An Analysis of Top-Down and Bottom-Up Extension Approaches of the School-on-the-Air (SOA) program in the Philippines

Melquiades B. Ibarra (
Social Sciences, Wageningen University
May, 2009


The Philippine Department of Agriculture (DA) under the provision of the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act (AFMA) is mandated for the optimal use of extension approaches to attain national food security, sufficiency and poverty alleviation. In response to this mandate, the School-on-the-Air (SOA) program is implemented as one of the strategies of agriculture extension. The SOA is a radio farm program under a classroom setting. The series of lectures are conducted over the radio by subject matter specialists (SMS) and/or the extension workers who served as the main anchor of the program. The farmer-students will have to comply the requirements of the program such as by answering the questions being asked. The program usually lasts between three to six months and is culminated by a graduation ceremony. The SOA adopted two models of extension: namely, Transfer of Technology (ToT)/Training and Visit (T&V) system and the Participatory Farmer-first approach. This resulted to the juxtaposition of the two approaches with the assumption that this will address the low farm production. However, farm production level is still low as against the national production target. This scenario is contributing to the debates about the best way to provide agriculture extension. Hence, this study is conducted to gain insights and better understanding on the structure of implementation of the top-down and bottom-up extension approaches by investigating its characteristic and impact on the farmers’ everyday interaction.

In order to achieve this objective, various theories are used as tool in the analysis. The main theory used here is the policy arrangement approach (PAA). Central in this theory is the interconnectedness of the four dimensions of an arrangement, namely: actors, discourse, resources and rules. The other theories are normative extension theories/methdologies such as ToT, T&V and the Participatory farmer-first approaches of agriculture extension. These theories provide the basis from which the ideal type of an arrangement can be drawn upon in order to compare the practice and the ideal type.

The case study is the main strategy used in this research. Two pilot areas of the SOA program have been identified in Cebu Province. One is in Bunga, Toledo City where the so-called ‘top-down’ Masaarong Adlaw SOA program is implemented while the other is in Pandacan, Pinamungahan where the so-called ‘bottom-up’ Mga Giya sa Panguma SOA program using the Community-Audio Tower System (CATS), is implemented. The main goal of the Masaarong Adlaw program is to transfer agricultural technologies promoted by the government. These technologies are usually developed by the scientists/SMS and are taught to the farmers through series of lectures broadcasted on the radio. The Mga Giya sa Panguma program on the other hand is aimed at promoting knowledge exchange among the scientists, extension worker and the farmers and/or farmer to farmer through a lecture series over the radio. Clearly the intentions of the two SOA programmes were different, however, the discourses and the rules of implementation were quite the same due to the fact that extension workers have ingrained this approach. This scenario has resulted to the

‘misfit’ of technologies which in turn generally led to non-adoption of these technologies promoted by the government. One of the reasons is that most of the technologies promoted by the government have been found by the farmers to be capital intensive.

However, the two cases revealed that farmers are appreciating the entertainment value of the program, and that there is an interaction that emerged out of the program which enhanced the sharing of local knowledge among farmers. This knowledge exchange has resulted to farmers adopting the local and low-cost technologies shared by each other.

The two approaches have also shown tendencies to use hybrid models in one case. Meaning in one SOA program, ToT and participatory approaches are combined. Comparing the two practices, the top-down approach with more simple and low-cost technologies might be more promising and feasible in the Philippine setting, while bottom-up farmer-first approach might be a step too far, because majority of the farmers in the Philippines are resource-poor, while the participatory approach requires contribution from the farmers’ resources particularly on financial aspect.

From the above discussions, it can be concluded that there is no blueprint to implement the best way of agriculture extension approaches. It needs to be flexible to fit to certain farming and farmer conditions. Much listening, needs assessment and adaptation of the program is needed in order for the extension approaches to become effective and responsive to the farmers’ needs. Moreover, this study recommends that a combination of the two models or the hybrid form might be more fitting and effective because it provides more flexibility to a certain situation.