Consolidating targeted and practical extension services for Australian Farmers and Fishers
In Australia we have a proud tradition of extension and adoption within primary industries. Extension services play an important role in assisting Australian farmers and fishers to adopt research and development (R&D), to innovate and change, and to keep their business profitable. The Consolidating Targeted and Practical Extension for Australian Farmers and Fishers project was welcomed as the start of a much needed national conversation about the future of extension and is now complete. Funded under the Australian Government’s Rural R&D for Profit Programme, it was an ambitious project that aimed to reverse some of the drivers of fragmentation that are impacting on delivery, to evaluate the extension system, and to consolidate extension knowledge. The 18 month project also identified practical and achievable actions that will lead to improvements to our extension systems, helping it meet future demands and opportunities in primary industries. Key project deliverables and outcomes were: • A practical extension information ‘hub’ • An evaluation of the current extension environment and systems • Information and advice on strategic next steps to improve the efficiency of extension • Undertaking forums and information exchange Extension Hub A key achievement of the project was the creation of a web-based ‘hub’ to support extension professionals as they plan and deliver information to Australian farmers and fishers. The Extension Hub consolidates and organises existing knowledge, tools and resources in an accessible way so that it can be easily used to inform the design and implementation of extension by public and private providers. The site, established as the Extension Practice Community of Practice (CoP), went live November 2016. It currently contains 30 curated articles on extension relevant to target audiences. They are tagged with keywords, and linked to other sources including YouTube. Further resources are being added by the CoP leader. Currently there are 1300 users of the site. Communities of Practice on crop diseases and crop nutrition are also housed on the site. Visitors can listen to podcasts, read articles or “ask an expert” technical questions on the subject area of the Community of Practice.