The extension services in Indonesia have been through major changes, especially, with the passing of Law No. 16/2006, which shifted the authority to conduct extension programs to sub-districts, away from the national level. Subjects that were previously handled by different ministries and departments are now managed under a body called Extension Agency. The law also requires agents to be ‘polyvalent’ or able to provide assistance on various topics ranging from agriculture through fisheries to forestry. In reality, extension agents are generally fluent in only one specialized topic, hence, the polyvalent demand has added another load to agents’ many burdens.
Underlying these challenges, the research team found that budget was a key issue. Wagimin, the extension coordinator at the Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Extension Agency in Karangmojo sub-district in Gunungkidul said the operational budget per month for each extension worker was a mere IDR 112,000 (≈ USD 8.20), which was far from enough. In Sumbawa, the annual budget tended to decrease because the extension program was not prioritized by the local government. A similar situation occurred in Timor Tengah Selatan, where the budget submitted for regional funding was rarely approved. Because it was not prioritized, the dissemination of forestry information remained limited. What farmers mostly received focused on cultivation, nursery and conservation with no marketing and policy aspects. Additionally, there was no forestry extension material being produced, which further hindered farmers’ learning ability.
The research recommended that forestry extension programs should not rely on government alone. In the study areas, non-governmental organizations and private companies were providing extension programs, thus, collaboration should be established in order to increase reach and provide better quality advice. Moreover, voluntary forestry extension agents drawn from the community, who are available in the areas, should be engaged in government programs. Cooperation with research institutions also needs to be fostered so that farmers have access to up-to-date material.