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India is located in South Asia, adjoining the Indian Ocean in the south, the Bay of Bengal in the south-east and the Arabian Sea in the south-west. Due to its huge physical size and with a population of over 1.2 billion people, the country is also known as the Indian subcontinent. India is currently one of the fastest growing economic powers in the world although still faced with the problems of rapidly growing population, poverty, illiteracy and malnutrition.

India comprises 28 states and 7 union territories. Each state is divided into districts for administrative purposes. Districts are further divided into tehsils (blocks/taluks) and villages. The climate of India is tropical, subtropical, and mountainous. More humid and warm areas are in the south and the temperatures gradually fall as one goes towards northern areas. Monsoons bring rains mostly from July to September. The Himalayas Mountains and the Thar Desert have significant influence on the country’s climate.

Starting with the Green Revolution in the late 1960s, India made significant gains in its agriculture sector, successfully solving the problem of frequent famine threats, and becoming self-sufficient in feeding its growing population. The agriculture sector contributes about 18 percent to the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and employs about 50 percent of the national work force. India has both irrigated and rain-fed agriculture. Rice and wheat are its most important food and export crops, placing India as the second biggest producer of these commodities in the world. Other crops include sugarcane, vegetables, spices, coconut, oilseed, tuber crops, cotton, tea, rubber and jute. The country is among the top five largest producers of livestock and poultry. Similarly, it enjoys a fast growth in its aquaculture and “catch” fisheries. It does not mean, however, that India’s agriculture sector has been modernized. Most crop yields remain low in general, soil fertility keeps declining, irrigation infrastructure and water management are poor, dependence on increasingly unpredictable rains is high, subsistence farming is dominant due to average size of holdings being less than two hectares. Also, marketing and post-harvest handling of produce are less than satisfactory, and government interventions through subsidies and taxation are distinct. 


India was a British colony until its independence in 1947. During the colonial rule, departments of agriculture were created in 1871. Higher education in agriculture was started at Coimbatore in 1878. In 1942, “Grow More Food” campaign was launched which was continued even after the country’s independence.

In 1952, the Community Development Program (CDP) was initiated nationwide, followed by the creation of National Extension Service in 1953. Rural agents who had both extension and non-extension responsibilities worked without having any training in extension. Under the program, the country was divided into development blocks, each comprising about 100 villages having population of 60,000 to 70,000 people. By 1962, about 5,000 blocks had been covered by the program. Each village-level worker was responsible for about 10 villages covering not only technology transfer but also cooperatives, adult literacy, and sanitation. Villagers contributed to the program in cash and kind. In 1960, the first agricultural university (i.e. G.B. Pant University of Agriculture and Technology (GBPUA&T), Pantnagar, Uttar Pradesh (UP) was established, and the Directorate of Extension was created in 1966.

While the CDP continued till early 1980s, location-specific extension activities were initiated under various programs and projects such as Intensive Agricultural District Program (1960), Intensive Agricultural Area Program (1964), High Yielding Variety Program (1966), and Farmers Training Centers (1967). All of these initiatives brought the Green Revolution in India. In 1973, Mini-kit Trials Program, and in 1976 Integrated Rural Development Program (IRDP) were started.

In 1977, the Training and Visit (T&V) system of extension was introduced under a World Bank-financed project. The National Agricultural Extension Project (NAEP) was started in 1985 followed by other significant programs and projects that focusing on or emphasizing extension aspects were Watershed Development Program (1984) in rain-fed areas, Transfer of Technology, and State Agricultural Universities. The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) also launched the Technology Assessment Refinement Project-Institute Village Link Project (TARP-IVLP) in 1995.

Although all of these projects strengthened extension in their own right yet it was the “Innovation in Technology Dissemination” (ITD) component of the World Bank funded National Agricultural Technology Project (NATP), which ran from 1998-2005, made a significance difference. This project implemented the Agricultural Technology Management Agency (ATMA), a semi-autonomous agency at the district level, which reformed the traditional extension system to a very significant extent. 
Andrea Bohn,
11/3/2011 8:20