“Things have changed a lot” in agricultural extension services
Zwianzo Nemavhola grew up in rural Limpopo province in South Africa and easily recalls extension officers making the rounds in her community. At the time, she wasn’t interested in their work; she aspired to become a dentist. But “things have changed a lot,” in agricultural extension services, she comments, and Zwianzo’s interests changed, too. Fast forward a number of decades, and with an M.Agric. in Poultry Nutrition among her numerous qualifications, she now oversees all the agricultural extension officers in her district and represents the district at the national level.
Zwianzo was selected in 2016 to attend the general poultry production course funded by the World Poultry Foundation at the KwaZulu-Natal Poultry Institute and honored to be invited back for advanced training in 2017. She especially enjoyed KZN PI’s holistic approach. “They start with the need to know your environment in terms of poultry production up to marketing your chicken or eggs,” she says. “Aspiring poultry farmers often come to me and say, ‘everyone eats chicken, so therefore market is available,’ and they expect to make money. That’s where the problem starts!” And that’s where, she adds, “record keeping is critical.” In that regard, she especially appreciated the training’s attention to systems of record keeping that bring real benefit to the farmer. A further course highlight for her were lectures by private sector experts. “We got all the latest information. During the outbreak of Avian Influenza in South Africa, for example, experts were invited to share with the group the latest knowledge about the disease.”
Zwianzo’s workdays are now split between her desk job and extension services for poultry and pig farmers. In poultry, she says 90% of the hundreds of poultry operations in her district produce broilers. The live market is also extremely popular. “Farmers with flocks of 2,000-5,000 birds for the live market make a decent living.” At the larger commercial level of operations with 40,000+ birds, of which there are about 40 in her province, steady offtake and reliable abattoir services continue to present a challenge.
Zwianzo liked the open discussion around all angles of a topic at KZN PI. She said it gave her participating extension officers new confidence to interact with and advise even commercial poultry farmers, where they had previously shied away from such exchanges.
She and her extension officers continue to share their learning and experiences at info-days, farmer days and group refresher sessions. She’d love to see the KZN PI training come to Limpopo so that more officers could benefit and stay up to date.
Looking back on her choice to enter the agricultural extension services field, she says, “I love my job – a lot!”
Ms. Frances Chisholm
Friend & Supporter of the WPF
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