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January 3rd, 2018 / World Bank, US

At the recent Africa Agriculture Extension week in Durban, there was a common refrain: “Demand for food in Africa is growing and expected to double by 2050.” This is why we see continued growth and employment opportunities in the agricultural value chain and why agriculture extension—or training– is more important than ever.

So what exactly is agriculture extension? Agricultural extension focuses on delivering advisory services for technologies that help crop, livestock, and fishery farmers, among others. Extension workers are trainers, advisors, project managers, community developers and policy advocators. They also conduct administrative support for local governments and help farmers make decisions and share knowledge. Agriculture extension, which services smallholder farmers throughout the value chain, is crucial in achieving food, nutrition and income security.

Even though agriculture extension is key to building the food systems of the future, it is not always fit for purpose. In Africa, for example, many government extension systems are bureaucratic, unaccountable and poorly resourced.

At the same time, demand for extension services in Africa is growing. The clientele has grown beyond smallholders and young farmers to also include agribusiness enterprises.

Clearly, agricultural extension needs to change with the times. Organizations like the African Forum for Agricultural Advisory Services (AFAAS), which provides forums for experts and extensionists to share ideas, lessons and innovations, are an important resource for professionals in this field.

The youth, who rely primarily on ICT to access information, form a significant component of the farmer population. Therefore, there is a need to re-invest in the government extension system, enhance partnerships, and broaden areas of expertise for extensionists to include social sciences, ICT, environment, and gender. Read more