The author advocates a major shift in the current top-down, externally-imposed approach to theinstitutional reform of public sector extension, to a more participatory and stakeholderempoweringframework. The study uses a participatory qualitative instrument of SWOT analysisto identify the perceptions of extension personnel in Trinidad regarding the institutionalstrengths and weaknesses of the national extension services and of the new opportunities andthreats that would impact its survival and relevance in the future. Factors identified as strengthsincluded a well-endowed human capital base, use of information technology, strong farmerorganizations and regional collaboration. Institutional weaknesses included inadequatefunding, poor government policy, and surprisingly decentralized training, which was the majorextension reform platform in Trinidad in the 1990s. New opportunities were identified in youthprogram, expansion of clientele base to non-traditional commodity groups and on building thecapacity of farmer organizations. Finally, privatization and the loss of public sector extensionpersonnel to the private sector were listed as threats to the institutional survival of the nationalextension system. The paper concluded by noting that the public sector would probably remain amajor player in the delivery of extension at least for the foreseeable future. It recommends thatin order to remain relevance, public sector extension service must become more strategicthinking,learning organizations, attuned to changes in its operational environment and nimbleenough to adapt to these changes.

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