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Demand-led is a relatively recent label for a notion that has been around since people began to write about extension as an academic discipline and educational practice (Scarborough et al. 1997). It captures the idea that the information, advice and other services offered by extension professionals should be tailored to the expressed demands of the clients or recipients of the service: not just to their “needs” as identified by various stakeholders (government, corporations, scientists, extension professionals ), but the things they say they want.

Until the current reforms of public agricultural extension began in the 1990s, making extension demand-led was commonly seen as a question of techniques and methods. Tools like the Problem Census (Crouch 1991) were developed for identifying what clients wanted. However, operationally there has always been a tension within public sector services between what the client wants to learn and what the government wants the client to know and do. This tension is typically resolved by enshrining the principle of being responsive to clients in the job description of extension professionals and the operational procedures of the organizations within which they work. Still, the main line of their accountability has remained to their line manager and, ultimately, to the government department that pays their salary.

The case studies in this section are less concerned with specific techniques and methods, and more with making institutional changes, which will lead extension service providers to be more responsive to what clients want. In most cases, this involves changing the distribution of power and responsibilities among three key sets of actors: (a) clients, (b) those who deliver the service, and (c) government. Many of the cases described in other sections of this book also have responsiveness to client demand high on their list of objectives. This is a primary rationale for privatization. In the eleven cases brought together here, the main thrust of extension reform has been improving the responsiveness of services funded entirely or substantially by governments, with or without support from donors, to client demand.