Developing the New Extensionist Learning Kit

An iterative process of tapping the knowledge of experts in the field 

By Hlamalani Ngwenya and Kristin Davis


In 2012 GFRAS developed the “New Extensionist” document, which details the role that extension plays in an agricultural innovation system, and the strategies and capacities needed (at individual, organisational, and system level). Based on this document the GFRAS Consortium on Extension Education and Training emerged to promote the new extensionist, mainly through training, curricula review, and research on extension. Tapping the knowledge of experts from this field means engaging different stakeholders at the different stages of the development of the learning. 

Core competencies consultations

Through a consultative process with a wide range of stakeholders, the GFRAS Consortium came up with a set of 13 core competencies for individuals to fulfil the role of the new extensionist

GFRAS has since embarked on the process of developing learning materials for the core competencies defined. These will constitute the New Extensionist Learning Kit, suitable for self-directed (e.g. online), face-to-face, or a blended approach to learning.

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Fig 1: The GFRAS Consortium in Pretoria, 2013

The new extensionist learning kit writeshops

GFRAS, with support from GIZ (German Technical Cooperation) convened two writeshops with group of experts in extension and advisory services (and related fields) to work together and contribute in the actual development of the different learning modules.

The 1st writeshop was held on the 17th-21st August 2015, at Roodevallei Hotel in Pretoria, South Africa. Apart from the support from GIZ, GFRAS also collaborated with MEAS (Modernizing Extension and Advisory Services) with support from USAID (United State Agency for International Development). Attended by 11 experts, the process of developing 5 modules (see below) of the extensionist learning kit started in this writeshop. In addition, the Evaluation of Extension Programmes 101 module was also developed. 

Module 1: Introduction to new extensionist

Module 2: Extension approaches and methods

Module 7: Facilitation for development

Module 10: Value chain extension

Module 12: Gender in extension and RAS

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Fig 2: New Extensionist Learnign Kit 1st writeshop 2015

The 2nd writeshop took place on the 7th-9th June 2016, also at Roodevallei in Pretoria, South Africa. With 13 experts involved, the journey of the development of the remaining 8 modules of the learning kit began. In addition, the module on Policy Advocacy for Rural Advisory Services was also started.

Module 3: Extension programme management 

Module 4: Professional ethics

Module 5: Adult learning and behavioural change

Module 6: Communication for innovation

Module 9: Farmer institutional development

Module 8: Community mobilisation

Module 11: Agricultural entrepreneurship

Module 13: Adaptation to change

GFRAS is working with a publishing company (Sparrow) that is responsible for the actual writing, design, layout, and editing of the modules. The experts or content specialists are working closely with the publishing company for quality assurance to provide an oversight on each module.


Fig 3: New Extensionist Learning Kit 2nd Writeshop 2016

Interface with people on the ground

The development of the New Extensionist Learning Kit is managed as an iterative process of developing the content and soliciting feedback from different people on the ground. This is done in many ways that include reviews of the module outlines and testing of the modules to solicit feedback on both content and process. 

Review of module outlines: During the GFRAS 5th Annual meeting in Kyrgyzstan, the GFRAS Consortium had a meeting to specially review the first 5 modules of the learning. The feedback received was shared with the experts to further develop the modules.

Testing of modules: GFRAS continue to mobilise resources to test the modules at national level to solicit feedback on both the content and the process. This feedback is used to revise and further develop the modules. In 2015, testing of some modules was done in Ghana and Ethiopia in collaboration with the African Forum for Agricultural Advisory Services (AFAAS) and respective country fora. In 2016 testing of some modules is planned for Malawi, the Caribbean, Cameroon, and Nigeria, also in collaboration with the country fora and regional networks.

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Fig 4: New Extensionist Testing, Ghana 2015

Learning kit dissemination and mainstreaming

The expressed demand for the New Extensionist Learning Kit is increasing. This is encouraging and provides a great opportunity for GFRAS to work with the regional networks, country fora, and training institutions to advocate for disseminate, and mainstream the learning kit. Based on these demands and opportunities, GFRAS is currently working on a concrete plan not only for dissemination, but also for monitoring and evaluation in order to track the level of awareness, adoption, and adaption of the learning kit modules and the new extensionist concept as a whole