African smallholders face many risks and uncertainty in the face of climate change and other shocks. Economic, health and environmental crises exacerbate resilience; take for example the COVID-19 pandemic and the escalating food and fertilizer prices resulting from the conflict in Ukraine. The unavailability and nearly four-fold price increase of fertilizer will affect food production and prices in Africa. Risk-proof and productivity enhancing practices, skills and technologies provided by agricultural extension are essential to cope with these challenges, enabling smallholders to produce food and maintain livelihoods while sustaining natural resources. Such complex challenges require multidimensional approaches with pluralistic actors and multiple methods, particularly digitalization.
In Africa, there are countries with well-developed public extension systems with high staff numbers, such as Ethiopia, and others with smaller numbers of public agents where private services complement the public system, such as Uganda. Most countries are somewhere in between, but for countries with limited government resources, the use of the private sector and civil society to supplement the public system and connect to markets becomes even more important.