Agricultural extension in Mexico significantly favors rural development and considers agriculture as a means of promoting economic development by solving problems associated with poverty and food security. The Mexican extension system, as in other Latin American countries, has been transformed into services provided by extensionists (also known as extension agents, or professional service providers). Due to the social, economic and political relevance of the subject, there is increased interest in proposing new studies focusing on the key roles of extension agents given their importance in achieving rural development objectives through training and providing technical assistance to producers. The present work compares opinions of public and private agricultural extension agents regarding the current extension system in Mexico, and inquires about developed activities, problems faced in daily practice, as well as continuous training actions and capacities. The present study methodology was a mix of qualitative (participant observations) and quantitative (structured questionnaires) information. The study population comprised of 44 extension professionals, 17 from the public (government) and 27 from the private (advisory offices) sectors. Analysis of the results report similarities in socio-demographic data; high academic levels and training in the agricultural sciences, and extensive experience in extension services. Both groups of extension agents had the same activities, while private providers also designed projects to obtain financing. Problems faced by both groups were politico-institutional and related to marketing. Both groups were interested in continuous updating with practical methods, and were seen as having outstanding competencies to perform their functions.
Key words: Rural extension, extension agent, public, private, Mexico.
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