Lucas Chingore sThe purpose of this note is to highlight the emergence of private sectordelivered RAS that aim to address the gaps in traditional government extension. Private sector RAS can serve a company’s business goals while also providing farmers with the essential agronomic and business knowledge needed to be more productive and earn higher incomes. It is in the private sector’s interest to engage with and improve their clients’ farming practices in order to achieve increased company revenues and profits. This enables them to ensure commercial viability, resulting in long-term mutual benefits for farmers, employees, and shareholders.

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Generating and applying new knowledge is important for all enterprises, including farming. But, quite often, new knowledge that can enhance productivity, competitiveness, and sustainability in farming is not widely adopted at scale. This lack of innovation in agriculture has led to the search for new frameworks such as ‘innovation systems’ that help in understanding how the process of agricultural innovation takes place and how its relevance and quality can be enhanced.

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Producer organisations (POs) form the interface between farmers and their economic, social, and institutional environments (Box 1). The involvement of POs in the provision of rural advisory services (RAS) has been identifi ed as a solution to the limitations of both the hierarchical public sector extension system and market- driven private sector extension systems. POs can make a positive contribution by articulating the demands and needs of their members for RAS, and directly or indirectly ensuring that these services are supplied in an effi cient and sustainable way. However, not all POs have the required capacities to carry out all these functions.