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Farmers with a new breed of small ruminants 
©Burton Swanson


Around the late 19th century, when Indonesia was a Dutch colony, an agricultural school was started at Buitenzorg, near the Botanical Garden in Bogor, West Java. The school and the garden became centers of research where demonstration plots of rice and some commercial crops were established. In 1905, certain research centers and the garden were merged in order to create the Agriculture Department, which started delivering extension services. In 1911, this department was re-structured to establish the Agriculture, Industry and Trade Department. The Landbouw Voorlichtings Dients (LVD), that is Agricultural Extension Service, was integrated in the new department as one of the branches responsible for transferring improved technologies to the farmers. These technologies were generated by the Algemeene Proefsation voor den Landbouw (APL), i.e. Agricultural Research Center. Improved technologies, especially related to estate crops, were demonstrated to encourage farmers to adopt them voluntarily, without any pressure. The extension responsibility was mostly delegated to the local or provincial governments.

The 1940’s saw the gradual shifting of the focus from estate crops to food crops, mainly rice. During the Japanese occupation (1942 to 1945) and for two decades after Indonesia won independence in 1945, the voluntary adoption emphasis was replaced by compulsory adoption of recommended technologies by the farmers. The Agricultural Civil Service staff implemented the government policy on promoting food security through rice production more like a regulation than following the extension philosophy.

In the early 1960s, the Bogor Agricultural Institute and the University of Gadjah Mada established demonstration plots for introducing the five-input program (Panca Usaha) for rice showing excellent results.  During mid-1960s, the extension service promoted rice production technology through a mass demonstration approach (termed as the DENAS system), which brought the Green Revolution to Indonesia.

Starting 1966, a program for the strengthening of agricultural extension was included in the government’s five-year development plan. Under the program, various extension approaches were tried, interaction with the farmers’ groups was increased, additional field extension workers were recruited, and the Rural Extension Centers (Balai Penyuluhan Pertanian or BPP) were rehabilitated at local level. During that period, the Ministry of Agriculture comprised four technical directorates general, one each for food crops, livestock, estate crops, and fisheries, with all of them having their own extension sections. Extension services implemented a rice intensification-focused program under a mass guidance approach called BIMAS (Bimbingan Massal). Several agencies were created such as Agency for Mass Guidance, Agency for Agricultural Research and Development, and Agency for Agricultural Education and Training, which also had an Agricultural Information Center for the purposes of training the extension staff and production of extension material. During this era, the World Bank financed the National Food Crops Extension Project followed by the National Agricultural Extension Project; both projects followed the Training and Visit (T&V) system. Although the country became self-sufficient in rice, the practice of excessive application of chemical fertilizers and pesticides created major environment problems including the demise of a population of spiders which normally fed on the brown plant hopper thus upsetting the natural balance.

During the mid-1980s, a serious outbreak of brown plant hopper damaged rice crops, which forced the government to adopt the Integrated Pest Management (IPM) modality. The emphasis on biological control of pests severely cut down imports of chemical inputs. The IPM was applied mainly through the Farmer Field School (FFS) approach, which encouraged the participation of farmers in decision making regarding the pest control. However, as the T&V system was found to be unsustainable due to its top-down, structured nature, and heavy additional staff requirements, the FFS was also considered as unsustainable mainly due to its high costs.

The year 2001 brought the current decentralization in Indonesia under which the responsibility and funding of various services, including extension, was transferred to the district governments and to some extent to the provincial governments. Upon decentralization, extension services were seriously marginalized due to political interference by elected officials of the Local Government, lack of recognition of extension’s importance, and low operational funding. A large number of rural extension centers and extension training centers were closed. The extension workers were extremely frustrated and demoralized. The development of extension achieved over three decades was lost to a great extent.

During 1990s, under the World Bank-financed Agricultural Research Management Projects I and II (ARM I and II), Agricultural Technology Assessment Institutes (BPTP) were established in a number of provinces which carried out combined functions of research and extension, and also involved private sector and civil society institutions in their activities. When the ARM II project ended around 2005, the Asian Development Bank continued the assistance through another project to establish the BPTPs in the remaining provinces. The World Bank also financed two more projects: one, the Decentralized Agricultural and Forestry Extension Project (DAFEP) started in 1999 and now completed, and the other the Farmer Empowerment through Agricultural Technology and Information Project (FEATI), built on the achievements of DAFEP, which started in 2007. FEATI is covering 198 provinces comprising 68 districts and 3080 villages, with total budget of $123 million, and comprises five components:  (i) Strengthening farmer-driven extension; (ii) Institutional strengthening and capacity building; (iii) Enhancing technology assessment; (iv) Dissemination, including the provision of knowledge and information services; (v) Extension policy and project management support.

Andrea Bohn,
12/5/2011 14:12