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Asunto:[CeHuNews] 225/03 - An example of Agricultural Extension through roleplay
Fecha:Domingo, 6 de Julio, 2003  07:56:02 (-0300)
Autor:Humboldt <humboldt>

CeHuNews 225/03

Polytechnic of Namibia

Welcome to the School of Natural Resources and Tourism

Department of Nature Conservation

An example of Agricultural Extension through roleplay

Ibo Zimmermann, (Department of Agriculture, Polytechnic of Namibia),
Marietjie de Klerk (Department of Nature Conservation, Polytechnic of Namibia),
Lukas Kaholongo (Directorate of Extension and Engineering Services, Rundu)


When students of the Department of Natural Resource Management and Tourism at the Polytechnic of Namibia go out to learn with community members they often make use of drama (Zimmermann 1998). Drama can be a useful tool to include in agricultural extension. It can be applied in a variety of ways (Bembridge 1991) such as:
  1. Theatre to put across an extension message.
  2. Socio-dramas to get farmers to show their situation and perceptions.
  3. Roleplaying to explore options for development.
Roleplaying allows for critical thinking because different viewpoints or alternatives may be expressed. It also allows for expression of feelings in an enjoyable and cooperative atmosphere. A further advantage is that because it is only “play”, participants can be creative in their responses.

This article gives an example of a roleplay that was performed by community members at Gongwa in Kavango Region. The roleplay was a way of exploring options to cope with the major problem of water supply at Gongwa.


On 20 August 1998 the 22 students, who were taking the course of Agricultural Extension in the diploma program at the Polytechnic of Namibia, were led to Gongwa by some staff of DEES and FSR&E in the Ministry of Agriculture. The Agricultural Extension Technician for the area introduced the students to those community members who came to the meeting tree.

A short film was shown of some previous interactions between Polytechnic students and community members. After an ice-breaker exercise the students facilitated some exercises of Participatory Rapid Appraisal (PRA - see Figure 1) from which the major problem faced by the community was identified. Some community members were then asked to show the problem through a roleplay.


The major problem faced by the Gongwa community was that of an unreliable water supply. At the time of our visit to Gongwa the diesel engine at their borehole was broken down and only a small quantity of water was being trucked in approximately once per week for use by the whole community.

As the roleplay proceeded a possible solution became apparent. This was then incorporated into the roleplay

The roleplay was filmed by video camera and the re-play was then shown to those community members who were interested to watch it. There was keen interest amongst Gongwa residents to perform in the roleplay, including one young man who had declined to participate in the ice-breaker exercise earlier on.

Roleplay Description

  • Some Gongwa residents come to fetch water at their water point.
  • They find that their water point is dry and they start to blame the member of the Gongwa water committee who is amongst them.
  • He explains that the diesel engine for the pump is broken down and they have to wait for Rural Water Supply to come and repair it, which may still take many weeks.
  • They all start to walk the seven kilometers to the neigbouring village of Magcwa to ask for water there.
  • By the time they arrive at Magcwa they are very tired but they are happy to find a reliable hand-operated borehole pump.
  • The Gongwa water committee member meets the chairperson of the Magcwa water committee and explains the water problem back at Gongwa.
  • The Magcwa water committee chairperson explains that he received training from the NGO (now Lihepurura Kavango Trust), which helped them to install the hand pump. If the pump breaks down then they are usually able to repair it themselves, so they now have a reliable water supply.
  • The Gongwa water committee member is happy to hear of this option and wishes to suggest it to his people back at Gongwa.
  • The Gongwa residents learn how to operate the hand pump in order to fill their containers with water (see Figure 2).
  • The long walk back to Gongwa is very heavy because of having to carry the filled water containers along the sandy track (see Figure 3).
  • On arrival back at Gongwa the water committee member tells his people about the possibility to install a hand pump and to select one of their members to be trained in its maintenance and repair.
  • They are very happy to hear of this more reliable option and decide to give it a try.

The film of the day’s interactions was received with a lot of interest by the Gongwa community. Those who had performed in the roleplay particularly enjoyed watching themselves in the film.


Copies of the film were later provided to some stakeholder organizations and their comments were sought.

The response from Rural Water Supply was that “It was a good video, which can show that organised community can have their facilities functioning well. The video could be improved through the following:

  • Include a text from the beginning to narrate what you want to show and why.
  • Show the broken engine/borehole.
  • Show three different scenarios:
    • an organised community with no water which is trying to solve its problem,
    • an organised community with water and well functioning boreholes because their people are responsible through their water point committee,
    • an unorganised community without water.
  • Make a conclusion at the end.
  • Translate if possible.

    Rural Water Supply have acted positively and drilled a new borehole”. They did not specify whether the new borehole would be equipped with a hand pump or not, but later we learnt that it will be equipped with another diesel engine.

    The response from Lihepurura Kavango Trust was that “Although the film is very short, it is useful for community development, specifically for community mobilization, organising and establishing of Water Point Committees as well as for communities to understand the importance of technology choice, e.g. what is practical for them, an engine or a hand pump, in terms of maintenance. The water committee at Gongwa didn’t yet approach us for assistance in this regard, but we believe that the height of the water table at this place is suitable for a hand pump.” (Haingura pers. comm.).

    The response from the Gongwa community was that the exercise was enjoyable and they learnt something from it. They are quite happy because Rural Water Supply have drilled a new borehole, even though it is not yet fully installed.


    This approach to agricultural extension can attract the interest of some members of rural communities. However its novelty may wear thin if it is not followed up by repeated contact with the community. The excitement of the roleplay and filming may raise people’s expectations, but this may then be followed by disappointment if not followed through.

    The Polytechnic of Namibia is able to encourage communities to explore options for development, but is unable to provide the frequent contact with communities required for initiating action. Therefore partnerships are sought with development organizations whose staff have close contact with communities, or whose staff are also members of the target communities, so that they may provide the necessary follow-up support.


    Sincere thanks go to the community members of Gongwa and Magcwa who participated in the exercises, to the staff of FSR&E and DEES, headed by Mr Horn and Ms Antindi, and to Lihepurura Kavango Trust and Rural Water Supply in Rundu.


    BEMBRIDGE, T.J. (1991) The practice of agricultural extension - A training manual. Halfway House: Development Bank of Southern Africa.

    HAINGURA, A. Personal Communication. Lihepurura Kavango Trust.

    ZIMMERMANN, I. (1998) Participatory search for eco-friendly solutions to development needs of some Namibian communities. Proceedings of the Best of Both Worlds Environmental Education Conference, Dikhololo, South Africa.

  • Figure 1.
    A matrix ranking underway at Gongwa.
    Figure 2.
    Pumping water at Magcwa, in the roleplay.
    Figure 3.
    On the tiring journey back to Gongwa, in the roleplay.