but lacking up-to-date knowledge of current agricultural science. Drawing on ethnographic research and interviews, this presentation will explore a program that unsettled these assumptions – an agricultural vocational training scheme introduced as part of the Government of India’s Skill India initiative and implemented partly through institutions of agricultural extension. These programs differed from traditional extension programs in that (a) training was of longer duration; and (b) there was a stronger focus on practical pedagogies. Many extensionists were convinced these programs would be of little benefit to trainees, since practicing farmers (their imagined beneficiaries) did not have time to participate and already had practical farming experience. Yet, interviews with trainees found longer-duration, practical training was not only of great interest to young people with limited prior agricultural experience, but also to older trainees with limited formal education, and those seeking to start work in an unfamiliar agricultural domain. I emphasise the need for different pedagogical approaches within extension systems to meet the needs of a more diverse set of beneficiaries, who are emerging in contexts marked by significant agrarian change.


Dr Trent Brown is DECRA Fellow in the School of Geography at the University of Melbourne. His work explores issues of agrarian change, sustainability, and rural development with a regional focus on India. His current work examines new initiatives to introduce formal agricultural vocational education in India.



The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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