Issue 068 – Re-thinking Agriculture and Extension Education
Recent developments have radically changed conditions that small-scale farmers have relied on for generations for food production and livestock rearing globally. Among these include the reduction of land available for farming due to population pressure and land grabbing; deterioration of soil fertility and health as a result of extractive farming practices; and unpredictable weather patterns caused by climate change. These challenges call for an equally radical shift in the mode of training for extension agents. Many experiences are showing that agricultural education can do much more; it can be a powerful tool in strengthening the social value attached to farming. It can make people aware that there are low-cost and sustainable alternatives to “modern agriculture” which, for many small-scale farmers, can be a route into debt and misery. Agricultural educators – whether extension agents from the public or private sector, university professors, school teachers or farmers themselves – need to become agents of change. They need to support farmers in the task of reconnecting to the agroecosystems that they manage, rather than becoming increasingly disconnected from them. This issue shows a range of experiences in East Africa and beyond that set examples that may be amenable to replication.