AGRICULTURE EXTENSION SERVICE DELIVERY IN A SEMI-ARID RURAL AREA IN SOUTH AFRICA: THE CASE STUDY OF THORNDALE IN THE LIMPOPO PROVINCE|
Poverty, geographical isolation and being poorly served by agricultural workers, education, health, transport, communication and other services characterise the rural environment in most developing countries. Agricultural productivity and its associated agricultural extension services are important to the livelihood activities of rural communities. As a result rural communities require access to productive services information on input supply, new technologies, early warning systems for drought (pests and diseases), credit, and market prices. Agricultural extension service has been identified as an important part of the intended transformation of the agricultural sector. In South Africa, farmers consider the effectiveness of extension services in relation to receiving technological information and advice for purposes of crop and livestock production. The paper discusses the role of agricultural extension services in agricultural production in Thorndale, situated in the Savannah biome of the Bushbuckridge region in the Limpopo Province, South Africa. A questionnaire survey was used in the collection of data. The results indicated that the majority of the farmers do not have access to the services of extension officers. Yet, some farmers have infrequent contacts with extension officers and information, and the magnitude of extension services have been restricted to verbal instructions rather than demonstrative, innovative and hands on practical guidance to farmers. The majority of the respondents approximately 97% are farmers who engage in agricultural production, consisted of small-scale approximately 97% and commercial 3% farmers. The approximately 38% of households who have had contacts with extension officers indicated that the advice and assistance they received entailed farming practices such as buying seeds needed for crop production and storage of the produce harvested for eventualities such as drought or famine. Others include nursery making, correct crop spacing and fertilizer application, planting, transplanting, herbicide application, timely planting and early weeding. The study concluded that extension officers need to visit and guide rural farmers regularly with improved farming technologies and services. Further, capacity development and logistical assistance should be strengthened towards improving the current extension services to the rural communities.
Key words: Farmers, underserved, extension, drought, productivity
Farmers; underserved; extension; drought; productivity