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 Iran is a West Asian country with a unique location linking it geographically to western, central and southern Asia. The Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman border Iran in the south and the Caspian Sea in the north. Iran’s capital is Tehran. The population of this oil- and natural gas-rich country was about 75 million in 2011.  Iran is divided into 31 provinces, which are further divided into counties, and sub-divided into districts and sub-districts. The country’s terrain is mountainous. The northern part has rain forests while the eastern part is covered by a large desert and a few salt lakes. Coastline areas of the Caspian Sea, the Persian Gulf, the Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf of Oman constitute plains. The climate of Iran is mostly arid or semi-arid, with tropical climate dominant along the Caspian coast and the rain forests in the north. Winters are bitter in the western areas with heavy snowfall on higher altitudes.

The agriculture sector contributes 10 percent to the national GDP and employs about 30 percent of the population. Wheat crop covers more than half of the cultivable land. Rice and barley are also grown as major crops. Other crops, including vegetables and fruits, are cotton, sugarcane, sugar beets, tea, tobacco, potatoes, dates, figs, pistachios, walnuts and almonds. Among livestock, sheep are most popular, with other animals being goats, cattle, donkeys, horses and water buffalo. Fishery is concentrated mainly along the Caspian coast, while shrimp farming is done in salty marshes of the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman.

Most farms are smaller than 10 hectares. Agricultural development is constrained by water scarcity due to low rainfall and poor irrigation system, as well as the lack of public and private investment, land tenure disputes, traditional cultivation practices, and excessive use of chemical fertilizers, plus two-third of the arable land is not under cultivation.


The philosophy of extension was introduced to Iran in 1953 through the U.S. Point4 Program. Prior to that, there was little communication between researchers and farmers as is evident from the fact that although the Shahpasand wheat variety was released in 1930 but it only reached farmers  in 1954, when extension agents started demonstrating its high yield trait.

Extension and Development Corps: In 1964, the Imperial Government presented a bill for the establishment of “Extension and Development Corps (EDCs)” on military lines. EDCs were to draw human resources from various categories of high school and university graduates in the fields of agriculture, architecture, economics, poly-technical arts, mechanization, electric and civil engineering, physics, civics, social sciences, and veterinary. Each corpsman was required to spend a total of 18 months in service including a four-month training course and 14 months of residential service in rural districts. University graduates were given the rank of second lieutenant while the high school graduates were given the rank of sergeants even though called “technicians”.

The first four-month training course for the EDCs started on April 1, 1964 at the Academy of Military Sciences. All relevant ministries were involved in this training. Necessary equipment such as sprayers with chemicals, vehicles, extension kits, agricultural inputs including improved seed, and printed extension materials were provided to each corpsman, to cover farming, livestock and horticultural activities. EDCs interventions resulted in the use of 90,000 tons of fertilizer by farmers in 1965, and a fast increase in the number of farmers’ applications for soil tests. In mid-1960s, the extension organization performed three major activities: agricultural extension, home economics, and rural youth.

In 1967, the organizational set-up of the EDCs consisted of a central supervisory office, located in the Central Extension Organization in Tehran; provincial supervisory offices; supervisory links or teams; and general project operation teams functioning at village level. Rural Youth Clubs were formed as each corpsman was required to organize at least one such club, previously known as 4-D clubs, an idea adopted from the USA 4-H Clubs. Mobile Fertilizer Extension Units were also put into operation. Each unit comprised two university graduates in agriculture, a vehicle, and some fertilizer to be used in demonstrations. The unit staff travelled in rural areas to demonstrate the use of fertilizers and discussed fertilizer-related issues with the farmers.

The home economics program that was established in 1957, as a part of general extension program, developed a holistic family approach that covered men, women and youth. The aim was to develop capacities of the families to enable them to improve their standard of living.

Post-1979 Extension Revolution: As the eight-year war raged with Iraq, the Extension Development Corps and Rural Youth Clubs were disbanded. Public extension work continued along with the delivery of agricultural inputs to the farmers. Agricultural Service Centers were established at the county level. While the Ministry of Agriculture retained responsibility for extension, a new institution called Jihad-e-Sazandegi was created to alleviate rural poverty, and later upgraded to the ministry level. Rural libraries, youth centers, festivals, rural theatres, and agricultural and non-agricultural training courses were organized for farm families. The top down planning of extension programs continued.

Andrea Bohn,
11/1/2011 15:45