ICRA’s activities are normally in partnership with other organizations from both “North” and “South”. They include projects where we take the lead, and others where we play a supporting role. Typically our capacity development role supports broader rural innovation processes to help achieve Sustainable Development Goals.

Strengthening agricultural extension services in South Africa

Geographical location:

South AfricaAfrique du SudAfrica del Sur

Time frame:

2012-mid 2015


Netherlands Initiative for Capacity development in Higher Education (NICHE/ZAF/123)

ICRA Contact Person:

Colletah Chitsike

Further information:

Strengthening the extension services in South Africa through strengthening the capacity of the Agricultural Research Council (ARC), the Eastern Cape Provincial Department of Agriculture (EC-DPA) and the University of Fort Hare (UFH) in implementing an accredited skills programme and an educational programme for extension workers.


Most public sector extension workers in South Africa do not have the required education and training to respond to the needs of the farmers they are servicing and the curricula of educational institutions does not encourage innovative, problem-solving thinking that would enable them to deal with the multi-faceted problems they encounter in the farming communities.

The project is targeted primarily towards staff of ARC (trainers), EC-PDA (trainers and extension workers) and UFH (lecturers), and the managers of all three organisations. However, it explicitly involves rural communities in joint action and planning.
The activities are being implemented by a consortium of ICRA (lead) and the Centre for Development Innovation (CDI) – WageningenUR.


Overall objective: 

The project strengthened extension services in South Africa in their ability to increase agricultural production and make it more sustainable.

Specific objectives: 

Strengthening the capacities of the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) and the University of Fort Hare (UFH) Eastern Cape Department of Agriculture (EC-PDA), to implement improved ‘in-service’ extension services, specifically the ‘big five’ topics linked to agricultural extension. These are each named after one of the ‘big five’ wild animals in South Africa, being context analysis (rhino module), economic analysis (lion module), managing yourself as a professional in extension (elephant module), managing groups (buffalo module), and getting things done (leopard module). At the end of the project:

  • an accredited gender sensitive ‘big five’ extension course is offered at academic level at the UFH and as an ‘in-service skills programme’ by the ARC
  • strategies and processes are in place at ARC and UFH to implement an integrated and interactive learning approach.
  • a pool of staff is qualified as facilitation trainers
  • ARC, UFH and EC-PDA participate in inter-organizational networks on education and training
  • gender mainstreaming is undertaken in the programmes and processes of ARC, UFH and EC-PDA 

ICRA's role

ICRA was the lead consortium member and implemented the project in close collaboration with the Centre for Development Innovation (CDI):

  • to help ARC, UFH and EC-PDA develop approaches, methods and tools to improve their extension services that help them cope with the dynamic changes in South Africa both during and after completion of the project
  • to support capacity building in meta-disciplines, social skills and in mind-sets in combination with relevant subject matter knowledge
  • to promote training and support in the national and regional context, making use of staff based in southern Africa 

Achievements to date

  • The ‘big five’ extension course that was developed as part of a previous NUFFIC project was revisited and registered with AgriSETA as an ‘ARC skills programme’.   The complete set of training materials, composed of a guide for the trainer, and learner guides and learner workbooks for the trainees for each module, can be downloaded from the links under the heading "Learning Materials" on this page.
  • A two-track training approach applied an interactive, trainee-centred experiential learning approach is being implemented by ARC in collaboration with UFH and LDA.
  • 15 staff members of ARC, UFH and EC-PDA successfully trained as facilitators.
  • 67 female and 74 male extension officers have successfully participated in ’big five’ extension courses in five districts as pilot sites for the extension training.

Published on: 16 - December - 2014

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