The department of agricultural extension services (DAES) has been the central implementing agency responsible for agricultural extension services in Malawi. However, since 1990s many changes have taken place leading to the development of new national extension policy, which was launched in 2000, under the heading Agricultural Extension in the New Millennium: Towards Pluralistic and Demand-driven Services in Malawi. This is an opportunity to bring the control of extension closer to the grassroots community. One of the biggest challenges in operationalising the new system is the facilitation of farmers’ involvement at all stages. This may not be achieved without appropriate functional structures from the grassroots community. And in light of the pluralism in extension service delivery, co-ordination of agricultural extension has become another challenge extension has to deal with. The aim of this study was to investigate the level of farmers’ involvement in agricultural extension services, search for an appropriate institutional linkage structure for effective participatory and coordinated agricultural extension as well as identify major factors affecting coordination of pluralistic agricultural extension services in Nkhotakota district. A total of 135 respondents were involved in group interview sessions allowing extensive interaction and discussion before individuals were requested to record their viewpoints regarding various alternatives in documents (questionnaires) prepared for that purpose and which were subsequently analysed. The survey results reveal that agricultural extension has not been very participatory and the level of farmers’ involvement is very low. What is positive, however, is the high degree of willingness of farmers to be involved in agricultural extension. This is an opportunity that extension organisations must take advantage of. The survey found wide scale support (87.2 percent) for the necessity of a proposed community linkage structure, which, as a mouthpiece, represents the community, coordinates its interests and programmes and functions in partnership with the service provider(s). This allows for a partnership relationship that lead towards the empowerment of the communities to take ownership of the development process.. There is support also for the identified principles regarding this proposed linkage structure. These include a clear differentiation between the coordinating and operational functions and a positioning of the structures as close to the grassroots community as possible, but not to the level of unnecessary duplication and consequently poor coordination. There is general agreement that coordination should not be limited to one commodity or even agriculture, but should be all embracing. Some reservation in this regard can be attributed to fear of agriculture being marginalised. For a country that relies predominantly on agriculture care should be taken to ensure that this does not happen. In general, farmers are more supportive of the principles of effective linkage structures than the service providers. According to the results, coordination of extension among service providers is still poor, but is likely to increase as the policy of pluralism and decentralization continues to unfold. Copyright
Dissertation (MSc Agric (Agricultural Extension))--University of Pretoria, 2007.