Stellenbosch Extension Symposium
Colleagues, thank you for the opportunity to address you at this year's annual Extension Symposium. The title for this Symposium is The Synergy of Integration of Extension Services Can Take the Sector to Prosperity. This title touches on some very important and fundamental issues relating to successful extension services in the agricultural sector.
As extension officers you are often confronted with a new project. Immediately there is a large variety of role players involved: land and beneficiaries might have been selected by the Department of Rural Development and Land Affairs. Support programmes and budget allocations which were determined by National and Provincial Departments of Agriculture. In the Western Cape, the new project will fall within a commodity grouping. There are the established neighbours to be reckoned with.
As the responsible extension officer, it is your challenge to stimulate positive synergies between all these role players, because without positive synergy, success will not be possible.
Integration of Extension Services
Our assistance and support as extension officers does not take place in a vacuum. We are working in an environment where success is often dictated by factors outside of our control. World market conditions; weather patterns; climate change and consumer demands to name but a few. This might often give rise to situations where a client's needs are different from the needs identified in the initial design. In order to deal with this challenge, it is crucial that extension officers are up to date with assistance possibilities from different departments, but also assistance possibilities from programmes within their own department. This knowledge will allow for a more integrated approach to service delivery.
Colleagues, we need to remind ourselves each and every day of the characteristics of the sector which we work in. Agriculture is moving in a direction where farming units increase, or smaller units are consolidated for efficiency gains. Our sector is in the process of mechanising. Both the increase in unit size and mechanisation can be directly linked to the sector's attempts to remain competitive in a global market. At the same time our sector is seen by many in South Africa as the solution to unemployment and through redistribution of land, the bringer of social equilibrium.
South Africa as a country will benefit or lose, depending on the level of productivity taking place on the actual land. And because we believe we can make a difference, it is also worthwhile to set targets for ourselves.
I said in 2009 we need to achieve a 60% success rate with empowerment projects in the Western Cape. We are now entering the final year of the five-year period this target was set against. I belief that if we can reach our targets, we will help to create prosperity, the last concept mentioned in the theme for this Symposium.
Allow me a few last thoughts on farming and creating sustainable models.
We need to learn to crawl before we can learn to walk. I have seen to many expensive and sophisticated projects failing because the beneficiaries were not able to maintain the infrastructure provided by government. Let us first teach people to farm in the soil before we attempt to assist them with farming in tunnels. Each failed hydroponics project dotting the South African rural landscape is a tomb stone for agricultural extension. Let us rather start small and allow people to showcase their talent and ambition to progress to more advanced modes of agriculture. In this manner we will be in a better position to allocate money to projects with a better chance of success.
For each and every success story you are involved in, you must take the credit. But each and every failed project must give you sleepless nights.
Colleagues, allow me to wish you all the best with the Symposium and good luck with the very important work that awaits you.