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South African Journal of Agricultural Extension

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

Abstract

GILLESPIE, W. A.  and  MITCHELL, F. J.. Extension: To Serve And Protect - How To Achieve Sustainable Rural Development. S Afr. Jnl. Agric. Ext. [online]. 2019, vol.47, n.4, pp.9-17. ISSN 2413-3221.  http://dx.doi.org/10.17159/2413-3221/2019/v47n4a522.

The dearth of success stories around extension projects implemented across South Africa (and Sub-Saharan Africa), even after substantial investment and effort, begs the question: more extension, less adoption, why? What is the role of extension in contributing to rural upliftment, the development of successful farmers, supporting stable protected natural environments and facilitating sustainable economic returns from agriculture? This paper examines the before and after effects of coordinated extension with clear targets, activities and skills development that is aimed at achieving significant rural development for a KwaZulu-Natal community. The purpose is to compare a period of 10 years of uncoordinated extension services with the following 10 years using a targeted structured extension methodology with set measurable outputs, implemented in the same community. Ten years of data in a community which received uncoordinated extension with little support from outside organisations were compared to the results of the following ten years after the implementation of a new, structured extension approach. Extension officers were upskilled, monitored and evaluated on their impact on the development of agriculture and the improvement of livelihoods in the community. There were 224 growers delivering 16 456 tons of sugarcane in 2004. The growth in the agricultural sector over the past decade was compared to the previous ten years and comparisons made for a number of variables which were indicative of the success of the project in terms of adoption, increased agricultural participation and improved production systems. In 2018, there were 704 growers delivering 50 300 tons of sugarcane. The rate and scale of adoption, and increased community confidence in agriculture as a livelihood, is clearly evident in the increased number ofgrowers from 419 in 2013 to 704 in 2018. An extension impact monitoring system and annual work plan was also developed to assist extension officers and their managers to have a clear understanding of roles and responsibilities, as well as being utilised to measure the impact of the extension officers in the area. The agricultural system has become a self-perpetuating one that demonstrates the enormous social, developmental and economic benefits of a sustainable agricultural community.

Keywords : Adoption; Extension effectiveness; Self-perpetuating; Successful.

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