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PARTICIPATORY COMMUNICATION METHOD: A TOOL FOR EFFECTIVE EXTENSION SYSTEM
Philip H, Gomathy M and Vennila MA
The most important challenge in communication is to find out ways and means to motivate the farmers in an appropriate way so as to communicate among themselves and with the extension functionaries and research scientists jointly to identify and locate their problems and needs. To meet this challenge the extension functionaries have to be trained to understand the complexities of the rural society and communication process.
In earlier days one of the important duties of extension worker was transfer of technology from the research system to the farming community and to give feed back regarding the problems faced by the farmers in adopting the technologies at field level. In recent times the role of extension functionaries has taken a different role of identifying the needs of the farming community through participatory methods and to motivate the farmers to participate in the research activities so that the scientists may develop appropriate technologies to the farmers as per their requirement. Participation of farmers can be achieved only through wholehearted participation where the farmers are given the freedom to interact with each other to identify their own needs.
Decision making will be more and more influenced by the information available and based on the careful collection and analysis of information. Since the success of extension is mainly attributed to the communication process, hence participatory communication is very much desirable. Participatory Rural Appraisal may be used as a form of participatory communication In this communication method the information , ideas and opinions flow from all the farmer participants instead of from the leader or the extension worker as in the case of other methods. The shift from top to down communication to participatory communication has already begun. Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) is a type of participatory communication to generate data from the participants by the extension worker. According to Neela (1993), PRA is a means of generating different kinds of data identifying and mobilizing intended groups and evolving their participation and also opening ways in which intended groups can participate in decision making, project design, execution, monitoring and evaluation. It provides an alternative framework for data collection In this context Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) was conducted to know the effectiveness of Farm School on All India Radio in terms of preferences of participants regarding message, content, mode of presentation, source of information from which they would prefer to hear the programme, problems faced by them and suggestions to improve the programme. For conducting the Participatory Rural Appraisal the basic particulars about the area in which PRA is to be conducted should be collected. Participatory communication is effected through Participatory Rural Appraisal technique through which data is collected, resources are located, and problems are identified to work out jointly to reach at permanent solutions. How ever there exists practical difficulties in bringing about people together to address their issues openly at a forum. It takes longer time for the extension personnel to gain the confidence of the farmers as he has to meet every one of the farmers individually rather than contacting the leader or the contact farmer as existed in the previous system. Even when the farmers are organized for a group participation the extension personnel has to play the key role of initiating the discussion towards the right direction or
else there may too many distractions leading to conflicts, there may be single person domination in expressing the views leading to wrong conclusions, there may be silent observers with out participating in the discussion. The participatory communication may be organized during the lean seasons or at the convenience of the participants/farmers and not due to compulsion or on demand. The participatory communication will be more effective when there is no festival or any other ceremony-taking place in the village. The place for participation may be as per the choice of majority of the participants so that every individual may participate without any hesitation. Through participatory communication we can reach at reliable information based on which the research system may act to develop the technologies according to the needs of the farmers, refine them and solve their existing problems. This ultimately leads to effective functioning of extension system and thereby improving agricultural production and the standard of living of the farming community as a whole.