Agriculture is a techno-social effort with people involved as farmers, extensionists, trainers, scientists, managers, and policy makers. The teaching, research and outreach work of the Department of Agricul¬tural Extension focus on strengthening the ‘social’ aspects of agriculture to make it relevant and meet human needs. A separate department was established in 1995 realizing the increasing importance of agricultural extension as an academic discipline. This is the only department dealing solely with Agricultural Extension in the university system in Sri Lanka.
Agricultural extension courses are offered throughout the four years of the undergraduate degree pro¬grammes, especially the B.Sc. in Agricultural Technology and Management. The Department also teaches students in the Animal Science & Fisheries, and Food Science & Technology degree programmes offered by the Faculty of Agriculture. A variety of courses are offered in different aspects of agricultural extension such as Agricultural Extension Education, Agricul¬tural Communication, Agricultural Sociology, Organizational Management, Human Resource Management and Career Development. These courses are taught by staff members who have the expertise background of education and experi¬ence. The Department is closely linked with the Postgraduate Institute of Agriculture (PGIA) through the Board of Study in Agricultural Extension. The academic staff of the Department is in¬volved in conducting courses and also serve as research supervisors and examiners of PGIA students in their M.Sc., M.Phil. and PhD degrees. The students following the advanced module are provided many opportunities for by active involvement through activities such as farmer training by students, video production, field and organizational visits and outbound training.
The research program of the Department is directly concerned with the socio-economic prob¬lems of agricultural development. Research activities centre around: smallholder agriculture and food systems, agricultural development, agricultural knowledge systems, adoption of agricultural innovations, sociology of agriculture, gender and development, management of development interventions, communication and media, social aspects of environment and natural resource management, participatory rural development, management of agricul¬tural organizations and human resources management.
Among the facilities available in the Department are a fully equipped Audio-Visual Unit, an Information Technology Laboratory and a Desk-Top Publishing Unit, which are immensely helpful for academic, research and outreach programs undertaken by the Department. Consultation and evaluation activities are carried out by the academic staff members who have a broad background, experience and training. Staff members serve as consultants of various ministries of the government and international organizations. These activities contribute to the improvement of national and international development pro¬grammes. In addition to these, various workshops are organized and conducted by the Depart¬ment for state and non-government organizations. The academic staff also play a key role in the Sri Lanka Agricultural Extension Association (SLAEA).
The training programme of the Department of Agricultural Extension enables graduates develop the social competencies essential to succeed as professionals in the agriculture sector.