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Poland


Poland is a Central European, ex-communist country. It is a member of the European Union (EU) with a population of about 3.8 million. Poland’s capital is Warsaw. The country has several large lakes, the Baltic Sea coast in the north-west, and mountains in the southern region.  Administratively, Poland comprises 16 voivodeships (equivalent of provinces), which are divided into powiats (equivalent of counties). The powiats are sub-divided into gminas (also called as municipalities or communes). Poland enjoys a liberalized, fast growing and sound economy, and as such, is considered as a regional economic power.

The agricultural sector of Poland comprises about 2 million private farms, whose average size, according to a EU survey done in 2007, was 12.3 hectares. Poland is one of the largest producers of potatoes, rye, apples, and sugar beets in the world. Other crops include wheat, barley, oats, fodder, flax, hops, tobacco, and fruits. Following a mixed farming pattern, livestock including cattle, pigs, and poultry are also raised on the farms. Agricultural exports comprise grains, sugar, pork, processed meat, and dairy products. Farmers generally try to get supplemental income from various sources especially through hosting paid guests. Some of the main agricultural problems in Poland are: scattered pieces of individually-owned farms; soil erosion caused by earlier deforestation; acidic and sandy soils; high prices of fertilizers and pesticides; and tough competition with imported commodities and food products, faced by farmers.  Forestry is also an important economic sub-sector in Poland. 

HISTORY OF EXTENSION AND THE ENABLING ENVIRONMENT 

Agricultural Society of Hrubieszow in Poland was established in 1816, which in 1918 became Trade and Agricultural Cooperative Society. The initiation of formal extension service in Poland is reportedly tied up with the recruitment of an agricultural lecturer in 1883 who was required to annually deliver 100 to 150 lectures and make visits to about 80 farms. In 1908, five (5) agricultural instructors were employed by agricultural companies, a number that grew to 200 by 1919. In 1911, an animal breeding specialist was recruited, and in 1918, an instructor was employed to cover rural women issues. In 1918, when Poland gained independence, “social agronomy’ was the discipline under which information on improved agricultural technologies was disseminated to potential users.

During the period between the First and Second World Wars, the agricultural chambers actively provided extension services especially to agricultural cooperatives. Between 1918 and 1928, three agricultural chambers existed in the provinces of Pomerania, Greater Poland, and Silesia. By 1934, such chambers were established in all the provinces. After the Second World War, the agricultural chambers and the local extensions services were merged to form Peasant Self-help Unions. By 1967, these unions had about 5,000 agronomists, working at the municipality level.

In 1970, Regional Agricultural Research Centers (RRZD) were established, whose mandate was to develop and introduce modern agricultural methods to the farmers, and for this purpose agricultural extension service units were formed within the centers. These regional centers were transformed into provincial Centers of Agricultural Progress (WOPR). Their responsibilities were professional capacity building, and provision of extension services to farmers and state agricultural farms. In 1976, as many as 17,000 staff worked at the WOPRs.
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