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Extension Opinion No. 20: Ten ideas to make extension more effective

Rhodes University’s Department of Environmental Science is taking on a range of issues connected to sustainability and adaptation in rural communities. Hailey Gaunt in a recent report on the Rhodes website provides the background:
'It’s an interdisciplinary endeavour called the Jongaphambili Sinethemba Project (JPS) -- isiXhosa for “looking forward, we have hope” -- and it represents a shift in modern academic research which attempts to respond to challenges that emerge through the research process. At the heart of this process is what’s known as social learning, a dynamic collaboration between researchers and communities.
The project is based at two separate Eastern Cape sites, Willowvale and Lessyton, where 10 to 13 community members have been elected by their peers to form part of the social learning groups. These groups work directly with Rhodes researchers, helping them gather information and data and disseminating it to their communities'. 
Reflecting on their participatory research and social learning experience in rural areas Dr Sheona Shackleton and Nick Hamer identify ten priority areas for extension: 
  1. Gender issues are critical. Women matter! If you want to support food security it is essential to support women.
  2. Home gardens need to be supported to ensure production of a diversity of healthy greens and other vegetables to improve nutrition. Climate change means food prices will continue to escalate. People need to supplement their diets and become more food self-sufficient.
  3. Recognise local varieties of key crops and support local seed banks and breeding. We need to get away from dependency on hybrids where the seed can only be used once. We also need to acknowledge and support the sustainable use of edible wild plants. Lets promote diversity and resilience. (To see further discussion on farmer led breeding follow link at the bottom of this page). 
  4. Let’s start by building on what people are doing, by first focusing on their current activities and finding how to support them, before expanding to new activities.
  5. Support school gardens and get the youth interested.
  6. Get extension officers to look beyond just the growing, to the storing, preserving, drying, etc. of foods. We need to focus on how to extend food shelf life to enhance food security.
  7. Train extension officers to use participatory and social learning approaches.
  8. Support agriculture as part of a livelihood diversification activity.
  9. We need more extension officers trained in natural resource management and rehabilitation techniques, as it is critical that land care is drastically improved.
  10. Extension support should also include restoration of key ecosystem services and ecosystems such as wetlands.
For more information contact:
Nick Hamer
Jongaphambili Sinethemba Project
046 603 7014

Click the image for a view of: Dr Sheona Shackleton: Department of Environmental Science, Rhodes University
Dr Sheona Shackleton: Department of Environmental Science, Rhodes University

Posted: 10/10/2012 (4:52:51 AM)


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