Training session in non-directive conversation skills. It is important that especially young and inexperienced extension officers learn these basic skills so they can understand issues from their clients’ perspective.
Photo: S. Hoy


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Rural extension services are an extremely complex affair. This is due to the wide range of constellations in which farmers operate nowadays, and also to the large number of players who are active in advisory services, with their different tasks, values and mandates. With reference to Germany’s rural extension services, our author shows who is taking on which role and where conflicts might potentially arise.

“Don’t solve other people’s problems”, is the author’s advice for advisers. That, of course, immediately begs the question: what do advisers do, then, if they don’t solve problems? Doesn’t the phrase “advisory work” imply a duty to give advice? Who gives advice during advisory work is the central question about the players in extension processes. Who is involved in extension processes, and what are the roles that might be taken by advisers and their clients? What is the relationship between clients and advisers, and how does the relationship change when clients are not just individuals but groups, or, to go wider still, networks?

Our understanding of  advisory work

Paradoxically, right at the beginning of this article, I offer a piece of advice to make it clear straight away that advisers should refrain from giving advice. This ties in with my understanding of advisory work, which I would like to put forward.

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