Population of India is increasing at an alarming rate with a growth rate of 1.2% is expected to be the most populous country with 1.5 billion people by 2030.India with largest area under arable land (52.8%),and second largest irrigated land(22.43%) facilitate her to be the second fastest growing economy. Conversely, the country faces the challenge of ensuring inclusive and sustainable growth. In spite of comparative advantage in producing agro-food products ,share of India in agro-food products remains only 1.5%.
Rural economy of India still depends on agriculture as the primary source of their livelihood. The number of small farm holdings (less than four hectares) has increased between 2005-06 and 2010-11 with 85 per cent of farmers in 2010-11 to be cultivating areas of less than four hectares in size compared with 83.2 per cent in 2005-06. Majority of the population is entirely landless, even though agriculture is their principal source of livelihood. It has been the bane of Indian agriculture and inhibits the capacity of farmers to reap economies of scale and invest in mechanization. These farmers have restricted access to formal source of credit. They are often disregarded by extension agents, thus hardly ever obtain information on new technologies or training in skill-intensive agricultural practices.
India is also in crisis of exclusion and inequitable access because of multiple deprivations of class, caste and gender – solution for all these challenges require novel approaches and solutions, and looking beyond the conventional way of doing things. Agricultural extension is solution for the future development of the agricultural sector: today one-fourth of the yield gap for crops is due to knowledge deficits (Ferroni: 2011). Recently, India have witnessed the diversification of farming towards high value produce such as fruits, vegetables and livestock products at a fast pace. High value commodities contribute a major share of the total value of agricultural production in a number of districts in India. Further, urbanization has led to rapid extension of supermarkets retailing agricultural goods. Increase in demand for food and relatively slower escalation of supply has led to frequent spikes in food shortages. This growing demand on agricultural productivity to enhance India’s food security led to an increased recognition of the significance of agricultural extension. Not only the government of India, which is still the main service provider of the country, but also private sector and civil society, such as NGOs and non-profit organisations have a growing interest to involve in agricultural extension. The current Indian agricultural extension system is one of the leading extension system in the globe, very much pluralistic and forceful.
In India, pivotal role of agricultural extension in enhancing the agricultural production is understood by the amplified investment. India’s 10th and 11th five-year plans accentuate agricultural extension as a solution for escalating agricultural growth by plummeting the yield gap in cultivators field, and consequently identify the call for reinforcing agricultural extension in India (Planning Commission 2001, 2005, 2006)