The 8th Annual Meeting of the Global Forum for Rural Advisory Services (GFRAS)  took place from 10-13 September 2017 in Ingham and Townsville, Australia, with side events on 8 and 9 September. The topic was Rural Advisory Services and empowered youth for balanced transformation in rural and urban communities. It was co-organised with the Australasia-Pacific Extension Network (APEN) and included a partial overlap with APEN’s International Conference, which will take place from 13-15 September on the topic of Facilitating balanced change for rural and urban communities. 

Agenda

GFRAS AM 2017 Draft AGenda

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 icon pdf Detailed draft programme (pdf 242KB)

Meeting objectives

Meeting objectives

The four interrelated objectives of the meeting were:

  1. to identify and discuss roles, challenges and opportunities for youth to be meaningful actors in balanced and inclusive rural and urban transformation
  2. to identify and discuss the roles and relations between RAS and youth for inclusive and sustainable rural-urban linkages;
  3. to identify and discuss changes in policies and the capacities of RAS needed for both RAS and youth to fulfil their roles; and
  4. to strengthen capacities of RAS networks through peer exchange and learning.

Field trips

Field trips

Participants can chose from several options to learn from practical examples and challenges of RAS in Australia. Field trips are jointly organised for GFRAS and APEN meeting participants. Some of the field trips depart from Townsville only - a joint transport from Ingham to Townsville will be organised for those participants who wish to join one of those the evening before. Participants joining field trips departing from Ingham directly, will be dropped off in Townsville in the evening.

The following field trips are planned:

Full day field trips, departing from Ingham:

As sweet as sugar

Visit the Herbert dryland sugarcane growing region to view first hand agricultural extension services in action, with a focus on production and natural resource management. Sponsored by Wilmar Sugar.

Departure time from Tyto conference centre, Ingham 9:30am and return 5:30pm into Townsville.

Natural Resource Management 

Visit the Hinchinbrook Shire region to view first hand a Landcare project at Insulator Creek, pig management and activities in the Herbert sugarcane area specific to NRM management. Sponsored by Wilmar Sugar and Terrain NRM.

Departure time from Tyto conference centre, Ingham 9:30am and return 5:30pm into Townsville.

Engaging youth

Visit 2 secondary schools in the Ingham region to view first hand trade training facilities used for agriculture and industrial training. The tour will also visit a site were Greening Australia, Conservation Volunteers Australia, the local Catchment Landcare and traditional are working together in the Palm Creek system to restore riparian areas and improve environmental outcomes. Sponsored by Wilmar Sugar and Terrain NRM

Departure time from Tyto conference centre, Ingham 9:30am and return 5:30pm into Townsville.

Half day field trip, departing from Ingham:

 

Education and health

Tropical Public Health Unit in Townsville and James Cook University. Sponsored by James Cook University.

Departure time from Tyto conference centre, Ingham 7:30 am and return 12pm into Townsville.

 

Full day field trips, departing from Townsville:

Irrigated agriculture

Visit the Burdekin Irrigation Area. View first hand agricultural extension services in sugarcane, rice, pulse crops and horticulture. Sponsored by NQ Dry Tropics NRM.

Departure time from Ville, Townsville 8:30am and return 5pm.

Extension in grazing

Visit grazing properties to view first hand extension activities in this industry.

Departure time from Ville, Townsville 8:30am and return 5:30pm.

Gone tropo

Visit the Herbert dryland sugarcane, melon and pineapple farming. View first hand agricultural extension services in action, with a focus on production and technology.Sponsored by Wilmar Sugar.

Departure time from Ville, Townsville 8:30am and return 3pm.

Half day field trips, departing from Townsville:

Extension and the Great Barrier Reef

Visit the Australian Institute of Marine Science and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

Departure time from Ville, Townsville 8:30am and return 12pm.

Side events

Asia-Pacific Islands SAAS Regional Networking Conference

Friday 8 September, 8:00 - 12:00

A lot has already been done with agricultural advisory services (AAS) in the Asia-Pacific Region. However, there remains a need for a strongly coordinated network of AAS providers to match the emerging demands of its stakeholders 

APIRAS — the Asia-Pacific Islands Rural Advisory Services Network — was organized in 2011 to respond to those demands. It serves as a platform for networking, advocacy, and capacity building for agricultural extension and rural advisory services (RAS) professionals and institutions in the Asia- Pacific Islands Region. APIRAS, together with the Global Forum for Rural Advisory Services (GFRAS), have been championing capacity development and organization of AAS providers in the regional, sub-regional, and national levels, and advocating for an appropriate enabling environment for smallholder farmers to access market-oriented advisory services. 

In 2016, the APIRAS embarked on an initiative to “empower poor smallholder farmers and producer organizations in Asia-Pacific Region (APR) through access to improved, more effective, and demand-driven agricultural advisory services (AAS)” through a grant from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) titled Supporting Smallholder Farmers in Asia and Pacific Islands Region Through Strengthened Agricultural Advisory Services (SAAS Project). One of the intentions of the grant is to strengthen APIRAS as the regional RAS network to coordinate organized responses in addressing capacity development, knowledge management, and policy needs of AAS in the region, thus, bringing about empowerment to smallholder farmers in the Asia-Pacific.

APIRAS
Dr. Virginia R. Cardenas
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Professionalisation of RAS: Whereto from here 

Friday 8 September, 13:00 - 17:00

The call for getting Rural Advisory Services professionalised has long been made. In response to the expressed interest and demand from the network, GFRAS commissioned a scoping study to examine the current levels of professionalism in its 11 regional networks. http://www.g-fras.org/en/ 

The study provides a baseline as well as stimulates cross-regional learning and exchange towards Professionalisation. The results show that countries and regions are at different stages of Professionalisation. While other countries have succeeded in the professionalisation of RAS, some only aspire to initiate the process. The majority of the countries require strengthening of capacities to initiate the processes in their contexts. The half-day side events aims at presenting the global status on RAS professionalisation (with concrete cases) and equip participants with basic skills on how the get the process of professionalisation started in their context. 

Hlamalani Ngwenya 
GFRAS Consortium on Extension, Education and Training 
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The New Extensionist Learning Kit no longer a dream, but a reality.

Saturday 9 September, 8:00 - 17:00

The development oft he New extensionist learning kit (NELK) has been one of the flagship initiatives for the GFRAS Consortium on Extension Education and Training since 2015. The learning kit with 13 modules suitable for blended approach of either face-to-face or self-directed learning has been developed through a consultative process over a four year period. Thus far GFRAS has creatively delivered modules through testing, sensitisation, training and mainstreaming. In the past two years, more than 2000 people across the GFRAS networks have been exposed to the learning kit in one or another. The demand for the kit continues to gain momentum. There is a need to continue to continue to equip champions, monitor and keep track on the uptake, use and appraisal of the learning kit. 

Objectives : 

  •  To present the New Extensionist learning kit and demonstrate the online version 
  •  To share experiences on the uptake, the use and appraisal of the New extensionist Learning Kit. Here would get different people who have used kit in one of the four mode of dissemination (e.g. testing, sensitisation, training and mainstreaming) to share their experiences. 
  •  To strengthen New Extensionist champions (clarify who are the champions, what does it mean to be one etc.) 
  •  To map up modalities for further dissemination and monitoring and evaluation of NELK 

Hlamalani Ngwenya 
GFRAS Consortium on Extension, Education and Training 
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Youth empowerment through access to agriculture information

Saturday 9 September, 8:00 - 12:00

The event will be structured to address a set of five key questions: 

  • What happens to research findings once they are documented (if they are documented)? Do they go into reports, papers, book chapters, and extension material? Are they presented at conferences and the like? 
  • What happens to project or programme documentation (of all kinds, including video clips, radio broadcasts, and not just reports) at the conclusion of projects or programme activities? 
  • What are the consequences of established (older) staff retiring or moving on? 
  • For new staff, particularly youth in both research and extension, what can be done to ensure that they are well enough briefed about the current situation and the work that has been undertaken previously? 
  • If the management of information and knowledge is a problem (in the various regions/organisations), what can be done to fix this? 

The key outcomes are: 

  • Greater awareness of the value and importance of AIS by the wider regions 
  • Forged linkages between regional networks through established IKM platforms 
  • Document best practice policies to support research and extension IKM processes 

The expected output is an answer to the question: 

How can we strengthen information and knowledge management effectively, efficiently, and strategically, so that it is more accessible and can be utilised and shared across regional networks? 

How can youths be empowered to access the information and knowledge? 

Anju Mangal and Peter Walton
Pacific Community (SPC) and Consultancy 
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