South African Journal of Agricultural Extension
On-line version ISSN 2413-3221
Print version ISSN 0301-603X
TERBLANCHE, S.E.. Towards an improved agricultural extension service as a key role player in the settlement of new farmers in South Africa. S Afr. Jnl. Agric. Ext. [online]. 2008, vol.37, n.1, pp.58-84. ISSN 2413-3221.
South Africa (SA) finds itself in a region where the rich countries perceive it as a sustainable and viable proposition for investment. The prospects for the future are bright but a warning light is burning: high food prices; shortage of essential food and the import of it; 50% of land reform projects have failed. Can the SA Agricultural Extension service play a role to address these issues? Research in SA clearly indicates a new concept of Extension and identifies 13 essential principles underlying any Extension approach, ranging from an educational and pro-active approach to an advisory and reactive approach. By means of consultation, discussion and dialogue extension practitioners and trainers developed an Agricultural Landscape for Extension, identifying specific concepts, study fields and essential knowledge/skills areas that form the "playing field" for the extension agent. An effective extension service is based on certain fixed principles namely: The interrelationship between agricultural development and human development; Development being needs based; Participation being essential for all role players; and Any intervention program being focused on behaviour change. The Landscape highlights the following concepts as being necessary to improve Agricultural Extension: - Technical competency (the extension agent must be an expert in at least one field of agriculture); - Communication skills (verbal; non verbal; written and mass communication); - Group facilitation skills (group dynamics and leadership); and - Extension management (program planning, management functions, ethics. monitoring and evaluation and leadership development). Land reform in SA is a priority program with efficient productivity as its ultimate outcome. The settlement of new farmers and specifically post settlement support become decisive. Guidelines to support the extension agent are: The selection of new farmers by means of an effective screening instrument; The farmer, or group of beneficiaries, need to work cohesively. The new farmer must have a clear understanding of the farm as a business; Where possible the new farmer should be linked to a mentor; The farm needs a viable and sustainable business plan; The farm and farmer need financial support as prescribed in the business plan; and The production of produce needs to be market driven. To-day's clients demand a professional service. The professional registration of extension agents should in own interest and in the interest of the industry be implemented as a matter of urgency. Extension in SA needs a vision that is focused on the future.
Keywords : Extension landscape; principles; farmer settlement; technical competency.