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Competency can be defined as “a set of observable performance dimensions, including individual knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviours, as well as collective team, process, and organisational capabilities, that are linked to high performance, and provide the organisation with sustainable competitive advantages” (Athey and Orth 1999: 216). (8)

Athey, T.R. and Orth, M.S. 1999. Emerging competency methods for the future. Human Resource Management 38(3): 215–226.

Many organisations and/or programmes define the priority competencies that they require of extension professionals. (13)

Examples include: GFRAS; University of Florida: Brodeur, C.W., Higgins, C., Galindo-Gonzalez, S., Craig, D.D. and Haile, T. 2011. Designing a competency-based new county extension personnel training program: A novel approach. Journal of Extension 49(3).; University of Nebraska-Lincoln. 2005. Competencies for 21st century extension professionals. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Publications detailing extension and rural advisory competencies include Stone and Coppernoll (2004) and Suvedi and Kaplowitz (2016). (14)
 Stone, B. and Coppernoll, S. 2004. You, extension, and success: A competency-based professional development system. Journal of Extension 42(2).; Suvedi, M. and Kaplowitz, M. 2016. What every extension worker should know – Core competency handbook. East Lansing, MI: Department of Community Sustainability, Michigan State University.

Frequently identified essential competencies for RAS include:

  • communication
  • facilitation skills
  • technical skills (e.g. animal production, plant production)
  • sociocultural aspects/behavioural change (e.g. diversity, pluralism, multiculturalism)
  • leadership development/group functioning
  • extension research, education, and training
  • agricultural entrepreneurship and value chains
  • extension programme and project management
  • extension tools and methods
  • extension programme monitoring and evaluation
  • information and communications technologies
  • extension and organisational management.

For an example of competency rankings, see Box 3.

Box 3: New Extensionist Learning Kit - competency ranking

In the GFRAS professionalisation of RAS scoping study, respondents were asked to rate the competencies included in the GFRAS New Extensionist Learning Kit using the following scale: 1 = absolutely essential; 2 = essential; 3 = somewhat essential; 4 = not essential at all; 5 = don’t know. The results were as follows.

Absolutely essential

  • Communication for innovation
  • Extension approaches and tools (changing role of extension in innovation and development)
  • Adult learning and behaviour change
  • Facilitation for development


  • Agricultural entrepreneurship
  • Extension programme management
  • Professional ethics
  • Gender and youth issues in agricultural extension and rural development
  • Adaptation to change
  • Value chain development
  • Introduction to the New Extensionist

Somewhat essential

  • Community development (mobilisation)
  • Farmer institutional development


It is generally expected that individuals pay a small registration fee according to the level of registration. This may be embedded in the cost of approved training, or the professional person may pay an annual registration fee embedded in a membership fee. The administrative function, staff, and offices of the registration/certification body need to be remunerated from fees.

In the case of South Africa, for example, the annual registration fees in 2017 were as follows:


  • Professional Natural Scientist (Prof. Nat. Sci.): ZAR1210
  • Candidate Natural Scientist (Cand. Nat. Sci.): ZAR460
  • Certificated Natural Scientist (Cert. Nat. Sci.): ZAR740


  • A single fee: ZAR360.