logo-blockThe Role of Private Sector and Producer Organisations in Rural Advisory Services 

Context and Objectives of the Meeting

From 24-26 September 2013, the 4th GFRAS Annual Meeting took place in Berlin, Germany, hosted by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the German Development Cooperation (GIZ), and the International Academy of Rural Advisors (IALB). 160 participants from 62 different countries and sectors attended the event. The meeting focused on the role of the private sector and producer organisations in rural advisory services (RAS), and on strengthening RAS networks. Objectives of the 4th GFRAS Annual Meeting were to:

  • Understand and agree on the role of private sector and producer organisations in RAS
  • Strengthen RAS networks in mobilising human and financial resources, and planning and implementing networking
  • Update participants on progress in GFRAS

On 23 September, seven side events were organised by GFRAS affiliates and members.

Participants considered the 4th GFRAS Annual Meeting as an opportunity to exchange with peers and potential partners and to gain new insights into dynamic, pluralistic RAS. They especially understood the importance of integrating the private sector and producer organisations in the RAS system. Participants appreciated the opportunity to reflect on ideas for network strengthening.

Main Conclusions and Recommendations of the Meeting

The role of private sector and producer organisation in RAS

Public sector, private sector, and third sector RAS contribute through various arrangements to the provision and financing of RAS. Participants recognised the broad range of functions of private and third sector RAS.

r birner

(Table by R.Birner)

Producer organisations are crucial both on the demand and the supply side of RAS. On the demand side, they have the role of identifying and synthesising needs, demands, and solutions for farmers. Producer organisations should contribute to monitoring and evaluation of RAS, and participate in policy formulation. On the supply side, producer organisations provide and co-finance RAS activities. Their strengths in RAS derive from producer organisations’ knowledge about farmers’ contexts and needs. Together with their capacity to provide unbiased advice, often linked to other services such as marketing, this leads to a high level of trust from their clients. Participants recommended producer organisations in RAS to:

  • Increase capacity in good governance, organisational management, and federal-level coordination
  • Develop mechanisms for financial sustainability of RAS, considering embedded services, co-funding, and service fees
  • Raise awareness of producer organisations’ roles in RAS and intensify partnerships with other actors in the agricultural innovation system
  • Increase capacity in RAS provision, i.e. in regards to demand-orientation, brokerage, flexibility, and communicating products

Private sector RAS have the advantage of being fast, flexible, and high quality. They benefit from the private sector’s financial resources, and competitiveness. However, companies’ interests lead to a neglect of public goods and a marginalisation of producers’ interests. Participants recommended private sector RAS to:

  • Adhere to corporate social responsibility principles
  • Engage in clearly-communicated public-private partnerships, avoiding the use of public and donor funds to crowd out services
  • Build on existing structures and local initiative
  • Increase transparency in the supply of services
  • Elaborate and share strategies for cost-effective RAS

Producer organisations and private sector share a number of challenges. They were both recommended to:

GFRAS was recommended to foster the recognition of the private sector and producer organisations’ role in RAS by:

  • Promoting capacity strengthening of producer organisations and other RAS providers through the development of methodologies and training guides
  • Evaluating, documenting, and disseminating good practices and evidence
  • Engaging in evidence-based awareness raising, advocacy, and policy dialogues for pluralistic RAS, public-private partnerships, and extension policies
  • Supporting and providing platforms for knowledge exchange at the regional level and fostering private sector and producer organisation inclusion
  • Working towards harmonised standards for RAS

Network strengthening

 

Networking-sun

 

People are at the centre of a network, which gains its energy from diversity, inclusiveness, and ownership. Affiliates and members are mobilised by the value-added of a network, such as mutual learning and voice, which is reflected in demand-oriented results. A network’s mission links the individual to the common interest. It should be based on buy-in and respect subsidiarity principles. A realistic mission requires reviewing and updating. Roles in the network are freely chosen. Affiliates and members can contribute as free actors, initiators, managers, or suppliers. Communication moves a network internally and externally: Inclusion and ownership require broad consultations; visibility supports outreach and results. Other resources are key, but especially funding should follow action and be handled in a sustainable way, tapping internal potential and focusing on continuous engagement.

Outlook

GFRAS will follow-up on the 4th GFRAS Annual Meeting results in 2014. Conclusions and recommendations in regards to the role of private sector and producer organisations in RAS will be discussed and validated at the regional and global levels. GFRAS will participate and contribute to the Farmers’ Forum 2014 in Rome, and support (sub-) -regional activities to discuss private sector and producer organisations RAS.

In regards to network strengthening, GFRAS (sub-) regional fora have identified various actions, depending on their situation and context. Actions include to:

  • Identify needs and interests
  • Establish and activate fora and virtual networks, and diversify their membership
  • Raise awareness on the forum and create partnerships
  • Organise regional events
  • Elaborate administrative and content-related tools and guidelines
  • Collect and share information
  • Form operational and thematic groups
  • Foster capacity strengthening
  • Raise resources

The GFRAS secretariat and steering committee will backstop and support (sub-) regional RAS fora upon demand.

The 5th GFRAS Annual Meeting will take place in October 2014 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Its focus will be on evidence-based policy influencing and network strengthening. The meeting will provide a space for information exchange and networking. RAS stakeholders from public, private, and civil society are invited to register for the 5th GFRAS Annual Meeting between April and July 2014.

Documents and further information

 icon target Presentations

icon pdf Participants list (pdf 561KB)

icon pdf Summary (pdf 257KB)

icon pdf Minutes (962KB)

icon pdf List of share fair presenters (pdf 187KB)

icon pdf Evaluation Report (pdf 481KB)

icon pdf Report of the Country Fora side event (pdf 807KB)

icon target Press Release

icon pdf Programme (pdf 170KB) 

icon pdf Field trip description (pdf 316KB)

icon pdf Announcement (pdf 273KB)

icon pdf Concept Note (pdf 289KB)

 

Literature

Find more information on the role of private sector and producer organisations in RAS:

5 Key Areas for Mobilising the Potential of Rural Advisory Services, GFRAS 2010

Shared Position on RAS' role in  Agricultural Innovation Systems, GFRAS 2012

The New Extensionist, GFRAS 2012