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The Role of Rural Advisory Services for Inclusive Agripreneurship
The 7th GFRAS Annual Meeting took place from 3 to 6 October in Limbé, Cameroon, hosted by AFAAS (The African Forum for Agricultural Advisory Services), RESCAR-AOC (the sub-regional RAS network for Western and Central Africa; in French: le Réseau des Services de Conseil Agricole et Rural d’Afrique de l’Ouest et du Centre) and MINADER (the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development of Cameroon).
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An overarching conclusion from the debates at the Annual Meeting is that actors in the rural landscape need to adapt to a new context in which private sector operators and agripreneurs are important players in agricultural development. RAS thus needs to adapt, and encourage the adaption, of a new mind-set, which shifts the perception from project-oriented approaches towards more business-oriented approaches to agriculture, in which the role and importance of profit is recognised (profit being conceived as income minus expenses, or transaction costs).
Participants identified key recommendations for all actors and stakeholders involved in agriculture, rural development, and RAS to strive towards to better support agripreneurship.
These included the following:
- Key aspects of policy frameworks and the enabling environment need to be adapted, including:
- education systems, to include agripreneurship, commodity knowledge, value chain knowledge, and participation of value chain role-players;
- financial insurance systems, to include incentives, grants, and risk mitigation measures; and
- agripreneurship-oriented governance, to include more appropriate business-friendly infrastructure, trade, business and fiscal policies
- Principles of action need to be developed, including for example:
- promoting both pro-active and reactive approaches to service provision;
- recognising and endorsing the very different needs of diverse rural actors, particularly the different needs of women, men, youth, smallholders, and vulnerable people;
- encouraging innovation and creativeness, among rural actors and RAS; and
- supporting sustainable and inclusive business models that (i) support sustainable production systems; (ii) live up to equitable social standards; and (iii) are profitable
- Efforts to support linkages and coordination are needed, including for example:
- working towards a better coordination and complementarity (as opposed to competition and duplication of efforts) between different RAS providers;
- enhancing knowledge exchange and coordination amongst all actors along value chains, including support for new forms of public-private partnerships;
- ensuring unconditional access to information and knowledge by all actors, using new forms of communication and learning, and strengthening knowledge exchange and sharing; and
- building stronger awareness of RAS networks and fora and strengthening their supportive roles to agripreneurship.
- Continued efforts to strengthen capacities of RAS actors are needed, particularly in the following areas:
- strengthened internal capacities of organisations and institutions to be better equipped to respond to changing situations and emerging needs;
- appropriate structures, approaches, and methods for the provision of services, potentially also comprising the development of fee-based RAS services;
- strengthened functional skills and competencies of RAS providers, particularly with regard to value chain and business knowledge, management, facilitation, mobilisation, negotiating with partners and buyers, and ability to broker business relationships