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Extension Opinion 16: A view from Free State Agri

Dr Jack Armour is the Operations Manager: Land Reform and AgriBEE, Farm Management and Infrastructure, Municipal Liaison and Resource Protection at Free State Agri, the provincial affiliate of AgriSA in the Free State. He reflects on who needs to be working together, how different role players can co-operate, how extension officers can get a detailed understanding of the needs of the farmers they serve and what commercial farmers in the Free State expect of the agricultural extension services. 

In my opinion the key role-players who play important roles in the provincial extension landscape include:
  • Water User Association funded irrigation extension officials
  • The commodity associations with their industry specific knowledge
  • Agri-businesses to help ensure better payback on loans
  • The state extension service to implement government programmes, gather important statistical information (e.g. study group info to feed into local COMBUDS) and assist in disaster verification and form collection 
  • The state Vets are crucial for food/bio security.
All these role-players should come together at local agricultural association level to learn from each other, hear the requests / problems experienced by the farmers, and feed important information through. If this structure is strong all Agricultural associations in a municipality unite together with all stakeholders to form a strong municipal stakeholder group, or local Agricultural Forum to suggest local plans through the Municipal IDP, get effective By-Laws promulgated on Commonages, Fencing, Fire, Waste, Environment, Pounds, etc. and lobby for agriculture as a whole at the local political entity.

Extension officers need to:
  • Know all the farmers in your area
  • Attend Agricultural Association meetings &  farmer days & introduce yourself to the farmers
  • Get to know where all the farms in their area are 
  • Report relevant information through to farmers via the local farmers' SMS system
  • Develop key partnerships with Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (+NARYSEC)
  • Link up with local municipalities (esp. disaster management officers), organised agriculture, commodity organisations, mentor farmers and local agri-businesses.
Commercial farmers in the Free Sate want to see  the Dept Agriculture & Rural Development DARD develop:
  • An Agricultural Master Plan for the Free State which highlights comparative advantages and shortcomings of different commodities.
  • An analysis of opportunities for value adding and value chain potential as well as a competition analysis
Commercial farmers also want to see: 
  • More specialised support being made available for extension staff including a soil and water lab, and specialist agronomists, horticulturists, soil, animal, pasture and veldt scientists. 
  • Improved training for Extension staff who must be able to do a good resource assessment on a farm and have access to support to improve it. 

Click the image for a view of: Free State Agri provides the perspective from commercial agriculture
Free State Agri provides the perspective from commercial agriculture
Posted: 9/26/2012 (12:04:11 PM)


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