National Extension Policy
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What should we expect from a National Extension Policy?

FAO’s global consultation in 1990 on agricultural extension concluded that all governments should have a national extension policy. According to Alex et al., (2002: 25)  national extension policy statements generally contain concise statements of:
  • rural sector policy and objectives; 
  • role and objectives of extension services; 
  • target coverage and clients for different extension activities; 
  • organization and financing structure - whether centralized or decentralized, whether under a unified extension system or independent agencies, whether implemented by government or other agencies, etc.; 
  • procedures for planning, priority setting, and governance at national and local levels; 
  • role of private extension service providers; 
  • role of users; extension methods and approaches to be used; 
  • arrangements for support services for field extension - extension worker training, technology support, mass media, and monitoring and evaluation. 
Alex et al observe that extensive consultations with stakeholders is required to provide important input to and build political support for the content and orientation of a national extension strategy. 

Developing a national extension policy in South Africa requires that we address these questions for agriculture, forestry and fisheries and identify the extension, research and institutional linkages to better integrate these sectors. It also requires that we incorporate new understandings about climate change impacts, increasingly water scarcity and mounting natural resource management constraints. 

Extension and research systems have to articulate with an understanding of globalised food systems and related value chains. Extension policy has to critically review the experience of land reform and rural development in South Africa and identify the mix of front end, localised support and research services together with the 'back-office' R&D, information, training and regulatory systems to ensure effective development support.  

Given the persistence of poverty and inequality a focus on agricultural forestry and fisheries development alone may not be enough to help people out of poverty. This requires that extension and advisory services are located within a more explicit pro-poor strategy which should shape the design and delivery of extension programmes.

Overcoming the gap between policy and practice
Initial conversations with small holder farmers, extension and rural development practitioners highlight widespread skepticism about the value of  policy development processes and the enormous gap between policies and their implementation. 

Small farmers highlight a wide range of constraints which they argue that policy processes fail to practically address:
  • Insecure or weak land rights and access which limits their access to services and eligibility for financial support;
  • Short term restrictive leases;
  • Difficulties in accessing markets and in delivering sufficient volume and quality to maintain this access once secured;
  • Marginal land;
  • Lack of essential equipment and infrastructure; 
  • Inadequate water;
  • High costs of electricity, fuel, transport and inputs;
  • Theft of stock and assets;
  • Limited or non-existent coverage of agricultural risk;
  • Poor, inappropriate and poorly aligned support services by government departments;
  • Lack of on farm training and customised business support.
Getting policy in place is important but the systems and practices for effective implementation will be the practical measures of success.

References
Alex, G., Zijp, W. and Byerlee, D., 2002. Rural extension and advisory services: new directions. Washington, DC: The World Bank Agriculture and Rural Development Department Rural Development Strategy Background Paper 9.

Click the image for a view of: Examining policy options
Examining policy options
Posted: 8/19/2012 (4:30:31 AM)


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