National Extension Policy
Register  |  Login  |  Contact  |  Home
 News  About  Forestry  Agriculture  Fisheries  Downloads  Links

Extension Opinion No 6: Mainstreaming conservation and biodiversity - the extension challenge

Historically agriculture has been the primary livelihood in rural landscapes and at times, also within the urban setting (urban agriculture). Currently the sector is characterized by high levels of poverty, a failing land reform programme, low profitability especially for the emerging farmer, rising cases of unsatisfactory labour practices on farms and uncontrolled ploughing of virgin land. These challenges have led to rising tension between conservation agencies and farmers, a trend that appears to be common in Southern Africa, affecting agricultural performance in the region. In addition, performance within the sector is further hampered by limited interaction between technology developers and extension staff, poor communication between actors in extension service delivery, administrative and institutional arrangements and biophysical factors that relate to wind, rainfall, and various factors affecting soil health. 

While many of the challenges facing the agriculture sector in the past can be traced to inapt policy design processes and gaps in policy implementation and enforcement, an important aspect (and one identified in the 2001 state of the nation address under the theme “vision for South African Agriculture”), is innovation and knowledge sharing and development in agricultural extension services. This is especially important bearing in mind the added risk imposed by climate change to the agriculture sector. In the past, agricultural extension service delivery has not been effective mainly due to the following: 

  1. Poor quality extension support due to the low quality of formal extension education and the lack of appropriate in-service training. 
  2. Gaps between extension and research and a lack of focus on communal and small scale producers given that most research capability remained targeted at the commercial sector.
  3. Outdated extension methods that fail to capture current international phenomena e.g. climate change mitigation and adaptation.
  4. Increasing farmer debt due to the imbalance between high input use encouraged by extension services and actual farm production and yields.

A major challenge facing extension services is mainstreaming conservation of agricultural resources and biodiversity into agricultural production and expansion. Conservation South Africa (CSA) is piloting a demonstration project (the Biodiversity and Red Meat Initiative) using its extension staff to capacitate commercial and communal farmers in Namaqualand, Northern Cape Province, to rise to this challenge. 

In partnership with WWF South Africa, CSA has also developed a best practice land management reference, namely the Living Farms Reference (LFR). This tool provides a reference for ensuring that agriculture productivity and economic viability are upheld whilst simultaneously conserving biodiversity and agricultural resources and additionally building resilience against climate change. The Living Farms Reference is based on contemporary international best practice knowledge and advice that has been tailored to apply to the South African farmer and to the local environment, and is intended to be used by extension services in order to better support farmers. It addresses economic, social and environmental concerns at the industry and farm-level.  Drawing from this reference, industry-specific guidelines have been developed such as the Right Rooibos and Sustainable Mohair guidelines, as well as the South African Brewery’s “Better Barley” guide. 

The fundamental principles underlying the LFR have also been incorporated into other guidelines such as the Protea Growers Manual, Red Meat Producers Best Practice Guideline and the Woolworths Farming for Future initiative. Conservation South Africa has also developed a monitoring and evaluation tool (the i-Farm) that uses record books and excel spreadsheets to record and analyze data from individual farmers. CSA is also now looking to develop this tool as a web-based application using telecommunications technologies to collect and analyze data from individual farmers, supporting sustainable land management and providing for efficient and effective information transfer for agriculture extension. These tools have been piloted in the Northern Cape and Western Cape Provinces and are currently being introduced in the Eastern Cape.  

In order to amplify the impacts of these tools, Conservation South Africa in partnership with Stellenbosch University and an overseas based academic institution is at an advanced stage of developing an inter-disciplinary post-graduate course in Sustainable Agriculture as well as a Further Education and Training (FET) course. Both will be SAQA (SA Qualifications Association) registered and will provide practical on the ground training to would-be extension officers, while the M.Sc course would be valuable to students and extension officers alike who wish to broaden their knowledge and specialize in a specific area. The curricula takes a systems-approach that considers whole landscapes and considers the broad value of ecosystem services, including the externalities of farming such as downstream effects of effluent, or nitrogen cycles in a landscape. The first intake of students for the M.Sc is expected in 2014.

Adequate and appropriate provision of extension services is paramount for any food security intervention strategy that is to be rolled out at scale. There needs to be a paradigm shift allowing extension service delivery to consider the limits to production imposed by agricultural natural resources. Extension services that encourage intensive and unrestrained application of commercial fertilizers and the failure of these services to integrate traditional knowledge and contemporary farming methods, including the continued use of research and education that stands aloof of the needs of farmers has proven to be a costly exercise to government and a loss of livelihood to the farmer. 

Mainstreaming innovative tools such as the LFR and climate smart approaches into extension service delivery is critical to provide timely, adequate and appropriate support for farmers to maintain productivity on their landscapes while simultaneously sustaining the ecosystem services that support sustained production at the farm level. 

For more info please contact:
Farayi Madziwa
Policy and Markets
Conservation South Africa 
Tel:    021-799-8708

Click the image for a view of: Farayi Madziwa contributing to the extension policy dialogue
Farayi Madziwa contributing to the extension policy dialogue
Click the image for a view of: How sustainable are current agricultural production systems?
How sustainable are current agricultural production systems?
Posted: 9/11/2012 (7:00:10 AM)


Top of the page   Bookmark and Share     Shanghai International Fair Wardrobe Fittings Furniture Chemical Upholstery Furniture Components International Furniture Fair home Furniture Show Upholstery Machinery Copyright © 2012 Phuhlisani Solutions. All rights reserved International Furniture Expo Furniture Expo in China exhibition in china 2013 Furniture Show Las Vegas Furniture Expo Highpoint Furniture China International Fair
Windows 7 Professional Product Key