The social structure of the agricultural extension services in the Western province of Kenya
Leonard, David K.
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Agricultural extension visits in Western Province are heavily skewed in favour of progressive farmers and are infrequently paid to the non-innovative majority. This pattern is certainly undesirable in terms of income distribution but it also probably does not maximum the possibilities for economic growth in agriculture. In a Tanzania study, Thoden van Volzen argues that a similar distribution of government services is caused by the fact agricultural extension officials are part of an isolated, cohesive, social elite and that this involves them in a social class alliance and exchange of benefits with the richer farmers. Data from Western Province confirm that the senior agricultural staff are part of an isolated, relatively cohesive elite group. The junior staff, who are in direct contact with farmers, form groups distinct from their seniors, however, are local in their orientation, are part of the middle, not the upper, rural elite, and are not very cohesive. Furthermore, neither their middle elite social status nor any private exchange of benefits account for their stress on work with progressive farmers. Instead, it seems more likely that the progressive farmer bias is caused by a combination of factors, including extension ideology, the psychological response to receptivity and distorted perceptions of the rural reality.