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Rural Advisory Services At the Global and Interregional Level

From: GFRAS (2011) Rural Advisory Services Worldwide - A Synthesis of Actors and Issues. Prepared by Barbara Adolph, Triple Line Consulting. Available at http://www.g-fras.org/en/knowledge/gfras-publications/file/6-rural-advisory-services-worldwide (This excerpt posted with permission, December 2011)


2.2.1 Introduction 

At the global level, the food price crisis in 2008 led to an increased interest in agricultural development issues, and an increased commitment from national governments, international development agencies, and donors to support agricultural development, including advisory services. When the global financial crisis threatened to undermine this commitment, governments and international agencies at the G8 Summit in L’Aquila (Italy) in 2009 signed the L’Aquila Joint Statement on Global Food Security (AFSI)[1], reconfirming a high-level commitment to achieving global food security. Such a high-level political commitment is a pre-requisite for conducive RAS policies and increased investments in RAS. Along with national governments (G8 and 19 heads of state), several UN organisations (FAO, ILO, WFP, IFAD), the World Bank and the IMF, the WTO, AGRA, the CGIAR, the GDPRD, and GFAR also signed the statement. The role of these agencies in relation to RAS is discussed in the following sections. 

While international agencies play a key role in creating an enabling environment for RAS, there are also many linkages between regional organisations. Europe, North America, and Australia have traditionally played a strong role in supporting RAS in developing countries both financially and technically, and are now being joined by India and China. Countries of the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) group all support RAS in their regions, and increasingly outside their regions. These interregional linkages provide opportunities for learning and exchange, but are currently not systematically exploited. 

Global actors place emphasis on RAS issues such as trade and access to markets, income generation, agricultural innovation, value chain development, elaboration and protection of standards and regulations, fostering investment in the rural context, access to assets (i.e. land, finance, information, and infrastructure), risk management, food security, social equity (especially gender), using linkages and synergies in RAS, coordination and coherence of policies and projects in RAS, the role of farmers in innovation systems (demand orientation and accountability to clients in RAS, strengthening farmers’ capacity to be equal partners), private RAS development, measurement of progress and impact and creation of evidence, professionalising RAS by capacity development (education, training), sustainability of RAS activities, ecological issues such as water, soil and especially climate change, and, finally the use of ICTs in RAS. 

2.2.2 Important RAS stakeholders at the global policy level 

2.2.2.1 Civil society: farmers, their organisations, and NGOs 

While farmers are not necessarily the most influential RAS stakeholders, they are certainly the most important ones, with most farmers relying largely on advice from their peers. Until 2010, farmers were globally represented through the International Federation of Agricultural Producers (IFAP). IFAP sought to develop the capacity of farmers, mostly from developing countries, and to influence decisions affecting them – at both the domestic and the international levels. To facilitate this development, IFAP acted as an international forum where issues of common interest to farmers were highlighted, and coordinated plans to address these issues were formulated. It is not clear whether IFAP will be succeeded by a similar global representation of farmer organisations. 

In contrast to IFAP, La Vía Campesina is made up almost entirely of marginalised groups: landless workers, small farmers, sharecroppers, pastoralists, fisher folk, and the peri-urban poor. LVC’s main objective has been to halt neoliberalism and construct alternative food systems based on food sovereignty. It was founded by organisations mostly from the Americas and Europe, but has since expanded to include more than 150 rural social movements from over 79 countries, including 12 countries in Africa and a great number of organisations in South and East Asia.[2] 

Besides these two main forums, there are a number of smaller farmer bodies with specific interests, such as the Intercontinental Network of Organic Farmers Organisations (INOFO) or the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM)[3], an umbrella organisation representing more than 750 member organisations in 116 countries that aims to develop organic agriculture and its markets worldwide. 

Most European countries have national developmental NGO forums or networks, which do not usually focus on a particular sector.[4] The European NGO Confederation for Relief and Development (CONCORD) represents 1600 European development NGOs, and has formed the European Food Security Group (EFSG), which aims in particular to feed policy advocacy with good practices. The EFSG offers a representative forum of European NGOs involved in issues related to food security, and acts as a reference group in promoting a structured and regular dialogue between NGOs and the European Commission. 

There are also many interregional exchanges between farmer organisations. In Europe, the European Platform for Food Sovereignty (EPFS), a loose alliance of European national platforms with 150 farmer organisations and environmental and development organisations, promotes the concept of food sovereignty (see Lines 2009). They see their role as advocating not only for European farmers, but for farmers worldwide. AgriCord is an umbrella organisation of nine national farmer organisations in Europe and Canada (Quebec) established in 2003, which specifically works towards building stronger farmer organisations together with farmers in rural areas of developing countries.[5] 

2.2.2.2 Global stakeholders funding RAS 

While most RAS are probably paid either by farmers themselves (directly, i.e. to service providers, or indirectly, i.e. via taxes on agricultural produce or income) or by national governments, donors play an important role not only in providing grants or loans to fund RAS, but also in providing associated technical expertise. Monitoring and evaluation of RAS, often funded by donors, is meant to feed into a process of reflection and learning, ultimately leading to changes in donor and national government policies and programmes. Global GFRAS stakeholders participating in the GFRAS validation process mentioned the limited availability of national funding for RAS that creates a high dependency on external funding and donors. 

Most bilateral donors support RAS in one way or another – either by providing sector or budget support to national government or regional communities, or by directly supporting RAS stakeholders and actors. In the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness, donors committed themselves to increasing coordination and harmonisation of aid. For agricultural and rural development, the Global Donor Platform for Rural Development (GDPRD) was established in 2002 as a network of 34 bilateral and multilateral donors, international financing institutions, intergovernmental organisations, and development agencies. Members share a common vision that agriculture and rural development are central to poverty reduction, and a conviction that sustainable and efficient development requires a coordinated global approach. The Platform is committed to increasing and improving the quality of development assistance in agriculture and rural development after years of relative decline in public investment in this sector at the beginning of this century. GDPRD publishes studies, policy briefs, issue papers, and joint statements on a range of issues. While some major private-sector foundations (notably the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation – BMGF) are not part of GDPRD, many key global RAS stakeholders are represented, including FAO, the World Bank, and IFAD. It is a significant achievement that all of them agreed on a joint approach to agriculture and rural development. This provides a basis for discussing the role of RAS within the wider agricultural and rural development agenda. 

The World Bank (WB) is a member of GDPRD and one of the main funding agencies for national RAS provision. The WB group provides low-interest loans, interest-free credits, and grants to developing countries for a wide array of purposes, including agriculture and rural development. During the 1980s and 1990s the WB invested heavily, providing loans and grants to a number of Asian and African countries to finance the Training and Visit (T&V) system of agricultural extension. World Bank investments in extension services often consist mainly of small investments accompanying investments in improved agricultural productivity and market linkages. Notable exceptions have included some large investments in extension system linkages as well as sweeping reforms of extension systems. With World Bank and other support, governments have invested heavily in designing and implementing new extension models, such as, for example, Uganda’s National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS) approach and Ethiopia’s farmer training centre approach.[6] The World Bank has also been actively engaged in the Neuchâtel Initiative, and has commissioned or carried out in-house a wide range of studies and workshops on RAS. 

There are a number of other grant-giving agencies supporting RAS in the wider sense, in particular IFAD and CFC. The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) is a UN agency established as an international financial institution, providing low interest loans and grants. IFAD also sees its role as an advocate for rural poor people (especially farmers). Its multilateral base provides a global platform for discussing important policy issues. The Common Fund for Commodities (CFC) is an intergovernmental financial institution with currently 106 member countries. CFC operates with a commodity focus, with the aim of enhancing the socio-economic development of commodity producers and to contribute to the development of society as a whole. While both IFAD and CFC do not directly fund RAS providers, they support key RAS stakeholders through capacity development, advocacy, and specific (in the case of CFC commodity focused) support. 

2.2.2.3 Other international agencies and initiatives 

Key international agencies with an interest in RAS include, among others, UN agencies (FAO, WFP, WTO) and the UN Secretary General’s High-level Task Force on the Global Food Security Crisis, as well as the Neuchâtel Initiative. 

FAO is the UN agency mandated with agricultural development and food security, and, accordingly, has a strong interest in RAS. FAO’s Research and Extension Branch of the Office of Knowledge Exchange, Research and Extension provides advisory and technical services to FAO members to support an integrated approach to agricultural research, extension, education of rural people, and communication for development, with the aim of responding to the needs of national development policies and strategies in terms of technology, knowledge, human and institutional capacity building, and public awareness. Work in this area concentrates primarily on supporting and enhancing the capacities of public and private-sector agricultural research and extension systems, as well as education for rural people and communication for development institutions, with a special emphasis on rural radio. FAO is a member of the UN High-level Task Force on the Global Food Security Crisis (initiated in April 2008), whose aim is to ensure comprehensive and coordinated understanding and action in responding to both immediate and longer-term food challenges. 

The Neuchâtel Initiative (NI), of which FAO was also a member, was launched in 1995 and ended in 2010 with the establishment of GFRAS. Originally made up mostly of donor agencies sharing learning about RAS and developing common positions – a function now fulfilled by GDPRD – the NI subsequently became a forum of mostly northern academics and professionals with an interest in RAS. The NI was instrumental in the initiation of GFRAS, the Global Forum for Rural Advisory Services. 

2.2.2.4 Private sector 

The global private sector plays an important role as a provider of RAS to mostly commercial farmers (Syngenta and Monsanto, for example, sponsor agricultural programmes in developing countries). The private sector is likely to play an even more important role in RAS in the future, with many countries unable or unwilling to maintain public-sector RAS for technical advice, which is considered a ‘private good’. Currently, the private sector is more commonly structured in national chambers (according to sectors) than in international networks. An exception is, for example, the International Potash Institute (IPI)[7], a non-governmental and non-profit organisation that was founded in 1952 and is today supported by producers in Europe and the Near East. IPI’s mission is to “develop and promote balanced fertilisation for the production of higher yields and more nutritious food, together with ensuring sustainability of production through conservation of soil fertility for future generations.” The International Fertilizer Industry Association (IFA)[8] represents over 500 members from the fertilizer sector in about 85 countries. The Sustainable Agriculture Initiative[9] is a platform created by the food industry to communicate and to actively support the development of sustainable agriculture, involving stakeholders of the food chain. 

Another type of private-sector stakeholder with an (almost) global mandate is the Europe-Africa-Caribbean-Pacific Liaison Committee (COLEACP), an inter-professional association representing and defending the collective interests of ACP (African, Caribbean, and Pacific) producers and exporters and EU importers of fruits, vegetables, flowers, and plants. It fulfils several roles, including that of an advisory services provider to members, an advocacy organisation, and an infomediary (e.g. by making research findings available to members via its PIP[10] component).[11] 

An important section of private-sector service providers are national and international consulting firms and freelance consultants providing RAS overseas, generally as service providers to bilateral or multilateral aid donors. The boundary between small consulting firms with development-oriented visions or missions, operating with fairly low profit margins, and NGOs or academic institutions providing similar services ‘not for profit’, but at times with higher overhead rates, is fairly fluid. Many of these firms and consultants are members of formal or informal professional networks (e.g. The Natural Resources Group)[12], but as they are de facto competitors, the level of cooperation is generally linked to specific business opportunities. Similarly, the exchange between the private and the public sectors is very weak. 

2.2.2.5 Agricultural research and education 

The main umbrella organisation for agricultural research worldwide is GFAR, the Global Forum for Agricultural Research. GFAR’s mission is “to mobilise all stakeholders involved in agricultural research and innovation systems for development, and to support their efforts to alleviate poverty, increase food security and promote the sustainable use of natural resources”. In 2010 GFAR organised the Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD) in Montpellier.[13] The GCARD process aimed to promote effective and targeted investment at all levels of the agricultural system and ensure that agricultural research meets the needs of resource-poor end users. The GCARD process helped to refine regional and global agricultural research priorities as identified by different stakeholder groups and representatives in each region, thus also helping to ensure that RAS providers have access to relevant knowledge and technologies. 

In addition, GCARD also contributed to the CGIAR reform process. The Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), established in 1971, is a strategic partnership of donors supporting 15 international research centres who work in collaboration with many hundreds of government and civil society organisations as well as private businesses around the world. CGIAR donors include both developing and industrialised countries, as well as international and regional organisations and private foundations. The 15 CGIAR centres work on a range of commodities and farming systems, often providing knowledge and technologies that are then further adapted to local needs by national research systems, including RAS providers and NGOs. The centres also work on a range of socio-economic and policy topics related to agricultural and rural development, including RAS approaches and policies, and the economic viability of different RAS models. 

There is also a wide range of agricultural research collaborations and partnerships between different regions, for example between European research and developing country research organisations, often funded by the EU, for example via Framework Programmes.[14] In 2005 the ERA-ARD (European Research Area project on Agricultural Research for Development)[15] was launched as a project under Framework Programme 6 (the European Union’s research programme). ERA-ARD works closely with the European Forum for Agricultural Research for Development (EFARD), an initiative that aims to strengthen the contribution of European ARD in addressing the global challenges of eradicating poverty and hunger, fostering food security and food safety, and promoting sustainable management of natural resources in Europe. While initially EFARD members were mostly from research organisations, the forum has recently become more inclusive and now also involves representatives of civil society and private-sector organisations. EFARD has no core funding and activities have been supported on a voluntary basis and with in-kind contributions from EU Member States. To coordinate European ARD policies and investments, the European Initiative for Agricultural Research for Development (EIARD) was initiated in 1995. EIARD members are the Member States of the European Union, plus Norway, Switzerland, and the EC. EIARD also coordinates European support to the CGIAR. 

Science and technology exchange is becoming a global phenomenon, with new actors entering the arena. For example, China is providing agricultural training and advice to African countries[16], while Indian universities and colleges have been educating agricultural professionals from around the world for some time. However, the exchange between research, RAS, and farmers was still characterised as insufficient by stakeholders during the GFRAS validation process. 

2.2.2.6 Providing information to RAS 

The research findings developed by research centres, farmer innovators, universities, and the private sector are only useful to farmers if they are available, accessible, and usable. Several organisations work specifically on access to information and technologies, using both ‘conventional’ media (in particular various types of publications targeting different user groups), mass media (in particular newspapers and radio), and digital technologies (e.g. web-based databases, mobile phones, social networking, Web 2.0 applications). The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) is an ACP-EU institution set up in 1984 with the task of improving the flow of information among stakeholders in agricultural and rural development in African, Caribbean, and Pacific (ACP) countries. CTA works in three key areas: (1) providing information products and services; (2) promoting integrated use of communication channels – old and new – to improve the flow of information; and (3) building ACP capacity in information and communication management (ICM), mainly through training and partnerships with ACP bodies. While CTA does not itself provide RAS, it develops capacities of RAS providers and offers information products that they can use. 

Similarly, CABI (formerly the Commonwealth Agricultural Bureau) is a not-for-profit international organisation that aims to improve people’s lives by providing information and applying scientific expertise to solve problems in agriculture and the environment. Activities include scientific publishing, development projects and research, and microbial services. CABI often works in partnership with agricultural research organisations to ‘repackage’ research findings in an attractive, user-friendly, and easy-to-understand format (e.g. as handbooks, posters, or radio programmes). They also develop communication strategies for research programmes, to ensure that key messages are communicated to relevant stakeholders in a targeted manner. 

2.2.2.7 Conclusions 

Food security and agricultural development are now clearly receiving more attention globally than they did five years ago, as indicated by a range of agencies and donors supporting programmes and agencies with a food security mandate. The degree to which developing country farmers’ interests and priorities are taken into account when developing the global agenda has generally increased, due at least partly to strong advocacy by farmer organisations and NGOs. However, owing to the ‘intermediary’ function of RAS between producers, markets, technology generation, and policy, there does not appear to be a global consensus on the role of RAS and their relationships with other key actors. Since RAS are provided by different stakeholder groups, with each of these groups having its own networks and relationships, RAS interests are highly fragmented. Several global stakeholders already have close relationships with GFRAS (e.g. by being represented on the GFRAS board, or by financially supporting GFRAS), but there are others (particularly farmer organisations and the private sector) that have very few linkages with GFRAS to date. It will be important for GFRAS to reflect within its network the diversity of global RAS stakeholders, and to take a lead in supporting the identification (and eventually the addressing) of common issues of concern, as begun during the IAASTD exercise. 


[1] L’Aquila statement reiterates the urgent need for decisive action to free humankind from hunger and poverty. The statement connects food security with economic growth, social progress, political stability, and peace, and advocates increased and targeted investments to enhance agricultural productivity. It links the need for effective action towards global food security to the need for action related to climate change and sustainable management of water, land, soil, and other natural resources, including the biodiversity conservation. It also emphasises the need for cross-cutting, inclusive approaches involving all relevant stakeholders at global, regional, and national levels, and highlights the need for particular attention to smallholders, women, and families, as well as to expanding knowledge and training, among many other things. 

[2] L VC has been remarkably successful in creating the necessary political space for advancing its campaigns for food sovereignty, for pushing the World Trade Organisation (WTO) out of agriculture, for women’s rights, sustainable agriculture, a ban on genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and redistributive agrarian reform. LVC played the lead role in the FAO International Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development in 2006, and mounted successful resistance campaigns to the World Bank’s market-led land reform programmes. LVC has also been among the most vocal critics of institutional responses to the global food crisis. 

[3] www.ifoam.org 

[4] For example is BOND, the UK membership body for non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working in international development. Established in 1993, BOND now has 370 members. http://www.bond.org.uk 

[5] Since 2007, AgriCord has been operating a grant programme entitled “Farmers Fighting Poverty”, which provides support to farmer organisations in the developing world. 

[6] For more information, see Davis and Heemskerk (in press). 

[7] www.ipipotash.org 

[8] www.fertilizer.org 

[9] www.saiplatform.org 

[10] PIP is a European cooperation programme managed by COLEACP. It is financed by the European Development Fund and implemented at the request of the ACP (Africa, Caribbean and Pacific) Group of States. The first phase of PIP ran from 2001 to 2009 with the objectives of (1) enabling ACP companies to comply with European food safety and traceability requirements and (2) consolidating the position of small-scale producers in the ACP horticultural export sector. A second phase of PIP was launched in October 2009 for a period of five years. In accordance with the Millennium Development Goals, the global objective is to: “Maintain and, if possible, increase the contribution made by export horticulture to the reduction of poverty in ACP countries”. 

[11] COLEACP is also an active member of the EU’s PAEPARD project, the Platform for African-European Partnerships on Agricultural Research for Development. 

[12] www.thenrgroup.net/index.shtml 

[13] See www.egfar.org/egfar/website/gcard/aboutGCARD for objectives and outcomes. 

[14] http://cordis.europa.eu/fp7/home_en.html 

[15] www.era-ard.org 

[16] According to Eicher (2007), President Hu Jintao of China identified agricultural cooperation as one of eight types of technical assistance to Africa at the China–Africa summit in November 2006. This includes sending Chinese working groups to 14 African countries to investigate into setting up agricultural technology demonstration centres in Africa and supplying 100 senior agro-tech experts to assist with Africa’s agricultural development. A training course for 35 African officials from 21 African countries on the extension of agricultural technology was held by the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture in Beijing in July 2007. The course included lectures on genetically modified cotton, seed production technologies, and the use of water-saving and biological technologies in agriculture. 


Challenges and potentials in the regions: Conclusions from Chapter 2 of the GFRAS Synthesis Report 

Chapter 2 highlighted a number of issues in relation to RAS, some of which are common to all regions, while others are specific to particular regions or sub-regions, and some apply to several regions. Chapter 3 summarises these issues and explains potentials and challenges for RAS actors in fulfilling their role in the current global context. Although any analysis is bound to be a generalisation of what are complex and diverse patterns, it nonetheless appears useful to map out some of the most prominent themes. 

Rural people and agricultural producers face a range of challenges. Based on the findings from the literature review and the dialogues that GFRAS carried out during its validation process, the following issues are currently at stake worldwide, although the degree and characteristics vary depending on the different contexts: 
  • Economic globalisation and trade
  • Access to markets through innovation, product diversification, and quality standards
  • Access to information and technologies
  • Access to resources such as land, finance, infrastructure
  • Modernisation and technological development in agricultural production
  • Agricultural productivity
  • Environmental aspects such as climate change, water management, soil conservation, and sustainable production
  • Risk management and sustainability of livelihoods
  • Post-harvest management
  • Use of ICTs and video
  • GMOs 

According to GFRAS’s definition, RAS are “all the different activities that provide the information and services needed and demanded by farmers and other actors in rural settings”. They should thus support rural people in dealing with the issues mentioned above. Key RAS actors in each region are described in Chapter 2. 

Non-conducive policy environment for RAS Together, RAS actors have the potential to address the majority of RAS issues identified above, but only if the wider policy environment is conducive. While there is clear agreement internationally on the importance of achieving food security through sustainable agricultural practices adapted to climate change and other global challenges, there is no agreement on the role that RAS in general, and publicly funded agricultural advisory services in particular, are meant to play in meeting these challenges. Globally there is no voice for RAS as such – it appears that, at times, RAS ‘get lost’ in the wider debates on food security, farmer empowerment, access to markets, or NRM. Advocacy and awareness raising are needed to strengthen the position of RAS in the wider context of rural development. Likewise, the voice of producers and service providers in determining agricultural research, science, and technology agendas is insufficient. The GCARD process mentioned in Chapter 2 was used by farmer organisations to make a strong statement on this. PROLINNOVA and other initiatives promote farmer innovation and collaboration between farmers and researchers. RAS should make use of existing potential such as farmer organisations advocating for RAS policies and the CAADP process and AFAAS providing platforms for African RAS. There is also a need to identify which policies have a specific impact on RAS and which stakeholders are involved in developing these policies or advocating for their change. 

Lacking clarity on roles and weak voice of RAS actors 

The number of rural and agricultural service providers is constantly increasing, but their activities are not necessarily coordinated and they do not necessarily work towards a common agenda. There is a lack of common understanding and focused analysis of the roles of different RAS stakeholders and actors, of how they should relate, and of who can reach different target groups. In particular, there is a conceptual lack regarding the definition of the relations between the public and private sectors and civil society in RAS. This issue is likely to impact negatively on advocacy for RAS. There is a need to communicate to a range of stakeholders what RAS entail. 

Insufficient or inadequate communication and coordination between main agricultural and rural development stakeholders at all levels 

RAS need to collaborate and interact with other fields involved in rural development in order to play a strong role. Even though a lot of exchange and networking is taking place at all levels – possibly not under the ‘RAS’ label, but addressing aspects of RAS – there is little exchange of experiences between public, private, and NGO RAS providers between countries and continents. There is a need to use existing forums (e.g. GDPRD) to advocate for the inclusion of RAS as an agenda item at international and regional events concerned with ARD, food security, and rural development. 

Effective RAS also require stronger links between research and RAS. The involvement of farmers in each step of service provision – from design to evaluation – is another crucial aspect for success. Farmers’ involvement requires a certain level of organisation and capacity of producer organisations. In many cases, these stakeholder groups are weak and need individual, institutional, and organisational capacity development to become strong RAS clients who participate in service provision and are capable of articulating demands and needs. Besides farmer organisations, the private sector is becoming increasingly important as an input supplier to RAS. There is a need for a policy environment that enables private-sector development. 

Weak capacity of (public) RAS 

In many countries, public RAS are perceived as inefficient. One reason for this is the weak capacities of RAS staff to meet new challenges and implement new approaches – such as the concept of value chains, the use of participatory and facilitative approaches, and concerns related to climate change mitigation and adaptation. This is especially true where decentralised RAS take over new responsibilities. There are many initiatives for capacity development, but they tend to be uncoordinated: at the country level, for example, many donors, NGOs, and research organisation train advisors, often in an ad hoc manner, and focusing largely on the training of individual staff members rather than organisational capacity development (including development of conducive organisational systems and processes). There is a need to advocate with donors for a more holistic and integrated approach to RAS capacity development. 

Generally, both RAS providers and researchers still insufficiently adapt advice and approaches to their diverse target audiences and contexts, despite the fact that some pre-service training providers (e.g. BARI course of Makerere University, see section 2.1.1.2) include socio-economic differentiation in RAS training. It is also critical to consider gender aspects in RAS, which, to date, is insufficiently done. There is a need to advocate for the inclusion of socio-economic differentiation and consideration of context as a key aspect in RAS training globally, and to show that systematic differentiation increases the impact of RAS. 

Poor availability of evidence on RAS 

Besides capacity development and education, information and evidence is needed to support RAS providers in their work and to strengthen the position of RAS in the development context. However, little research is done on RAS, and a coordinated ‘voice’ on this is needed to enhance the role of RAS in ARD. There is a special need for RAS evaluation. 

There is also a lack of documentation that synthesises experiences with innovative practices of RAS performance control by users, such as farmer involvement in service design and assessment. There is currently also very little information available on returns to investment and on value for money for different RAS approaches. 

Limited studies on RAS exist, including some useful work from the 1980s and 1990s, but access to this work is difficult. Analyses of what approaches work in what context, and how investments in RAS have contributed to poverty reduction, are scattered and have never been systematically synthesised. Most available analysis is written for academics, and not for policymakers or farmers. There is a need to ensure that relevant evidence is synthesised, as well as debated with and presented to key decision-makers (farmer organisations, policymakers, donors) in formats accessible to them. 

Insufficient funds for RAS 

Funding is needed to strengthen RAS. There is some commitment to invest in agricultural and rural development (G8 etc.), but it remains unclear which amount of funding (public and/or private) is required for RAS to be an effective contributor to increased food security, increased rural incomes, reduced poverty, and other development outcomes. The issue of the private sector’s role in RAS provision and in leveraging approaches is also related to funding. 
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