A People – Centred Development Approach for Small Farmers in Limpopo Provinces

Documentation of the organisational change process that the Limpopo Department of Agriculture (LDA) underwent in its adoption of a participatory agricultural extension approach (PEA), and the uptake of PEA by small-scale farmers.



Novafrica, GTZ-BASED Project, Limpopo Department of Agriculture.


Andrew Charman, Kuda Murwira


In 2007 SLC was commissioned to document the organisational change process that the Limpopo Department of Agriculture (LDA) underwent when adopting a participatory agricultural extension approach (PEA). The documentation was also to report and reflect on the impact of the adoption of PEA on small-scale farmers, many of whose lives measurably improved.


SLC conducted the research and published the findings in a booklet entitled A people-centred development approach for small farmers in Limpopo Province. This is now as a key resource tool in the training of agricultural extension officers. It has also been employed to further entrench PEA in all institutions within the LDA.


In 1998 the LDA began to develop a participatory extension approach to ensure that agricultural services reached small-scale farmers and benefited their communities. The new approach was introduced through a process of learning alongside extension officers. PEA is a learning approach for strengthening the individual and organizational capacities of rural people. It enables them to deal with the dynamic challenges and changes to their livelihoods needed to move out of poverty. PEA is not simply a participatory development approach; it is an approach to development that focuses on the participation of people for better governance and social accountability. It seeks to address some of the major obstacles to sustainability in pro-poor-oriented development interventions.

These challenges include:

  • How to bring communities together so that they can articulate their diverse demands
  • How to get people to participate in development actions
  • How to encourage people to explore innovative options for change
  • How to ensure that vulnerable groups benefit
  • How to co-ordinate service provision at community level
  • How to improve local governance
  • How to move from isolated projects towards broader support for community development initiatives.

PEA seeks to root development in a process of learning that focuses on self-empowerment and collective action. Over the last two decades it has evolved from engagement in small projects to large programmes in a number of developing countries. These initiatives have the common aim of fostering rural development from the bottom up by securing community participation in the design, planning and implementation of development.

At the heart of PEA is the facilitation of self-organization in rural communities. If people are organised, they can not only better articulate their needs for agricultural and social services as a collective entity, but are better able to represent themselves collectively vis-à-vis service providers and authorities.

The application of PEA in Limpopo Province resulted in a significant improvement in many people’s livelihoods. The cases documented in the booklet showed that people who changed the way they engaged in agriculture ended up changing other aspects of their lives. As their social energies were mobilized, they were empowered to start addressing other fields of development that affect their lives, e.g. crime, the lack of electricity, HIV/AIDS, and the marginalization of women and the poor.

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