Nutrition education competences needed by agricultural extension workers: Perceptions of farmers and field extension workers in Uganda
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Multi-sectoral nutrition education approaches espoused by Uganda and other countries call for active involvement of agricultural extension workers in education and guidance of farmers on household nutrition. However, there is inadequate understanding regarding what competences are needed for effective integration of nutrition education into conventional agricultural extension roles. The objective of the study was to determine competences needed by agricultural extension workers to integrate nutrition education into agricultural extension services. Data collected from Kihihi and Nyamirama sub-counties of Kanungu District in south-western, Uganda, in communities served by two civil society extension organizations: Africa2000Network (A2N) and Community Connector (CC). In-depth Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) were conducted with 108 farmers and extension workers to collect qualitative data. The findings showed that extension workers were a viable mechanism for strengthening nutrition education. Farmers felt that nutrition sensitive extension should promote crops that have both market and consumption value, are compatible with changing climate conditions, and suited to cultural food habits of the community. In order to undertake this role, extension workers should possess knowledge on dietary needs of different age groups in a household, nutritious foods and their food values; symptoms of malnutrition; post- harvest handling and agronomic practices for nutritious livestock and crops. Skills and competence should include communication, interpersonal, conflict resolution and other soft skills; technical skills including demonstration of food processing and post harvest handling technologies; and gender analysis. In addition, extension workers should have mindsets and attitudes of empathy and respect for the farmers within their cultural context in order to facilitate changes in nutrition practices. This competence profile should inform curriculum design in Universities and other vocational institutions to enable them produce extension workers equipped to facilitate inclusive, climate smart, nutrition sensitive, and sustainable rural transformation within a multi-sectoral approach.