n South African Journal of Agricultural Extension - The specialist or the generalist : what does the year 2000 and beyond require for sustainable agricultural development?

Volume 29, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0301-603X
  • E-ISSN: 2413-3221


The debate whether extension should specialise or not to attain successful and sustainable agricultural development will continue for times to come. This article takes a critical look at what is understood to be extension, agricultural development and specialisation. The role of credibility, knowledge, perception and programmed extension will also be considered and how these factors/elements relate to the rendering of effective and successful extension services. It is of major importance that the situation and needs of clients/beneficiaries of extension services be taken into consideration, as this should form the basis of any decision taken towards more specialised - as compared to generalised approaches. Care should be taken that decisions are not based on the needs and/or aspirations of those who render these services. Furthermore the issue of responsibility of the extension agent and the extent of this responsibility is of significance. This responsibility may be to maintain and improve the availability of existing information (e.g. research), the transfer of technology to communities (e.g. training) or a responsibility towards funding agents, financiers, government, etc. The responsibility towards the members of the community, on the other hand, is of vital importance if successful and sustainable development is to be achieved. The slow progress made with development in certain communities could amongst other reasons, be attributed to extension agents not being sufficiently trained or development being approached in an ad hoc or non-scientific way. Many field workers on the other hand seem to lack commitment to implement proper development principles. The challenge for the year 2000 and beyond is to ensure that development is approached in a programmed and scientific manner, with well-trained extensionists to manage and implement these programmes. All role-players should be involved as far as possible and they should be experts in their fields and co-ordinated by a suitable development agent. The development agent(tm)s role may also change over time, as development is a dynamic process with the needs of people changing continuously.

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