Nutrition education competencies needed by agricultural extension workers in Uganda
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A number of countries have adopted a multi-sectoral approach to address the challenge of malnutrition with agricultural extension workers (AEWs) expected to be among the key players. However, these new roles are still contested and the perceptions of AEWs in this regard are not well understood. In addition, competencies needed and factors that influence competency of AEWs regarding nutrition education for farmers in Uganda remain unclear. A cross-sectional study was conducted to determine AEWs’ perception towards their nutrition education roles, training needs and the factors influencing their competency level. Data were collected from 61 private and 163 public AEWs from four districts using self-administered questionnaires and analyzed using descriptive statistics, Chi-square, Mean Weighted Discrepancy Score and ordered probit regression. A majority (over 60% of the public and 70% private AEWs) understood their nutrition education roles as; training, linking farmers to other actors, dissemination of information and technologies and facilitating social/ cultural transformation. However, a significantly higher proportion of private compared to public AEWs felt that AEWs should undertake certain non-traditional nutrition related roles in sanitation and changing food habits. AEWs rated themselves above average competence in eight out of the nine competency categories. However, private AEWs perceived themselves to be more competent ((X ̅ = 4.26) than the public AEWs (X ̅ = 3.77), χ2 (224) = 20.1185, p = < 0.01). The top four perceived nutrition education training needs for public AEWs were prioritized as; Nutrition needs of different household members, Farming systems that promote nutrition, Postharvest handling and food safety; and Basic nutrition knowledge. On the other hand, private AEWs prioritized; Postharvest handling and food safety, Basic nutrition knowledge, nutrition needs of different household members and Farming systems that promote nutrition in that order. The AEWs’ competency level was significantly influenced by; level of education, access to internet, years of experience and organization type. It is recommended that in service and pre-service training of AEWs in the prioritized areas should put into consideration their education qualification, access to digital nutrition information sources, organization type and experience.