The North West department of agriculture and rural development says it will this year appoint 443 assistant agricultural advisors as extension officers on a three-year contract to bolster its extension and advisory services.
This follows a pronouncement made by both the President and the national minister of agriculture on the appointment of 10 000 assistant agricultural extension officers across the country. Out of these 10 000, 443 will be allocated to the North West province.
According to North West agriculture MEC Desbo Mohono extension and advisory services is the coalface platform for the department’s interaction, liaison and support to farmers and communities.
“Agricultural advisory through this service is at the forefront of service delivery and is the face of the sector to clients and the public.
“[Extension officers] play an important role as information intermediaries between scientists and farmers, translating and adding value to agronomic and economic information for use in agricultural management decision making,” she added.
An amount of R11.1 million from the comprehensive agricultural support programme will be used in this regard.
During the 2021/22 financial year the department managed to support a total of 7 992 smallholder producers across the province with agricultural advisory services through the extension recovery programme.
In as far as as job creation is concerned and as part of contributing towards addressing the triple challenges of poverty, unemployment & inequality in the province, the department managed to create an overall of 979 jobs through a land care programme, rural development initiatives, and the expanded public works programme, as well as through environment and culture sector work opportunities.
According to Mohono by the end of the 2022-2023 financial year, a total of 1 147 work opportunities would have been created throughout the province
Digital tracking and tracing system
Meanwhile in an effort to align the province’s agricultural sector with the developments in technologies globally, the province is expected to soon upgrade the paper-based system of tracing animals to a modern and computerised livestock identification and traceability system (LITS).
LITS is a national IT database system that will be used to trace animals and animal products from farm to fork.
This is a system that traces not only the origin of animals but also chemicals that animals have been subjected to. It can also aid disease control by making the disease status of animals traceable.
The system can also significantly reduce response time during animal disease outbreaks by helping to contain the introduction and spread of contagious diseases.
“Introduction of LITS technologies within the agricultural supply chain promises not only increased efficiencies through enhanced data management and more robust traceability but also enhanced food safety protocols,” Mohono said.
The use of LITS will also open up international markets for farmers who were previously locked out because of a lack of tracing and identifying of the origin of animals and animal products. The system will help to monitor the use of banned substances and antibiotics.
Operators are being registered in the national database, which will be followed by registering farms and facilities before individual animals are registered.
Other than LITS, Mohono has also announced that the Department will embark on a process of digitising the administration of its veterinary laboratory services.
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