User contributions and public extension delivery modes: Implications for financial sustainability of extension in South Africa
Extension channels form the bridge that extension agents use to communicate messages to recipients. The high recurrent costs faced by the public extension service constraint the number of visits farmers receive. This study examined a number of extension communication channels through which farmers received farm management services/information from the public extension agent. The idea was, first, to find out the dominant channel(s) through which information/services were received and, second, to assess the willingness of users to contribute financially to support the public extension services in providing more visits through that dominant channel to the clients who opt to pay. The study was conducted in three districts of the Free State Province, South Africa, between 1 September, 2010 and February 2011. Convenience and purposive sampling techniques were used to survey medium-scale commercial crop farmers (97) using semi-structured, self-administered questionnaires. The results show extension visits as the dominant channel through which respondents received information from the public extension agent for all the management practices investigated in this study. In addition, most respondents were willing to contribute financially to receive more visits from the public extension agent. It could be concluded that producers’ payment for more public extension visits could contribute towards financial sustainability of the public extension service.
Keywords: User contribution, public extension, delivery mode, financial sustainability