Knowledge and skill alone does not result in practice change. Verbal persuasion, even well-articulated has low impact. Great extension is about a consistent focus on delivering to farmer needs that are self identified as well as those from gap analysis and doing it in a way that results in practice change.
Seventy percent of change programs fail because we assume people are ready to change. Understanding the stage a person is at on the change cycle helps target effective extension intervention which improves the probability of being successful.
To influence change, at pace and scale, requires a focus on changing behaviour, and to change behaviour we need to change the way people think. Most human behaviour is learnt from observing others. Through observation, one forms an idea of how new behaviours can be performed, and this coded information serves as a guide for future action. Practice change will occur when an individual believes they can be successful (self-efficacy).
Farmers learn best from other farmers and keeping farmers in the driving seat will increase participation and relevance of any extension activity, leading to more change on farm.
Identify barriers and then remove them before trying to change behaviour. Involving the farmers who need to change in the planning of the change initiative and the decision-making makes it easier to identify barriers and enables trust. Making general principles local through role modelling and or good story telling reduces barriers to change.
Breaking recommendations into small change steps helps to make success easy. Following up, and involving gatekeepers (decision makers) of the system are key triggers for change as restraining forces are reduced.
To support self-efficacy any change program requires some one on one and or group peer support as change is often stressful and confidence may be lacking.
Successful practice change begins and ends with a successful partnership. Therefore extension professionals will be more effective by building an ecosystem of partners.
The extension professionals’ toolkit needs a change model that guides extension to work systematically through the change process with farmers. It also needs an evaluation framework to measure effectiveness. One model is the See (belief’s), Do (behaviours), Get (results) Model. If a farmer is not happy about their results, extension can work with the farmer to review their beliefs which can then be challenged to change their behaviour to improve the results.
Recruiting extension professionals for head (intelligence), heart (passion) and tenure, helps to build trust and credibility with farmers which is important to influence change. Building capability is important in both hard skills (technical) and soft skills (understanding people and relationship management). Persistence is also needed as change happens over time (at least 3 years).
The recommendations outlined in this report operate as interdependent determinants in practice change. These recommendations will not only help extension professionals do their job effectively but also enable them to enjoy their work more while being effective at influencing change on farm.
Good to Great Extension: Influencing on farm change at pace and scale – Tafadzwa Manjala