The implications of a weak public extension service for the productivity performance of Karoo agriculture
This study used data on farmers’ preferred sources of information in three areas of their business to investigate what happens to farm productivity when the public extension service is dismantled. The majority of the farmers interviewed preferred the public sector service for grazing information. The group was divided on the best source of animal husbandry advice; 30% preferred the public extension service while 35% indicated that input salesmen, buyers, producers’ organisations or the media were their preferred source. In these two areas one in five farmers indicated that they trust their own experience most, while 13% felt unsure of where to get good advice. These farmers seemed to find it more difficult to find good information on predator management than on either of the other two topics. Nobody considered the state to have any predator management expertise, while 35% of the group preferred advice from professional hunters and 37% indicated that they rely on their own experience. There was an inverse relationship between coverage and the degree of privatisation as expected, but surprisingly a preference for private sources of advice was associated with much better productivity outcomes than a reliance on the public extension service.
Keywords: information preferences, productivity, privatisation, extension coverage