The Department of Extension Education at the University of Kiev, Ukraine, celebrated its 10 year anniversary with the seminar "Innovative Processes in Extension: Problems and Prospects". I had the honor to be one of the international experts invited by department head Professor Tetyana Kalna-Dubinyuk, along with colleagues from Italy, Russia, and Turkey.

 

In presentations from Ukraine and Russia the classic image was propagated of knowledgeable extension workers and advisors. They know what the farmer/entrepreneur will know later on, after a job well done. It did not really surprise me, I must say.

 

I told the story of the changing role of agricultural extension (later, agricultural advice) in the Netherlands during the post-war period. An important part of my PhD  was dedicated to this, including misapprehension about the underlying paradigms which created a lot of confusion over the course of time.

 

This is still an important theme in my work:

Knowledge - what is it really?

For the extension worker, it seems to be "the best way, as validated by the science ". For the modern agricultural adviser, knowledge is a product with which he earns his money.

 

If the farmer is a client, and the scientist is a producer, then the adviser is in fact a kind of salesman.

I have been educated in the communications theory that knowledge is between the ears and cannot be transferred as such. If you have something to do with each other, then you need to take each other's knowledge seriously.

 

 

Relevant knowledge about farming practices emerges from a collective learning process: It's not just the farmer who is learning, but also the advisor, and hopefully the researcher too.

After the market paradigm has been dominant for quite some time in the Netherlands, now the interest in collective learning processes is somewhat back. This can be seen for example in the renewed interest in networks for innovation, which has increased considerably since the successful experiment "Networks in Livestock Farming" (2004-2007).

 

It is hard to say how my story was received at the seminar. The volunteer translator often had difficulty searching for the appropriate terms in Russian, which made my half hour slot very short. Nonetheless, it was very pleasant to be part of a small group of special guests, shown around in Kiev by Tetyana, energetic as ever, and her equally enthusiastic and curious students.

 

Articles:

Wielinga, H.E., (2011): Shifting Roles of Extension. Contribution to the conference “Innovative Processes in Extension: Problems and Prospects", celebrating the 10th anniversary of the department of Extension Education at the University of Kiev, Ukraine. October 2011.