Modelling effective and simultaneous promotion of food security and biodiversity conservation through agricultural extension activities
There is no doubt that public agricultural extension has contributed to the success of South Africa’s current large-scale farmers, the fruit of which the nation still enjoys. Nonetheless, the ineffectiveness of the extension service to meet the current challenges – particularly among resource-challenged, small-holder farmers – is widely acknowledged. This ineffectiveness extends to promoting household food security within the context of encouraging biodiversity conservation on farm lands. To examine this, this paper draws on recently conducted research to sketch the current model within which extension pursues these seemingly dichotomous objectives and identifies some gaps which, if addressed, can enable extension to simultaneously meet these two objectives. The paper presents a refurbished extension model which builds on the current South African model by introducing three elements: collaboration among all the stakeholders involved in promoting food security, biodiversity conservation and agricultural extension objectives; adopting a capacity-building approach (replacing the current top-down, technology transfer approach) to support farmers who are significant actors in food security and biodiversity agendas; and re-invigorating extension institutions through introducing specific presently lacking capacities. The refurbished model postulates that extension, alongside farmers, would be better placed to foster new farming ideologies to address the food security and biodiversity conservation concerns. Better positioning of farmers, who in themselves are thinkers and problems-solvers, and simultaneous promotion of effective working relationships among related governmental departments will strengthen complementary, rather than competition and contradiction, which currently hamper methodical and systematic pursuit of the necessarily conjoined objectives of and processes for achieving food security and conserving biodiversity.
Keywords: Extension model, agricultural extension, food security, biodiversity conservation, collaboration, rural wealth