Collaborative learning of water conservation practices: cultivation and expansion of a learning network around rainwater harvesting demonstration sites in the Eastern Cape, South Africa.
Learning together in mediated voluntary networks can mobilise skills and innovations that help to facilitate learning and uptake of rainwater harvesting and conservation practices. It boosts extension capacity while at the same time growing farmer capabilities, tapping on the distributed cognition. These practices help to heal wicked problems of drought and global change challenges affecting marginalised farmers in South Africa. South Africa has water, nutrition and food security challenges, especially the Eastern Cape Province where there is a relatively high level of poverty. These challenges place heavy pressure on the agricultural sector as it is the main user of the allocated water in the country. In this paper, the learning of and agency for rainwater harvesting and conservation practices are explored as responses to these challenges. Despite existing cultural histories of such practices among the amaXhosa people, information on these practices is not readily available to small-scale rural farmers who thus struggle for the want of knowing. This research forms part of a Water Research Commission project, Amanzi for Food, whose intention is to mediate collaborative and co-engaged learning among networked farmers, extension workers, researchers and agricultural educators through course-mediated use of Water Research Commission rainwater harvesting and conservation materials.
Key words: Agricultural extension, education, Rainwater harvesting, Collaborative learning, Networks