9. Facilitators of Rural Transformation and Development: The Role of Agricultural Extension Officers in Two Districts of Long An Province

From: Beyond Hanoi

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Facilitators of Rural Transformation and Development 229© 2004 Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore 9 Facilitators of Rural Transformation and Development: The Role of Agricultural Extension Officers in Two Districts of Long An Province Natalie Hicks Like Thomas Sikor’s contribution in this volume, this chapter stresses the positive influence of district level government on rural people’s lives. I focus particularly on district agricultural extension officers and their disparate approaches to promoting agricultural development in the two districts of Ben Luc and Duc Hoa (see Map 1). Beyond transferring agricultural information and technology, district extension officers in these two districts have been able to adopt informal strategies that have significantly altered the social and agricultural patterns in their constituencies. I begin by describing the localized nature of agricultural extension in Long An and then outline the goals and functions of the district extension officers. I propose that during the dynamic reform period of the 1990s extension agents played a valuable role and helped fill the power vacuum that Pham Quang Minh’s chapter says has existed in rural Vietnam Reproduced from Beyond Hanoi: Local Government in Vietnam, edited by Benedict J Tria Kerkvliet and David G Marr (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2004). This version was obtained electronically direct from the publisher on condition that copyright is not infringed. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the prior permission of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. Individual articles are available at 230 Natalie Hicks© 2004 Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore Source: UNDP, Ha Noi. Vinh Hung district has now been divided into two districts, Vinh Hung and Tan Hung. MAP 1 The Districts Comprising Long An Province since the retreat of collectivization and central planning of agricultural production. Whilst extension officers have helped farmers devise their own agricultural strategies, they have also served as linchpins between local government and local farming communities. Extension officers are positioned at a blurred interface between society and the local state. To highlight this ambiguous position I conceptualize them as “associates of the state” rather than state actors. Next I explore the different strategies pursued by extension officers in Ben Luc and Duc Hoa, and highlight their role in promoting household farming units whilst also facilitating formal and informal cooperative groups. I conclude that extension agents have played an important but transitional part in the agricultural development of Long An, and that their future roles are uncertain. Tian Giang Dong Thap CAMBODIA Tay Ninh Long An Thanhhoa Thuthua Benluc Mochoa Tanthanh Tantru Tanan Canduoc Chauthanh Cangluoc TP. Ho Chi Min Vinh Hung Facilitators of Rural Transformation and Development 231© 2004 Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore Reinventing agricultural extension in the early 1990s The Agricultural Extension Centre (Trung tam Khuyen nong) in Tan An was established by the Long An People’s Committee in September 1991.1 Its stated duty was “to be at the cutting edge of developing the countryside today”.2 The date is significant because it preceded the establishment of a national extension service by one and a half years. Provincial extension officers in Tan An often mentioned with pride that Long An was the first province in Vietnam to create an extension service which was the end-product of local farmers’ requests for an agricultural agency that would help them to develop and diversify their household farms. Both farmers and extension agents viewed the creation of this service in Long An as a bottom-up approach to policy-making. This shared perception has created a bond of trust between farmers and extension officers and perhaps even a community stake in the service. Both the manner in which the extension service was established in Long An, and the decentralized nature of its funding and activities, mark it as a departure from the collectivization era. In her chapter, Tran Thi Thu Trang describes the period of collectivization as one in which peasants had a passive expectation that central authorities would pass production information on to farmers. That is very different from the interaction between extension agents and farmers in Long An today. Agricultural extension — a local rather than national concern Revenue assignments between central and local government are a measure, albeit a crude one, of the balance of centre–local influence on local service provision. In the case of the extension service, funding is largely the responsibility of individual provinces and districts. A UNDP Public Expenditure Review indicates that approximately 25 per cent of the provincial extension budget...


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Subject Headings

  • Local government -- Vietnam.
  • Vietnam -- Politics and government -- 20th century.
  • Decentralization in government -- Vietnam.
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