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Chapter Summary

Tendler, Judith, 1997.  Frontline Workers and Agricultural Productivity, Chapter 4 in Good Governance in the Tropics. Maryland: Johns Hopkins University Press.

The chapter, drawing on the example of three farmer cooperative in Santana, Brazil, describes a set of customized and client-driven arrangements that have sprung up informally in various countries between extension agents and farmers.  The author describes how the above arrangement produced good results in terms of agricultural productivity, and suggest that though the approach is not very popular among public extension offices, it is superior to the standardized service delivery characteristic of many extension agencies.

Throughout the chapter, the author makes interesting comparisons between the performance of the public agricultural extension services and farmer-driven services.

Notable among the points raised are the following:

  • The case of the Santana cooperative dispels the assumption that extension services provided by nongovernmental entities tend to perform better. The Santana farmers performed better than other farmers, and yet the association was served by public extension services
  • The case also illustrates that switching from public sector service provision to private sector service provision does not necessarily cure the ills viewed to be inherent in the public provision.
  • Based on the accounts from the three farmers cooperatives, the author argues that public officials and their workers pursue their own private interests rather than those of the public good
  • Issues of lack of consultation by public sector need to be reviewed and examined.

However, it is not easy to change attitude of public officials in the interest of the public good.  More research is needed to find ways of changing the public officials attitude towards the issues of public and private service provisions.