Extension Methods and Organizational Characteristics for Supporting Sustainable Water Resource Management in Agriculture of Iran
The primary purpose of this research was to identify
extension methods and organizational characteristics for supporting Sustainable
Water Resource Management (SWRM) in agriculture of Iran. The total population
of agricultural extension experts (N = 110) of Agricultural-Jihad Organization
of Khuzestan Province of Iran considered as population of study. A mailed
questionnaire was used to collect the data. The response rate of questionnaire
was 78% (N = 86). Appropriate descriptive statistics such as mean scores,
standard deviations and correlation coefficient were used. The findings
show that extension experts had positive perceptions about SWRM in agriculture.
Extension experts believed that among extension methods, on-farm education,
problem solving methods and workshop had very high importance for supporting
SWRM in agriculture. Also, ranking based on the perceptions of extension
experts indicated that the three most important organizational characteristics
of extension system for supporting SWRM in agriculture were: considering
local groups, participatory management and considering job qualification.
It is concluded that appropriate extension methods and organizational
characteristics for supporting SWRM needs to be accurately implemented
for the extension system development.
During the past fifty years, agricultural development policies have been remarkably
successful at emphasizing external inputs as the means to increase food production.
(Ommani and Chizari, 2008). This has led to growth in
global consumption of pesticides, inorganic fertilizer, animal feed stuffs and
tractor and other machinery (Roling and Pretty, 1997).
The illustration of agricultural development of Iran indicates that agricultural
development theory is in crisis. Since the rise of concern for the environmental
consequences of agriculture and increasing criticism of conventional agriculture,
there seems to be a lack of theoretical basis for sustainable agricultural development
(Rezaei-Moghadam et al., 2005). Agricultural productivity
reduces when ecosystems are changed and water resource decreased. Water is an
essential component in agriculture. However, 70% of the total world water withdrawal
is used for agriculture (Hasheminia, 2004). Placing emphasis
on water conservation in agriculture is a critical step toward sustainability.
Water is a finite resource and an essential element to our survival. Irresponsible
agricultural practices decrease our supply.
Agricultural water conservation involves many components. It is important to
take into account the added burden of poor water quality in our water system
capacity. Water quality also, suffers as a result of unsustainable practices.
Iran is located in arid and semiarid areas of the world. The average precipitation
is less than one-third of the world average precipitation. Also, the evaporation
in Iran is more than the world average and about 72% of total rainfall directly
evaporates (Ommani et al., 2008). Therewith, spatial
variation precipitation of the country is varied. Approximately, 50% of precipitation
is raining at 24% of area of country and other 50% is raining at 76% of the
country. Keshavarz et al. (2003) pointed that Iran
in recent years faced with drought. Particularly in 1999, 2000 and 2001 the
average annual precipitation was much lower than the 30 years annual precipitation.
Overall irrigation efficiency in Iran ranges from 33 to 37%, which is lower
than the average for both developing countries (45%) and developed countries
(60%). Similarly Hasheminia (2004) in his recent study
about the application of water in Iran states: apparently, the Iranian farmers
apply a lot more water per hectare than what is done globally for different
Availability of water is the most limiting factor for agricultural sector.
More than 90% of the renewable water in the country is used for agriculture,
but the sector still can not provide enough production to meet the demand of
the population (Hasheminia, 2004).
Therefore, focus on efficient use of water through irrigation efficiency and
improvements in management of water use will be the major challenges in the
coming years. Recent events of drought in the country have resulted in the reduction
of water productivity in farming. Sustainable water resources management in
agriculture and increasing the water use efficiency in Iran has a vital role
for conservation of water resources. A key to sustainable water resources management
is the existence of sufficiently well trained personnel in all of the disciplines
needed in the planning, development and management processes. Irans extension
system does not pay enough attention to necessity characteristics of extension
organization to accomplish environmentally sound agriculture and these attributes
are not favorable situation (Allahyari and Chizari, 2008).
These conditions necessitate reorganizing of extension institutions to accomplish
sustainability. Considering unsustainable agricultural conditions of Iran (Ommani
and Chizari, 2008), organizational recession and inability of current extension
organizations (Allahyari and Chizari, 2008) to accomplish
of sustainability, it seems that extension systems require a new structure and
methods to achieve sustainability objectives. The primary purpose of this research
was to identify extension methods and organizations for supporting Sustainable
Water Resource Management (SWRM) in agriculture. The specific objectives of
the research were as to determine perceptions of agricultural extension experts
regarding SWRM dimensions in agriculture and identify correlation between extension
methods and organizational characteristics with SWRM dimensions in agriculture.
For the purpose of statistical analysis, the research purpose was posed
as the following hypotheses. Each hypothesis was tested at the 0.05 level
of significance. These hypotheses include: (1) there is no significant
relationship between the perceptions of extension experts regarding importance
of extension methods and SWRM dimensions in agriculture. (2) there is
no significant relationship between the perceptions of extension experts
regarding importance of organizational characteristics and SWRM dimensions
MATERIALS AND METHODS
The research method was quantitative research. In quantitative research, the
researcher identifies variables and may look for relationships among them, but
does not manipulate the variables (Gay and Airasian, 2003).
A major form of nonexperimental quantitative research that has been used in
this research is correlation study. This method seeks to determine relationships
among two or more variables (Creswell, 2008). The data
were collected between January and April 2008 through a questionnaire mailed
to the 110 agricultural extension experts of Khouzestan Province of Iran. The
total population of agricultural extension experts (N = 110) of Agricultural-Jihad
Organization of Khuzestan Province, Iran considered as population of study.
The model of questionnaire derived from studies of Arellanes
and Lee (2003), Boone et al. (2007), Keshavarz
et al. (2003) and Ahmadvand and Karami (2007).
To test the validity of a questionnaire, content-related evidence of validity
by panel of experts was used. To test the content-related evidence, 20 copies
were provided and distributed among faculty members of Islamic Azad University,
Tarbiat Modares University, Chamran University, West Virginia University and
Ph.D agricultural extension students. Their suggestions were incorporate in
the final version of the instrument. Researchers examined reliability evidence
by 30 copies of questionnaire of experts that provided and distributed among
agricultural extension experts from Esfahan Province. Reliability of overall
instrument was estimated at 0.87.
Extension experts were asked to rate their perceptions regarding SWRM
in agriculture on a five point Likert- type scale: 1 = strongly disagree,
2 = disagree, 3 = unsure, 4 = agree, 5 = strongly agree. The 15 items
were grouped in to three areas of the SWRM dimension. Five questionnaire
items were included in the Economic Elements of SWRM (EcESWRM), four items
were in the Social Elements of SWRM (ScESWRM) and six items were in the
Environmental Elements of SWRM (EnESWRM). Also another section focused
on perceptions of extension experts regarding importance of extension
methods and organizational characteristics for supporting SWRM in agriculture.
In this part, researchers used five point Likert- type scale: 1 = very
low, 2 = low, 3 = moderate, 4 = high, 5 = very high.
In this research, two groups of variables existed. These two groups of
variables were dependent and independent variables:
||Independent variables include extension methods and
organizational characteristics for supporting SWRM in agriculture
||Also, dependent variables in study of experts include dimensions
of SWRM in agriculture
Eighty six agricultural extension experts returned questionnaires yielding
an overall response rate of 78%. Data collected were analyzed using the
Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS, 16). Appropriate descriptive
statistics such as mean scores, standard deviations and correlation coefficient
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
Approximately, 38.2% of respondents were between 20 to 30 years of age
and 41.6% of them between 31 to 40 years of age. The mean age was 37 (SD
= 2.65, N = 86). Most respondents (52%) reported work experience, including
inside of extension, 1 to 10 years and the vast majority of them were
Participants were asked to give their perceptions about items of SWRM
in agriculture on a five Likert scale (1 = strongly disagree, 2 = disagree,
3 = unsure, 4 = agree, 5 = strongly agree). Their answers to these items
in combination led to the perceptions of agricultural extension experts
about SWRM in agriculture. The mean value of the overall perceptions of
the extension experts regarding SWRM in agriculture (Mean = 4.24, SD =
0.71) indicates that the extension experts had positive perceptions about
SWRM in agriculture (Table 1).
|| Means and standard deviation of respondents perceptions
about SWRM items
|Scale: 1 = Strongly Disagree, 2 = Disagree, 3 = Unsure,
4 = Agree, 5 = Strongly agree. *Standard deviation
EXTENSION METHODS FOR SUPPORTING SWRM IN AGRICULTURE
The major roles of agricultural extension are transferring information from
the global knowledge base and from local research to farmers, enabling them
to clarify their own goals and possibilities, educating them on how to make
better decisions and stimulating desirable agricultural development (Van
den Ban and Hawkins, 1996). In this research, the agricultural extension
experts were questioned about the importance rate of different extension methods
for supporting SWRM in agriculture by 5-point scale (1 = very low, 2 = low,
3 = moderate, 4 = high, 5 = very high). Extension experts believed that among
extension methods, on-farm education (M = 4.43; SD = 0.62), problem solving
methods (M = 3.640; SD = 0.588), workshop (M = 4.011; SD = 0.665), facilitatory
methods (M = 4.000; SD = 0.738) and participatory methods (M = 4.067; 0.837)
had very high importance for supporting SWRM in agriculture (Table
2). These findings are supported by Ommani and Chizari
(2008). Also, claimed that for successful and sustainable introduction,
use and improvement of water control techniques and technologies farmers should
be encouraged to analyze their problems, search for solutions, monitor and evaluate
the selected and implemented techniques and technologies and adjust them according
to their constraints and opportunities. Participatory Training and Extension
in Farmers Water Management (PT and E-FWM) aims to ensure a sustained support
to farmers in this process. On the other hand, most important methods that identified
at this research are essential for supporting water management; because on-farm
education, problem solving, facilitatory and participatory methods (Kay,
2002) have proved to be an effective tools for this and to establish the
appropriate support structure to assist and advise farmers in irrigation development
and management. Therefore, findings of this study support the importance of
these methods (Table 2).
|| Importance of extension methods for supporting SWRM
|Scale: 1 = Very low, 2 = Low, 3 = Moderate, 4 = High,
5 = Very high, *Standard deviation, **Coefficient of variation
ORGANIZATIONAL CHARACTERISTICS OF EXTENSION FOR SUPPORTING SWRM IN
The new challenge is for extension organizations to become learning organizations
(Fulton et al., 2003). To do this, they will have
to promote experimentation, promote connectivity and group work based on roles
rather than disciplines and develop monitoring and self-evaluation systems to
improve learning and awareness (Qamar, 2005). In this section,
agricultural extension experts were asked to mention importance rate of extension
organization characteristics for supporting SWRM on a five point Likert- type
scale: 1 = very low, 2 = low, 3 = moderate, 4 = high, 5 = very high. Ranking
based on the perceptions of extension experts indicated that the six most important
extension organization characteristics for supporting SWRM in agriculture were:
considering local groups (M = 4.123; SD = 0.671), participatory management (M
= 4.303 SD = 0.713), considering job qualification (M = 4.044; SD = 0.767),
mutual communications (M = 3.943; SD = 0.759), considering systemic management
in organization (M = 4.022; SD = 0.976) and considering human resource development
(M = 3.707; SD = 1.002) (Table 3).
Based on the results, most effective characteristic of extension organization
for supporting SWRM was considering local groups and participatory management.
Roling and Pretty (1997) claimed that a necessary condition
for sustainable agriculture is that large number of farmer must be motivated
to use, their resource in a coordinated manner. Thus, the success of sustainable
agriculture depends on motivations, skills, knowledge and action taken by groups
or communities as a whole. Also, considering job qualification was necessary
for extension organizations. Acquiring the necessary qualifications through
on-the-job training should be possible at the local or regional level (Halim
|| Importance of organizational characteristics for supporting
SWRM in agriculture
|Scale: 1 = Very low, 2 = Low, 3 = Moderate, 4 = High,
5 = Very high, *Standard deviation, ** Coefficient of variation
In addition, agricultural extension is a public service
for human resource development (HRD) in the agricultural sector (van
den Ban and Hawkins, 1996). Torraco (2005) indicated
HRD is conceptualized as an investment in human resource capability rather than
an employment cost, because one of the most important characteristics of extension
organizations in the coming years is to create HRD therefore findings of this
research support this characteristic of extension organizations.
Based on the perceptions of agricultural extension experts were investigated
correlations between extension methods and SWRM dimensions in agriculture
Participatory methods: The data showed that there was a significant
positive correlations between agricultural extension experts perceptions
regarding importance of participatory methods with SWRM dimensions (r
= 0.352; sig. = 0.001).
Facilitatory methods: The relationship between agricultural extension
experts perceptions about importance of facilitatory methods and SWRM dimensions
was significantly positive (r = 0.227, sig. = 0.008).
|| Relationships between perceptions of extension experts
regarding importance of extension methods and organizational characteristics
with SWRM dimensions
|**: Highly significant
and Vodouhe (1997) pointed out, the facilitatory methods is concerned with
the transformation of existing activities to try to bring about changes which
people in the situation regard as improvements. According to Cristovao et al. (1997), as change facilitators, extensionists should
then be concerned with the preparation of programs and projects that are responsive
to the needs and interests of rural communities and farm families.
Considering indigenous knowledge: The data showed that there was a significant
positive correlations between agricultural extension experts perceptions regarding
importance indigenous knowledge with SWRM dimensions (r = 0.223, sig. = 0.028).
The location-specific nature of sustainable agriculture implies that extension
must make use of farmers knowledge and work together with farmers (Roling
and Pretty, 1997).
Based on perceptions of agricultural extension experts was investigated
correlation between extension organization characteristics with SWRM dimensions
Considering local groups: The results showed significant positive relationship
between agricultural extension experts perceptions regarding importance of
local groups with SWRM dimensions (r = 0.665, sig. = 0.000). Ommani
et al. (2008) claimed that, the local farmer organizations could
play an effective role in motivating farmers to become partners rather than
mere participants in irrigation water management.
Participatory management: The results showed a significant positive
relationship between the perceptions of extension experts about importance of
participatory management with SWRM dimensions (r = 0.504, sig. = 0.000). Top-down
management has been subject to strong criticism for various reasons. An important
one is that it is too uniform, not talking into due account the sociocultural
environment, the particular circumstances in which project implementation occurs
and the characteristics of the different clientele groups (Cristovao
et al., 1997).
Considering systemic management in organization: The data show
that there was a significant positive correlation between the perceptions
of agricultural extension experts regarding importance of systemic management
in organization with SWRM dimensions (r = 0.370, sig. = 0.000).
Considering human resource development: Also, the correlation between
the perceptions of agricultural extension experts regarding importance of Human
Resource Development (HRD) with SWRM dimensions was significantly positive (r
= 0.321, sig. = 0.002). Agricultural extension is a public service for Human
Resource Development (HRD) in the agricultural sector (Van
den Ban and Hawkins, 1996).
Multiple studies in Iran showed that, although extension services has played
a positive role in agricultural development of Iran, but there are difficulties,
barriers, misunderstandings and weaknesses in the transfer of new technology
and information to farmers (Ommani and Chizari, 2008).
Lacking the suitable extension methods and organizational characteristics has
been a barrier for transfer of appropriate new technology to farmers. This problem
exists in water sector of agriculture. The major consumer of water in Iran is
the agriculture sector (Hasheminia, 2004). Identifying
suitable extension mechanisms have important role to developing extension system.
Therefore, identifying extension methods and organizational characteristics
for supporting sustainable water resources management in agriculture of Iran,
is the one of the major approaches needs to be carefully thought and accurately
implemented for the extension system development.
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