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The role of RAS for inclusive agripreneurship

Background and rationale

Agriculture today faces many challenges, including globalisation and market liberalisation, food price crises, natural resource depletion, climate change, rapid urbanisation, changing production and consumption patterns, demographic changes, and so on. Many of these directly or indirectly lead to changing markets, and create both opportunities and risks for farmers, especially for smallholders, youth, and women. With a growing recognition of the important role of smallholder agriculture for economic growth and rural development in many countries, market-oriented agriculture appears more prominently on the agenda. Agripreneurship is key in this regard.

Agripreneurship refers to entrepreneurship in agriculture. Entrepreneurship is a concept that encompasses transforming an idea or vision into a “new business or new venture creation, or the expansion of an existing business, by an individual, a team of individuals, or an established business” (Reynolds et al. 1999, cited by Global Entrepreneurship Monitor). But entrepreneurship, as opposed to self-employment, is also defined by the spirit of the entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs are usually creative, take opportunities and accept risks, and can quickly change business strategies to adapt to changing environments. They are often innovators (Kahan, 2012). While usually being innovative and creative, farmers often lack experiences, access to services, people, or markets, and skills to have realistic chances to succeed as entrepreneurs (Wongtschowski et al. 2013). In addition, agripreneurs are influenced by external, systemic factors, such as economic and social barriers, policies, and regulations (Kahan 2012). While these constraints affect all farmers and especially all smallholders, women and youth are particularly affected.

Rural advisory services play a crucial role in supporting farmers to become successful agripreneurs. They provide important information and access to people, markets, and financial services and train the farmers in the required managerial and other functional skills. Rural advisory services can also influence policies and regulations to create an agripreneurship-friendly environment, reduce barriers, or change prevailing values in societies.