The 8th Annual Meeting of the Global Forum for Rural Advisory Services (GFRAS) will take place from 10-13 September 2017 in Ingham and Townsville, Australia, with side events on 8 and 9 September. The topic is Rural Advisory Services and empowered youth for balanced transformation in rural and urban communities. It is co-organised with the Australasia-Pacific Extension Network (APEN) and there will be 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. 

The 8th GFRAS Annual Meeting provides a unique opportunity to expected 150 participants from all regions, sectors, gender and ages to exchange on and learn about the roles, relations, challenges and opportunities of youth and RAS in the context of rural and urban transformation.

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 are:

  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.

Thematic component

Thematic component: RAS and empowered youth for balanced transformation in rural and urban communities

Ensuring effective linkages, synergies and complementarities between urban, peri-urban and rural areas to support balanced, sustainable and inclusive rural and urban transformation is critical to end hunger, eradicate poverty and to achieve the other Sustainable Development Goals. It is also vital for the sustainability of agricultural value chains and food systems, to increase incomes and to create opportunities for decent employment, particularly for young people.

According to FAO, over half of the people aged between 15 and 24 live in rural areas worldwide in 2016. These rural youth can play particularly important roles in supporting inclusive transformation processes. However, rural youth - particularly women and girls, migrants and vulnerable groups – face major chHallenges in realising their potential to contribute to sustainable development at the local, national and global levels. They often have limited access to decent employment, assets, natural resources, land, finance and markets, and often lack access to knowledge, services and appropriate advice. Coupled with limited access to modern energy and communications, this makes rural areas less attractive and contributes to migration of young people from rural to urban areas.

Rural advisory services (RAS) can play important roles in these processes. The 8th GFRAS Annual Meeting provides a unique opportunity to exchange on and learn about the roles, relations, challenges and opportunities of youth and RAS in the context of rural and urban transformation. Participants will also examine the capacities needed by RAS to effectively support processes of inclusive transformation and discuss the adaptations to policies and investments required.

In plenary sessions participants will gain a common understanding of the different concepts, learn from evidence and gain insights on some innovative examples. The 'Shift and Share' session as well as the Share fair will complement this with many stories, cases, ideas and examples. The following parallel sessions will then be held for participants to have in-depth discussions and exchange experiences and learnings:

Parallel session 1: The role of RAS in empowering youth for sustainable rural-urban transformation

  • What are new business, employment and livelihood opportunities in agriculture and agriculture-related domains attractive to youth?
  • What role can RAS play in strengthening the knowledge, values, skills and services needed by youth to overcome the challenges and seize these opportunities?
  • What changes in policy and the capacities of RAS are needed for them for empowering youth?

Parallel session 2:  The role of youth in strengthening RAS to be more inclusive, context-sensitive, and demand-driven for all in the processes of rural-urban transformation

  • What roles and opportunities are there for youth to strengthen RAS in the context of sustainable rural-urban transformation?
  • What challenges are there in engaging youth in the provision of RAS?
  • What changes in policies and the capacities of RAS are needed to overcome the challenges and seize the opportunities? Who should be the key stakeholders of this transformation?

Parallel session 3: RAS, youth and rural-urban, urban-rural migration patterns:

  • What is the impact of youth migration patterns on rural areas?
  • How is, can, or should RAS be involved in these dynamics (for example in mitigating rural-urban migration)?
  • What policies and changes are required in the capacities of RAS to accommodate these new dynamics?

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.

Functional component

Functional component – Strengthening capacities of RAS networks

Regional and sub-regional networks and country fora are the main partners of GFRAS in the operationalisation and the implementation of its work and in strengthening and advocating for RAS within their regions. They also ensure that the work and focus of GFRAS remains grounded, relevant and demand-driven. The GFRAS 2016-2025 Strategic Framework and corresponding five-year operational plan place a strong emphasis on strengthening the capacities of the regional and sub-regional networks and country fora to fulfil these roles. Capacity assessments undertaken in 2016 show that, while the different networks have specific needs and demands depending on their context, they face some common challenges. These include, for example, mobilising sufficient funding and human resources, but also building capacities to effectively advocate for policies and investments that strengthen RAS.

Evaluations of past meetings have shown that the peer exchanges between networks are perceived as critical for networks to strengthen their own capacities. The 2017 Annual Meeting will thus anew provide space for thorough peer exchanges and learning between the networks. This will be guided by experts on networks and network functioning, and lead to the development by the networks of realistic road maps for action toward the 2018 Annual Meeting.

A synthesis of the results of the network capacity assessments undertaken by GFRAS will be presented in the plenary session and a keynote speaker will be invited to present experience on healthy network functioning and tools that networks can use to strengthen their functioning. Networks will then have the chance to share experiences in a peer-to-peer learning session, in which they will coach each other based on the needs identified in the assessments. After that, the networks will have the time to convene within their network to discuss how they can meet some of the identified capacity needs and develop a realistic roadmap to the 2018 Annual Meeting.