This paper examines the challenges in designing and implementing appropriate institutional arrangements for providing extension services in view of the changing context, the changing information and technological needs of farmers, and to emergence of new organisations in extension delivery. This particular focus is on what agricultural extension can offer the rural poor. India has sizeable areas with low agricultural productivity, high incidence of poverty, and with weak integration into markets. Questions are increasingly being asked about the role that publicsector extension can play in enhancing the livelihoods of the poor and reducing their vulnerability in these areas. Public-sector extension in Indian States started to adopt different approaches after the training and visit system (T&V) was established. The last decade has also seen an increased involvement of private extension providers, but their presence and activities are skewed towards well-endowed regions. This paper argues that to perform new roles with wider scope, extension services must change fundamentally, not only in personnel and resources, but also in their basic perceptions and practices as they relate to the role of the State in agricultural and rural development.