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South African Journal of Agricultural Extension

On-line version ISSN 2413-3221
Print version ISSN 0301-603X

Abstract

APLENI, A.; ALIBER, M.; ZHOU, L.  and  ZANTSI, S.. The impact of the farmer field school approach on small-scale vegetable producers' knowledge and production in Alice, Eastern Cape, South Africa. S Afr. Jnl. Agric. Ext. [online]. 2019, vol.47, n.3, pp.70-82. ISSN 2413-3221.  http://dx.doi.org/10.17159/2413-3221/2019/v47n3a516.

This paper investigates the impact of the farmer field school approach on the knowledge and production of small-scale vegetable producers, namely home gardeners. Farmer field schools were developed in the 1980s by the Food and Agriculture Organisation as a form of adult education in agriculture. It is a group-based approach in which a facilitator meets with producers on a regular basis and sets in motion a process by which producers 'learn how to learn'. It remains an open question whether the farmer field school approach could be a solution to South Africa's abiding problem of weak agricultural extension. In early 2015, the University of Fort Hare and the Nkonkobe Farmers' Association initiated a number of study groups in the Alice area of the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa, based largely on farmer field school principles. The research findings reported in this article are part of an effort to determine to what extent these study groups had the desired effect. After administering surveys to 118 study group members, before and after comparisons were drawn with regards to members' self-assessed knowledge and skills, and production levels of a number of garden vegetables. The findings revealed an impressive increase in self-assessed knowledge and skills, as well as in production, consumption and selling of vegetables. Based on these findings and given the current state of agricultural extension in South Africa, it can be recommended that expansion of the farmer field school approach takes place in other areas, while attempting to better understand the mechanisms underlying the improvements already observed.

Keywords : Agricultural extension; Farmer field schools; Small-scale farmers.

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