Across the divide: The impact of farmer-to-farmer linkages in the absence of extension services
The literature on recent trends in agricultural development emphasises the importance of extension and research practitioners participating with smallholder farmers in order to improve agricultural development, providing various cases to illustrate this point. The same body of literature also provides examples of networks amongst smallholder farmers that make a crucial difference to local agricultural development by supporting smallholders. These networks are seemingly made up of more or less homogeneous resource poor individuals: sharing their skills, knowledge, inputs, etc. to ensure their ability to produce and to survive. However, in some instances the members of these networks are not homogeneous individuals, but often come from diverse backgrounds, having different access to various resources. During the Apartheid era in South Africa the state extension services predominantly focused on the large-scale commercial farmers and paid scant attention to the smallholder farmers in the various rural reserves. This paper, in the form of a case study, describes the context, initial linkage and relationship between two apple farmers, one a largescale commercial producer and the other a smallholder, in the south-western Cape deciduous fruit producing area. Despite Apartheid legislation and other socioeconomic constraints this linkage and subsequent relationship allowed the smallholder to enter the national and the export apple markets during the 1970s and to continue to supply to these markets until today, despite most of his contemporaries having ceased their apple production by the 1970s. This was largely achieved by the farmer\'s ability to use the subsequent relationship to enable him to innovate his production practices within the confines of his political and socio-economic circumstances. This case provides three clear conclusions that must be noted by those involved in agricultural development (1) elationships between farmers are important for their livelihoods, (2) farmers are innovators, whose innovations are constrained by the parameters of the context within which they are actors and not by their ability to innovate, and (3) where extension and research services do exist, they should seriously consider strengthening farmers\' networks and innovations.
South African Journal of Agricultural Extension Vol. 35 (1) 2006: pp. 12-22