South African Journal of Agricultural Extension
On-line version ISSN 2413-3221
Print version ISSN 0301-603X
ZWANE, E. M.; IGODAN, C.; AGUNGA, R. and VAN NIEKERK, J. A.. Changing demands of clients of extension: What kind of competency is needed to meet the new demand?. S Afr. Jnl. Agric. Ext. [online]. 2015, vol.43, n.2, pp.52-65. ISSN 2413-3221. http://dx.doi.org/10.17159/2413-3221/2015/v43n2a356.
Two studies were conducted in which the first one focused on thirty extension practitioners in Limpopo province. This study formed part of a bigger study which was initiated by Extension Africa, which is made up of African researchers from African countries and in the Diaspora. Extension Africa research organization has embarked on extension research in nine African countries focussing on problems that faced small holder farmers. One aspect of the study was to look at the competency of the extension staff in terms of delivering an efficient and effective service to satisfy the needs of farmers. This paper finds the study relevant for this purpose and it draws from its data. The findings suggest that an extension staff should be competent in the area of: development theory 93%, development policy, 93%, development practice 93%, training in development 90%, development process 80%, training in development 90%. There is also a need to be competent in communication from different facets e.g. communication for building linkages 90% , public speaking, 86%, facilitation 90%,Communication for integration 86.6 %, and for communication for coordination 87 %. The second study report on the relevant technical competency needed to resolve the climatic challenges faced by farmers, climatic challenges form part of the new mandate that extension staff is supposed to consider when addressing farmer's needs. 194 farmers were interviewed from four local agricultural offices of Limpopo namely: Fetakgomo, Makhuduthamaga, Aganang and Blouberg. The information was collected through a questionnaire which was analysed through the SPSS system. The findings suggest that there are eight areas that farmers expect extension staff to be competent. These areas can be seen as strategies to mitigate against climate change and are summarized as good cultural practices. Some of these practices include the following: soil mulching skills, fertilizer recommendation, and zero tillage, knowledge of early maturity variety, early ploughing, drought resistant seed and water harvesting. The paper concludes with three recommendations namely, extension practitioners should acquire the necessary skills; they should be trained in both technical and in extension methods and they should be knowledgeable in terms of conflict resolution, negotiation, and persuasive communication skills. These skills are important in assisting farmers to cope with changes that they face due to forces of change that affect their productivities.
Keywords : Extension; Extension Africa; climate study; and competency.