Global Good Practice – What Works in Rural Advisory Services
The spreadsheet was getting out of hand. How to put all the roles that rural advisory service (RAS) providers are expected to fill into a logical order? Clearly, it’s no longer just about technology transfer and helping farmers increase production, and so the topics were piling up. After two hard days of work in Nairobi back in July 2012, the GFRAS Global Good Practices (GGP) working group did come up with a consensus framework. Looking back, I am simply amazed how, by taking it step by step and recruiting authors from a large network of dedicated champions, we can now present to the global community a handy reference book on global good practices for RAS.
The aim of the GGP initiative is to facilitate access to know-how on agricultural and rural advisory services for a wide audience of practitioners. In an easy-to-understand format the GGP Notes describe key concepts, approaches and methods. Each gives an overview of the main aspects of a practice or approach, best-fit considerations and sources for further reading. Until recently, the notes were only available as a standalone publication (available at http://betterextension.org); now they have been collated into a handbook What Works in Rural Advisory Services? with four sections as follows:
Governance and structure: The Notes cover topics such as agricultural innovation systems, financing mechanisms, private-sector RAS and the role of producer organizations.
Capacity and management: The topics range from to curriculum development to professionalization, agripreneurship and farm management.
Advisory methods: Advisory service providers use a wide range of methods, based on various philosophies and principles, which all have their advantages and disadvantages, costs, challenges and opportunities. This is the biggest section with 18 notes. The success or failure of these methods is always closely linked to the context in which they are applied, so it is critical to select and adapt methods to a specific context and to the needs of the stakeholders involved in agriculture in that context.
Cross-cutting issues: Nutrition and gender are major cross-cutting issues for RAS. With the need for broad-based initiatives to combat malnutrition, including through nutrition-sensitive agriculture and food-based approaches, RAS have an important role to play. The benefits of integrating gender are achieved at multiple levels. As Dr. Colverson summarized in GGP Note 4, “At the household level, increasing women’s access to inputs will improve their agricultural productivity. At the organizational level, engaging more women in cooperatives and farmer associations can increase organizational effectiveness and has the potential to better address issues of concern to women farmers. Integrating gender issues at the policy level has the potential to increase the economic involvement of half the population and contribute to improving overall household food security.” Conversely, we would make a big mistake if we limit nutrition outreach to women. Turn to Otieno et al. for tips on how to involve men in nutrition!
Now, go download the book! Pick ten topics that are interesting to you and set a target of reading at least one per week. I hope you will be inspired to try out something new. Meet with colleagues to discuss how to contextualize the approach or principle. Share what you learn with others, either through the GFRAS global platform, the regional or your national extension network.
Citation: Davis, K., Bohn, A., Franzel, S., Blum, M., Rieckmann, U., Raj, S., Hussein, K. and Ernst, N. 2018. What Works in Rural Advisory Services? Global Good Practice Notes. Lausanne, Switzerland: GFRAS.
About the publisher: The Global Forum for Rural Advisory Services (GFRAS) enhances the performance of agricultural extension and rural advisory services (RAS) so that they can better serve farm families and rural producers, thus contributing to improved livelihoods in rural areas and the sustainable reduction of hunger and poverty. GFRAS reaches smallholder farmers through its regional RAS networks, which in turn have national-level platforms or country fora.