This paper aims to stimulate discussion on the operationalisation of learning process approaches to community development and rural extension. It attempts to systematise a participatory extension approach into process phases and steps, which allow extension agents to understand the process dynamics, while preventing a blueprint implementation. The systematisation, in combination with an intensive training learning process over one to two years, is seen as the foundation for the development of field staff. The cornerstones of this approach are social mobilisation which includes local organisational development, action planning, experiential learning through trying out new ideas and options and evaluation of the action by the people involved in the process. Innovation is seen as a product of social negotiation and the spreading of innovation as a product of good effective social organisation and communication at community level. Therefore the extension intervention is geared toward strengthening mechanisms for joint learning and sharing of experiences and communication among farmers and between farmers and outsiders. The immediate impact is a more efficient development and spreading of technologies, but secondary, non-agricultural impacts such as improved self-governance, are equally important.
Jürgen Hagmann with Edward Chuma, Kudakwashe Murwira and Mike Connolly