Agricultural Extension and advisory services are dynamic professions that constantly change in response to a changing policy environment and user-needs. These professions therefore need a capable cadre of gender-sensitive, pro-climate, dedicated and motivated staff skilled agricultural production, business (economics, marketing and financial management expertise) and agricultural extension, human and organizational behaviour change and management and communication techniques. It is such a cadre of Extension agents/advisors that can rise up to the challenges of the 21st Century and its concomitant transformational demands.
If there ever was an era for fundamental transformation in global food production systems, for sustainable development, for collaborative networks, for innovative thinking and solutions, for digitization, that era is here and now. The global inequality gap is widening, unemployment (esp. youth) is rising and food insecurity is deepening with a growing trust deficit between those targeted for services and the specialist’s providers. Applied disciplines with a strong scientific knowledge base are rising up to the challenge by providing innovative solutions to the felt needs of individuals and communities and thereby improving livelihoods.
If you find inspiration in communicating scientific knowledge in innovative ways for impactful and sustainable development; in the participation of people in making their own decisions; in the power of indigenous knowledge systems, multisectoral collaborations and local network; in the development of entrepreneurial skills, and in stimulating learning and influencing human behaviour, then the discipline of Extension is perfect for you. Extension is an applied discipline that is multi-disciplinary and participatory in approach. The champions for development in rural communities, Extensionists are cordially called Agents of Change.
Agricultural Extensionists provide an effective linkage between rural and urban farmers, agricultural research and other sources of information, making it possible to stimulate learning amongst stakeholders. Extensionists learn principles that are applicable to other fields such as rural development, food security, health, nutrition education, agrarian reform, and climate change thus broadens career choices. Our graduate degree programmes at Honours, Masters and Doctoral levels are re-known for producing professional Extension Agents and Scientists in the Extension Field of Practice. As a graduate you can be registered as a professional Extension Agents/Scientists in the Community of Practice. Since 2013, the South African Council for Natural Science Professions (SACNASP) recognises and registers Extension advisory services as a field of practice. Meaning, every Extension agent/advisor can register their Natural Science and Extension qualifications with SACNASP.
If you enjoy research that contributes to national and international dialogue, collaborative efforts, decision-making, policy directives and practice, again the discipline of Extension Services is for you. Extension is a programme that attracts innovative thinkers, who embrace collaborative problem-solving approaches and sustainable technologies, working in partnership with multiple-actors in coordinated efforts towards attainment of meaningful change.
Those of you who are young and keen to be an integral part of a pro-Climate Agrarian Revolution, Extension is definitely for you. The scope is wide from which to drive the revolution—from government, civil society, private sector farmer organizations/associations, regional or international development agencies, academia, or as an entrepreneur. As Nelson Mandela would say “It is in your hands”.