Meeting the extension needs of smallholder farmers : the climate information gap in the public agricultural extension and advisory services in Limpopo, South Africa.
Zikhali, Zafezeka Mbali.
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This study examined the gap in climate information within public Agricultural Extension and Advisory Services in Limpopo. Specifically, it assessed extension officers’ climate change perceptions, climate change knowledge, and their formal and informal climate education. Lastly, the study examined the extension approaches and extension officers’ perceptions of overall suitability of the overall climate information disseminated to rural smallholder farmers. The study used a semi-structured questionnaire on 90 public extension officers purposively sampled. The Limpopo Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (LDARD) employed all the officers in two districts, i.e., Mopani (Tzaneen and Maruleng Municipalities) and the Vhembe (Musina and Mutale Municipalities). The data was analysed using the IBM Statistical Package Social Science (SPSS). Content analysis was used for analysing qualitative data, such as the likert scale data, focus group discussions and key informant interviews. The results indicated that participants were predominately male, between the age groups of 31-59 years, and possessed B. Tech/Degree qualifications. Women extension officers were slightly more educated than males. Extension officers’ climate change awareness was average. Education levels had an influence on exposure to climate education, in-serve and climate change training and extension approaches used to disseminate agricultural information to client farmers. They also acknowledged that the climate change information disseminated to smallholder farmers was not suitable for their needs. The study concluded that extension officers need to keep abreast with climate change knowledge through continuous retraining. There is also a need to integrate indigenous knowledge to climate information to increase the suitability and acceptability of the information by smallholder farmers.