ESA provides extension services through a service level agreement (SLA) entered into with the Out-grower Departments (ODs) of the mills. Extension officers (EOs) employed by the ODs organize and conduct seminars and training for growers. They either do this directly or utilise the assistance of specialists from the ESA office, SASRI, service providers or in some instances agricultural input suppliers. In addition, the EOs undertake regular field visits to growers. The schedule of visits is guided by the industry’s extension strategy.
The long term vision for the SLA and extension service is a dynamic process with the objective of moving from mainly supply driven (Schedule) extension to demand (on request). The vision is that in ten years the EOs will have the perception that 80% of the clients (growers) are making business decisions. The objective in providing the extension service is to improve yields and ensure sustainability through providing a technology transfer and advisory service to sugarcane growers on all aspects of sugarcane production. This includes the transfer of research findings approved by ESA to the grower to facilitate the quick adoption of improved agricultural practices to facilitate productivity, profitability and sustainability of smallholder farms. The industry has a sugarcane Best Management Practices (BMP) Manual that is updated periodically aimed at guiding and complementing the technical advice given to the growers by the EOs. The Manual is available in English.
The Manual can be obtained in CD format and or hard copy at cost from the Technical Services Offices at Simunye. The EOs also have access to the industry database (IDB) where they can view and print information about each grower, as a way of monitoring grower performance. The IDB is then used to produce, on an annual basis, the (Industry) Crop Statistics bulletin. It provides details on each producer’s cane age at harvest, sucrose content and cane yield, amongst other information.