Agriculture is the most important sector of African economies, from the livelihoods it supports to the future jobs it can generate. The basic recipe for boosting performance is well known: more investment, better access to financial services, improved seeds, and a lot more fertilizer (appropriately applied).
What is less appreciated is the key role played by agricultural extension workers. They link small-scale farmers to new research, helping to improve their knowledge and skills so they can take advantage of market opportunities. In African countries prone to climate shocks, these extension workers have an increasingly important role to play if farmers are to learn to adapt and build their resilience.
There’s just one big problem: governments have tended to ignore extension work.
“The extension service provider’s role is enormous and urgent, especially as [the unpredictability of] climate change has brought a new dimension to agricultural research and development,” Max Olupot, of the African Forum for Agricultural Advisory Services, told IRIN.