School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Agricultural extension researcher, Dr Sesetu Nyeleka.

Participatory Videos Used to Empower Smallholder Farmers’ Knowledge Sharing

Dr Sesetu Nyeleka’s PhD in Agricultural Extension used a participatory video approach to develop farmers’ soft skills and encourage peer-to-peer learning to expand farmers’ knowledge while equipping them with new skills to share their knowledge.

Nyeleka, who is now the coastal sales manager at Afrivet, was inspired to pursue the methods while working as a part-time media assistant at the University of Fort Hare’s (UFH) Agricultural and Rural Development Research Institute (ARDRI). While attending the fifth Biennial Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) Conference, Nyekela participated in a session on integrating video-mediated rural learning in university curricula where a professor from Benin discussed using smallholder farmer training videos for training as well as traditional face-to-face extension methods.

Through her work with ARDRI, which employs agricultural extension approaches to work with smallholder farmers, Nyeleka sought organisations in South Africa, particularly the Eastern Cape, that created context-specific videos that could be translated at need to use in agricultural extension training for smallholder farmers.

Realising there was a gap in the availability of farmer-to-farmer educational videos with relatable content developed specifically for smallholder farmers, she decided to pursue an academic study on using a participatory approach to create these videos with rural communities in the Eastern Cape.

Using ARDRI at UFH, her alma mater, as a case study, Nyeleka chose to pursue her studies through UKZN after being drawn to her supervisor Dr Karen Caister’s approach to agricultural extension and seeking a change in research methodology. She examined the methodological process of developing farmer-to-farmer learning videos in an already existing agricultural extension context of the Farmer Field School (FFS) approach.

The participatory video-making process created a process of change in the activities of the FFS study group initiative. Nyeleka’s work also demonstrated the transferability of Constructivist Grounded Theory and how it could be used to generate a power-sharing agenda that has been legitimised by the successful participation of both the farmers and the researcher.

Nyeleka’s focus on the farmer constituted a unique contribution to extension practice that emphasised social equality and social justice in rural communities in the Amathole District Municipality.

Nyeleka of the Eastern Cape -where- she and her twin sister were born in Mqanduli Village near Mthatha – attended Potters Clay Primary School and Zingisa Comprehensive High School, going on to undergraduate, honours and master’s studies in agricultural extension at UFH.

Despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and a lengthy examination process, which effectively added two years to Nyeleka’s PhD journey, she persevered and learned to accept circumstances that were outside of her control, and prioritised spending time with family to balance the pressure of completing her research.

Nyeleka is working on publications emanating from her PhD study.

She thanked God for her life and the opportunity to complete her PhD and her parents, Mrs Nokulunga Nyeleka and Mr Yandisa Nyeleka, for their unwavering support, as well as her siblings, Dr Sipokazi Nyeleka, Ms Zoluntu Nyeleka, Ms Zintle Nyeleka and Ms Vuyolwethu Nyeleka for being her greatest cheerleaders. Referring to her supervisor as, ‘one of the best things she encountered on her academic journey,’ she thanked Caister for her committed guidance.

She thanked family and friends for their support and also credited herself for being relentless in her pursuit of excellence in her PhD and achieving what she regards as amazing work.

Words: Christine Cuenod

Photograph: Albert Hirasen