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Investigating the role of women in agricultural extension advisory services in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa: current-status, challenges, and prospects.

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This study investigated women’s role in agricultural extension advisory service, with a focus on their status, challenges, and prospect, using the uMgungundlovu District of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa as a case study. The study was conceived to identify the gender gaps among agricultural extension workers relative to overcoming household food security and enhancing rural livelihood, especially among women farmers, pointing out some hindrances limiting women's involvement in extension advisory services. Extension plays a significant role in enhancing agricultural production and community development initiatives. However, sustainable agriculture, rural livelihood sustainability, and food insecurity at the household level are still of great concern and continue to be substantial challenges for rural dwellers, especially women farmers in South Africa. Hence, this study Investigates the roles of women in agricultural extension advisory services in South Africa relative to overcoming household food security, the challenges confronting women advisors and farmers, and their empowerment needs, with specific reference to the KwaZulu-Natal province. The research processes used for this study are two-fold: a theoretical and philosophical process, on the one hand, and an empirical process, on the other hand. Both processes Involved a systematic Investigation pattern. This study draws from relevant published works, in the case of the theoretical process, to establish the gap that exists between female and male extension advisors. The study also establishes the degree to which women and men jointly participate as extension advisors, concerning the role of women advisors in facilitating household food security, rural livelihood, and sustainable agriculture among farmers, with special linkage to the profile of women in Africa Agriculture. The empirical process includes data collection through semi-structured interviews with selected respondents comprising of Provincial and district directors and deputy directors of extension and advisory services, a director of a non-governmental organization, female and male extension practitioners, and female and male farmers. Twenty respondents, including fifteen female extension advisors and five provincial and district stakeholders in extension advisory services, participated in the Investigation of the constraint confronting women extension advisors. Also, forty-five respondents were interviewed on the prospect of empowering women extension advisors. Some of the respondents were involved in both investigations. The study found that whereas all other provinces have a majority of male extension advisors, KwaZulu-Natal is more evenly split between females and males’ extension advisors. However, this unique demographic did not appear to offer the female extension advisors any advantage with respect to the challenges they generally face as women extension workers. Key among challenges confronting women extension advisors includes: egoistic attitudes, and are biased toward women extension advisors, a persistent manifestation of gender disparity, Skills deficiency, and security threat. The study also found that female extension practitioners are a crucial support system to smallholder farmers, especially women and are Instrumental in increasing women’s participation in commercial agriculture production. However, key factors such as insufficient or inadequate technology knowledge, especially skills in digital tools, marketing, project management, and soil fertility test knowledge have constantly affected their efficiency. As such, they are limited in the level and extent to which women farmers' extension service needs could be met. Therefore, empowering female extension practitioners holds the prospect of Improving women farmers’ efficiency and effectiveness. The study concluded on the need for appropriate actions that strengthen women participation by creating a conducive work atmosphere that facilitates and promotes female extension practitioners' empowerment and tackle the challenges that often impede their productivity. It recommends the need to include women extension advisors’ voices in policy making. The Implication of this is that women will be directly involved in the design of the policy that shapes their services, given that most time, National policies and/or frameworks do not always translate well to the local level where implementation is required.


Doctoral Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg.