FOOD PRODUCTION: New extension officers have joined the provincial department of agriculture to help farmers. Picture: GALLO IMAGES
The bid to revive agriculture in the province got a shot in the arm this week when 46 new extension officers joined the provincial department of agriculture.
The department has also allocated 20 vehicles that are suited to navigate through rough terrain to its 11 district offices.
During his introduction of the new graduates – who hold BTech university degrees – MEC for the department of agriculture Dr Meshack Radebe said the initiative would boost agriculture in the province.
Radebe said he was proud that the graduates had been trained after receiving education funds from the department.
“This will help improve the farmers’ yield as more sufficiently trained extension officers will be easily and readily available,” said Radebe at Cedara outside Pietermaritzburg on Tuesday.
Agricultural extension officers are intermediaries between researchers and farmers. They operate as facilitators and communicators, helping farmers in their decision-making and ensuring that appropriate knowledge is implemented to obtain the best results.
They communicate to farmers agricultural information on natural resources, animals, crops, on how best to utilise the farm land, how to construct proper irrigation schemes, economic use and storage of water as well as how to combat animal disease and save on the cost of farming equipment and procedures.
They need to ensure that farmers understand this information and use it on their farms in order to obtain the best production.
Turning to livestock farming officers in his department, Radebe said the vehicles should not be used for personal use but to crisscross the province to help livestock farmers.
“I have to indicate though that these cars will supplement the existing transport fleet. It will also accelerate the livestock programme, especially with veterinary inoculations and the herd improvement programme (Nguni) – thus improving community outreach programmes,” Radebe said.