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East Asia

The Asian region, which covers some 46 countries, has been organized for the purpose of this WWES study of sub-regions into five sub-regions, namely: Central, East, South East, South, and West Asia.  The following summary covers East Asian Countries.

1.         Introduction to the East Asian Sub-region

The East Asian sub-region covers China (PRC, People’s Republic of China), Japan, North Korea (DPRK, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea), South Korea (Republic of Korea), Mongolia, and Taiwan. The agricultural extension arrangements in East Asian countries differ significantly. Well-established extension infrastructure exists in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and China (Sulaiman and Hall 2006). Various approaches in China include contractual and other privatization extension approaches.  Participatory extension in Japan, the National Agricultural Extension Center in Mongolia, and the highly successful pluralistic extension systems in South Korea and Taiwan are indicative of the diversity in agricultural extension and rural advisory services in East Asia.

2.         Specific Countries

China. China’s growth in the production of fruits and vegetables (26% annually) and meat products (20% annually) from 1979 to 2007 is largely attributed to the number of extension workers and the decentralized and more market driven characteristics of its extension system (Swanson and Rajalahti 2010). China has been particularly effective in making its public extension system more market driven (Swanson 2006; Li 2008) and maintains the largest number of agricultural extension workers in the world.  In a World Bank report (Swanson and Rajalahti 2010), it was estimated that there may in fact be over one million trained extension staff—including about 370,000 trained staff in crops extension, 375,000 in livestock extension, 40,000 in fisheries extension, 175,000 in agricultural (economic) management, and according to Li (2008) about 180,000 in farm mechanization. An additional one million farmer technicians (FTs) at the village level work half-time in providing advisory services to other farmers in their respective communities (Swanson and Rajalahti 2010). The World Bank Investment Sourcebook, Module III ‘Investments in Agricultural Extension and Information Services’ (2006) determines that there are 371,350 extension workers in crop-related extension and a comparable number in livestock extension.

Extension in China operates through specialized farm households, farmer associations, and farmer technicians. The structure of China’s agro-technical extension system or ATEC (Agro-Technical Extension Center) system involves five administrative levels: the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA), the provincial department of agriculture, the municipal department of agriculture, the county department of agriculture, and the township department of agriculture (Swanson, Chuang and Yan 2003). In addition, there are the FTs who operate at the village level. These FTs are not regular extension staff, but farmers with technical agricultural experience who provide advice to their neighbors (Swanson, Chuang and Yan 2003). Extension workers at the Township Agro-Technical Extension Stations (TATES)  organize, coordinate and support village-level farmers and work through demonstration and specialized farm households (SFHs). Above the township level are County Agro-Technical Extension Centers (CATECs), which develop grass-roots extension. There is one CATEC in each of China’s 2,300 counties (World Bank 2001). In 1993, the MOA and the PRC gave formal authority and funding responsibility for all extension activities to the county and township governments through passage of the ‘Law of People’s Republic of China on the Agricultural Techniques Extension’ (Swanson and Rajalahti 2010). China’s public extension system is thus a fully decentralized extension system.

Since the 1990s, SFHs have organized into farmer associations (FAs) to solve input supply, technical and/or marketing problems. In 2001, there were an estimated 100,000 FAs organized across China (FECC 2001, Swanson, Chuang and Yan 2003). A more current estimate shows there are 110,000 registered rural producer organizations and another 40,000 informal farmer groups (Li 2008 Table 3.1-B, Swanson and Rajalahti 2010). Under the World Bank’s Agricultural Support Services Project (ASSP), implemented between 1992 and 2001, over 13,000 FAs were organized into 55 project counties.

Current initiatives by the Chinese government promote a more demand-driven inclusive public agricultural extension system. Previous reforms to commercialize the public agricultural extension system left an unresolved need to meet farmers’ demand for diversified extension services, especially that of small-scale farmers. In 2005, China introduced a public agricultural extension services reform program called the ‘INC initiative’, in Pengzhou city (Sichuan province) and in Wuchuan County (Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region) (Hu et al. 2010). The program was designed and implemented by the Center for Chinese Agricultural Policy of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the National Agricultural Technology Extension Service Center of the MOA, and the China–Canada Small Farmers Adapting to Global Markets Project, funded by the Canadian International Development Agency. The reform program was designed to encourage a more inclusive and proactive role in addressing farmers’ technology and marketing information needs (Hu et al. 2006; Chen and Shi 2008, Hu et al. 2010).

Under the INC initiative reform program, selected technicians or RAs (responsible agents) were responsible for providing a wide range of extension services to farmers any time they were called. The program included various approaches to identify farmers’ needs and an accountability system consisting of a monitoring and evaluation component. Each RA was assessed based on availability, acceptance (whether farmers accepted a service from the RA), and adoption (whether farmers adopted technologies provided by the RA), which made them eligible for a yearly bonus. Initial success of the pilot program led to further application of the model with few modifications by both the Pengzhou government and the MOA. In 2006 and 2007, MOA introduced a similar initiative to 25 counties in 25 provinces; by 2009, more than 300 counties were implementing the reform (Hu et al. 2010). Inclusive reform initiatives have significantly improved farmers’ access to and acceptance of agricultural extension services as well as the adoption of new technologies (Hu et al. 2010).

China’s ATEC system has experimented with various approaches to financing extension: contract extension, private extension, and commercialized agricultural services (Swanson, Chuang and Yan 2003). The Prescription and Filling the Prescription approach where farmers get one-on-one consultations and advice from a trained technician and then the cost of this ‘advisory service’ is financed from the sale of production inputs, has been widely adopted by TATES and CACTECs throughout the country (Swanson, Chuang and Yan 2003).

Apart from public extension, China also has private-led extension. The provision of extension by private companies to farmers growing crops under contract is gaining importance (Sulaiman and Hall 2006). Private companies provide farmers with relevant technologies, training and information under contract farming arrangement (Sulaiman and Hall 2006). Privatization in China does not necessarily mean substituting private sector for public extension services, but rather aims at reduction in the role of the public sector and concentration on an enhanced role of private initiatives in agricultural extension services. The rationale is that privatization increases the accountability of the extension worker (Sadighi 2004; Rohana and Bandara 2006).

The demand for agricultural information in China is complex for various reasons. Different sectors (industries, enterprises, cooperative organizations, and farmers) all have different demands for agricultural information.  In addition, agricultural information channels are diversified due to regional differences.  Different regions explore distinct agricultural information services according to their particular situations.  In sum, agricultural information services involve all subsystems of agriculture and there is wide use of information technology which makes agricultural information no longer an isolated concept distinct from production. (Gao and Li 2006).

Japan. Agricultural extension plays a vital role in agricultural and rural development in Japan. Agricultural extension services are traditionally regarded as a bridge between research laboratories and farmers, and participatory extension methods are a traditional aspect of extension in Japan. Extension activities according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, consist of providing both technical cultivation guidance and management guidance, and currently: (1) support key farmers and young up-and-coming farmers, (b) develop production areas, (c) promote environmentally friendly farming, (d) help produce safe products, and (e) support rural communities and lives (Fukuda 2012). Extension services are provided at the prefecture level and also by the Local Network system, as well as by farmers’ organizations and a national extension information network (EI-NET).

Characterized by a bottom-up approach, the Japanese research-extension system works primarily at the prefecture-level (Agbamu 2000). The system links subject-matter specialists, technical committees, joint study meetings, and staff in the prefecture research and extension organizations (Agbamu 2000). In 2005, a revised Agricultural Improvement Promotion Law made all subject-matter specialists extension advisors (Fukuda 2012). Extension advisors operate as intermediaries and catalysts, and are the key links between farmers and the relevant agencies in providing personalized and need-based information for decision making by all parties concerned (Zakaria and Nagata 2010).


An increasing concern for Japan’s agricultural sector is the number of aging farmers. Some 60 percent of farmers in Japan are over 65 years old and it is projected that in 10 years the number of farmers will drop sharply (Fukuda 2012). On the other hand, there is an increasing number of private companies entering the agricultural sector.  As a result, the role of public sector extension advisors has shifted to being that of facilitators to stakeholders including buyers, Japanese Agricultural Cooperatives (JA) and retailers of agricultural materials (Fukuda 2012). Farming guidance services are considered to be the primary services of JAs and consist primarily of management guidance and production techniques (Koyama and Kobayashi 2007). At the same time, however, the number of JA extension agents has also been decreasing (Fukuda 2012).

Japan’s Cooperative Extension Service provides farmers advice free of charge and assists them and farmer’ groups on a range of activities, including: disease control, soil diagnosis, and improving financial situations of individual farms. The diffusion of innovations and support for farmers’ problem solving are important components in Japan’s agricultural extension system (Fukuda 2005). Both the central government and prefecture governments share the agricultural extension budget, 6% and 94%, respectively. In 2011, there were approximately 7,645 extension personnel working in 369 extension centers across Japan compared to 10,000 extension workers reported in 1998 (Yamada 1998, Fukuda 2012). The number of extension workers, according to Fukuda (2012), has drastically dropped because of the difficult financial situations in both the central and prefecture governments. The price of agricultural products has been falling and at the same time the cost of agricultural materials has been rising; and this situation has resulted in marketing being introduced into the services conducted by advisors to improve farm management (Kukuda 2012).  Also as a consequence of the reduction of extension workers, the provision of extension information activities through the use of computers has become more important for promoting extension activities.

The Local Network system operates at both the prefecture and extension center levels and provides information to researchers, farmers, agricultural cooperatives, and municipalities. This system provides farmers with specific cultivation information and allows them to communicate with extension advisors and other farmers in other prefectures through nationwide forums. In 2005, there were approximately 4,000 farmers participating in the Local Network system (Fukuda 2005).

Besides the Local Network system, most prefecture government and extension center homepages provide information to farmers and consumers. These homepages supply technical information such as cultivation techniques, use of chemicals, and weather information to farmers as well as information to consumers on extension, home economics and other interests. An increasing number of farmers have created their own homepages to make their farms’ cultivation practices more transparent to consumers and to directly communicate with them (Fukuda 2005). Most farmers also belong to farmer or producer organizations and there are some 95 Farmer Organizations that have a role in Farmer-to-farmer extension activities (WWES 2011).

Extension agents can also access agricultural extension information through the national Extension Information Network or EI-NET (Fukuda 2005). Information for the EI-NET is gathered by the Japan Agricultural Development and Extension Association (JADEA), which collects Case Information of Extension Activities (CIEA) from extension advisors through prefecture governments once a year. The CIEA, which includes information on methods, technologies developed by farmers, and information on research findings, is collected, then published and delivered to prefecture governments and extension centers. Since 2000, the CIEA has been available to extension advisors through an Internet version of the EI-NET. 

North Korea. Agriculture in North Korea emphasizes the Juche or self-reliance philosophy and follows the principle of growing crops according to a proper time and in proper soil (Kim 1999). North Korea’s agricultural extension system traditionally centers on a top-down approach for the transfer of technology: improved farming technology, new crop varieties, advanced farm machinery and chemical fertilizers (Kim 1999)

The Academy of Agricultural Sciences and the Ministry of Agriculture’s Central Plant Protection Center are responsible for integrated pest management (IPM) extension in North Korea, which is separate from general extension (International Plant Protection Convention, IPPC 2006). In 2006, the IPPC reported about 2,000 field/extension agents for pest management advice, 150 field/extension agents trained in IPM/Farmer Field School facilitation, and 2000 plant protection technical officers designated to extension. North Korea also has a specific Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) extension program for all of its crops.

In the late 1990’s North Korea began to transition from chemical farming to organic farming to prevent further acidification of its soils. It began promoting crop diversification to replace its formally prevalent maize- and rice- based cropping system that depended on very few varieties and hybrids and extremely high-density planting (Kim 1999). To improve soil fertility and increase production levels, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)—the only international financial institution lending to North Korea—implemented the Uplands Food Security Project. The project, which was executed from 2001 until 2008, was co-financed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the World Food Program, the United Nations Development Program and the Italian NGO, Cooperazione e Sviluppo Italiana. The goal of the project was to promote balanced, sustainable and replicable cropping systems and environmental management on 46 cooperative farms in upland areas of the North Korea. An interim report of the project shows that the DPRK government has agreed to subsequent technical assistance provided by national and international rural development partners with a grant from IFAD for the introduction of fodder crops in crop rotations, intercropping, conservation farming practices, and other activities (IFAD 2009).

South Korea. South Korea has a pluralistic extension system in which farmer associations are equal partners in extension. The PRK agricultural extension system went through a process of devolution in 1997 and since then has been providing extension services developed according to local situations. Before the decentralization, agricultural extension workers focused on disseminating research information on advanced technologies from the Rural Development Administration (RDA) through the city/county extension centers (CEC) nationwide (Cho and Yang 2006).

Agricultural extension services in South Korea have the following missions: improving rice and fruit quality, promoting environmentally friendly farming practices, improving the health and diet of aging rural community populations, recycling livestock excrements and preventing livestock diseases, training specialized farmers, and localizing extension activities (Cho and Yang 2006). Organizations providing extension services include the RDA, Provincial RDA (PRDA), city/county extension centers, and farmers’ counseling offices (FCO). The FCO are controlled by the local CEC and ‘quickly’ provide agricultural technology to farmers (Cho and Yang 2006:72).

The RDA, which is the NARS (National Agricultural Research System) in South Korea, plays a significant role in the industrialization and modernization of the Korean economy through the development and transfer of agricultural technologies and though implementation of rural development programs in rural communities. The Extension Services Bureau of the RDA consists of an Extension Planning Division, a Research and Development (R&D) Extension Division, a Rural Resources Division, a Capacity Building Division and a Disaster Management Division. The RDA conducts research and provides extension services to improve farm management and develop marketing strategies to enhance the value-addition of agricultural products (RDA 2010). It also supports the specialization of local agriculture: in 2009, there were 12 types of specialization projects operating in 51 cities and counties (RDA 2010). The RDA’s capacity building efforts include training field-technology experts and providing long-term education to farmers through the Farmers' College (RDA 2010). In addition, networks with farmers' associations and study groups have enhanced farmers’ competitiveness and increased their income (RDA 2010).

For the Extension Services Bureau of the RDA, the WWES (2011) reports 4,584 field extension staff in 2009 and 4,083 in 2010 (WWES 2011). The number of field extension staff in 2010 at the local level, which can be thought as mapping to the CEC level, is 4,041 (41% are female); at the central level, the total is 42 field extension staff (33% are female). In 2010, there were also a total of 329 (10% female) Subject Matter Specialists (SMS) and 172 senior management staff (6% are female) with 89% SMS and 95% senior management staff at the local level. The majority of staff had a B.Sc. degree in 2010: approximately 68% of the total field extension staff and 44% of the total SMS and senior management staff.  Cho and Yang (2006) report that while 6,842 extension officials worked in agricultural extension before the decentralization, the number decreased to 4,906 or one per 280 farm households in 2005. That is, 71 extension officials in the RDA, 241 in the nine PRDA and 4,594 in the 160 CEC for a total of 4,906 extension officials. They also report one extension official in every FCO, which numbered 625 in 2005 (Cho and Yang 2006).

To address the increasing complex farming issues (e.g. insects, diseases, growth disorders of agricultural commodities), the RDA has a group of experts or ‘Green Technology Field Supporters’ that visit and solve most of the problems in the farmer’s field (RDA 2010). RDA also has a hot-line service for farmers and operates a Client Support Center that handles online, mail, and off-line civil calls for support (RDA 2010). RDA also supports the South Korean government’s agricultural machinery rental service for farmers by publishing guidelines and other information and providing rental management software. RDA’s Soil Information System provides information on the best cultivation site, soil chemical properties and other information to help farmers choose the best crops for their soil and use the adequate amount of fertilizer and water. As of this writing, it was not possible to access the system’s website (

The impact of ICT on agricultural development has proven highly successful in South Korea, especially regarding its benefit to small farmers. The RDA runs a farm management and information service on its web site; it maintains a database of agricultural technology and provides it though the web site ( The web site also offers Question/Answer and FAQ services for interested farmers. Approximately 100,000 visitors make use of this service every month. Technical problems raised by the farmers are rapidly resolved through voluntary participation of researchers and scientists. (Singh 2006).  RDA also provides ‘short message services’ through cellular telephones for market prices of agricultural commodities. These cater to a range of clients from farmers to market intermediaries. 

The Director of Technology Information, who reports to the Director General of Farm Management and Information Bureau of RDA, administers the Agricultural Information Service (AIS) (Singh 2006). The AIS disseminates information on newly developed technologies and efficient farm management practices through mass media such as Internet, radio, television, newspapers, and magazines (Singh 2006). The AIS has integrated all national institutes into a high-speed network, whose system provides e-mail consultations, Short Message Services and crop-wise virtual meeting rooms. In 2006, the system had registered 35,000 farmers and 8,000 researchers or extension workers (Singh 2006). Databases of agricultural technology information are also available via a special homepage, which receives more than 100,000 visitors per month (Singh 2006). Researchers participate voluntarily in answering the questions delivered through the Internet. Farm management Internet-based courses are also available to farmers and extension agents; 1,000 farmers or extension workers take the course annually (Singh 2006).

Mongolia. In 1996 the Government established the National Agricultural Extension Center (NAEC) under the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, with the main objectives to: (a) provide technical and business advice to food producers, herders, crop producers, and assist them through advice on farm business management; and (b) provide regular updated and new information to producers (Jamtsaa 2006). The NAEC operates at three levels: national, aimag (province), and soum (local) levels. It also has various programs and project in cooperation with different international entities, including the Asian Development Bank, the United Nations Development Programme, the Food and Agriculture Organization, the Danish Development Agency, the Technical Assistance to the Common wealth of Independent States, and the Joint Christian Service.

Headquartered in Ulan Bator, the NAEC has 10 staff members at the headquarter-level, 50 researchers working voluntarily as part time extension workers in different areas of the agriculture sector, and one formal extension worker and an advisory group with 6-to-7 part time advisors at the aimag office level (Jamtsaa 2006). There are also over 120 non-official extension agents throughout the country. Since it was established, some 54,701 food and crop producers and herders, and 809 entities have attended NAEC’s 449 trainings and workshops. These include regional trainings on animal husbandry and crop production for agricultural producers of aimags and soums. NAEC has also provided technical advice to 13,481 producers and has developed and disseminated a number of information and handouts, books, and leaflets for herdsmen and crop producers. Additionally, NAEC has organized distance-learning trainings for agricultural producers by Mongolian National Television and Radio: 14 TV program and 83 radio programs. In order to transfer and to advertise advanced and traditional/folk technologies to producers, NAEC has also organized field demonstrations, exhibitions, and study tours.

In Mongolia, there is lack of infrastructure and technical capacity to provide agricultural producers with training, as well as new information and regular advice (Jamtsaa 2006). Progressive agricultural producers are eager for more information on market economy conditions and demand more training to improve their existing knowledge and skills (Jamtsaa 2006). However, the lack of trained and experienced manpower, distant location of farming communities, preponderance of nomadic agriculture, and lack of basic infrastructure all make it difficult to enhance the agricultural extension system in Mongolia (Jamtsaa 2006).

Taiwan.  Taiwan has a pluralistic system in which the both the public sector and farmers’ associations (FAs) play an equal role. The agricultural extension system in Taiwan is an example of a successful publicly organized extension system that links together government, FAs, farmers and academia. Due to the county’s small size and its population of small farmers, emphasis is on providing technology and informational services to small farmers. Indeed, Huang and Lin (2010) state that the major players in agriculture in Taiwan are small family farmers and that the FAs, fishermens’ associations, and irrigation associations form the major farming related social community for the farmers.

Three levels of FAs (i.e. provincial, county/city, town/township) in cooperation with the District Agricultural Improvement Stations (DAISs) and extension professors of colleges of agriculture carry out extension work (Chiu 2003). Extension work is also done under the supervision and guidance at different levels of government. According to an organizational chart in Chiu (2003), Taiwan’s agricultural extension system is organized as follows. At the national level the Council of Agriculture (COA) is responsible for agricultural development in the country. The COA oversees the Agricultural Bureau of the county/city government and the district agricultural research and extension stations. The district agricultural research and extension stations assist both the county/city farmers’ associations and the town/township farmers’ associations. At the town/township level the Division of Agricultural Extension initiates and plans agricultural extension education programs (Chiu 2003). The Division of Agricultural Extension has agricultural advisors, home economics advisors, and 4H advisors.  The COA works in cooperation with the Ministry of Education and oversees the extension professors of the colleges of agriculture. These professors assist both the county/city farmers’ associations and the town/township associations. In 2009, the Agriculture Bureau in Taipei County maintained 16 extension workers (WWES 2011).

Colleges of agriculture and the seven DAISs provide technical support and assistance to county FAs and township FAs (Chiu 2003). Both DAISs and Agricultural Experiment institutes act as extension agents for the FAs (Chiu 2003). Each township FA provides extension services to its members in the particular township (Chiu 2003). Services include providing practical methods and results, demonstrations, and technical advice delivered through group meetings. Extension services are funded by the central, provincial, and county governments and from previous year’s FA net profits (Chiu 2003). Other NGOs providing extension services include the National Training Institute for Farmers Organization and the Taiwan Agricultural Extension Association.

3. Trends

The agricultural extension systems in East Asian countries differ significantly, with a trend toward pluralistic agricultural extension systems. There is considerable diversity between and among the countries in East Asia. China is fully decentralized and is promoting privatization of extension workers; Japan continues to provide participatory extension services, but remains public sector dominant; Mongolia’s system also indicates a participatory extension approach.  Highly successful public sector research and extension systems operate in South Korea and Taiwan.

Of particular note is the large number of extension workers in China, not counting the additional one million farmer technicians who operate at the village level and work half-time in providing advisory services to other farmers in their respective communities. Also of note is the rapid development and strong impact of ICT in Japan and South Korea.  For example, Japan has ICT staff of 800 in computer-based information technology, all with100% Internet access.  As prices have been falling in Japan with regard to agricultural products, material costs have been rising, thus making ICT increasingly important for disseminating agricultural information.  Farmer organizations are also strong in Japan; most belong to farmer or producer organizations and there are some 95 farmer organizations that have a role in Farmer-to-farmer extension activities.

4. Summary

Diversity is the operative term in defining East Asia’s approaches toward agricultural extension system development.  In all cases however the orientation of these diverse arrangements is toward promoting farmers participation. Increasingly extension approaches in East Asia include some privatization.  China has privatized some of its services through extension/farmer contractual arrangements; Japan promotes highly participatory extension services; the National Agricultural Extension Center in Mongolia and the highly successful public sector research and extension systems in South Korea and Taiwan are indicative of the variation in agricultural extension and RAS services in East Asia. ICT are increasingly significant with respect to the diffusion of agricultural extension and development.  Nonetheless, East Asian countries (notably China but also Japan, South Korea and North Korea) maintain large numbers of extension agents.


References and Resources

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