RAS policies - evidence and practice
Context and Objectives of the Meeting
The 5th GFRAS Annual Meeting was held from 23 to 25 September 2014 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. It was co-hosted by the National Agricultural Technology Institute of Argentina (INTA) and the Latin American Extension Network (RELASER). The topic was RAS Policies − Evidence and Practice in the thematic session and the role of partnerships for networks in the network strengthening session. Field trips provided the participants with an insight into rural advisory services in Argentina. A total of 156 participants from 44 countries actively engaged in lively discussions and networking activities and reaffirmed the importance and “raison d’être” of the Annual Meeting. Participants stated that they left the meeting re-energized and with a deepened understanding of policy processes and the role of RAS actors within these dynamics.
Full report (pdf 1.36MB)
Videos of plenary sessions, photos, and further conference documentation
Five key areas for mobilising the potential of rural advisory service (pdf 404KB)
The meeting objectives were to:
- Elaborate a shared understanding of purposes, contents, and effects of RAS policies and their relation to other parts of the enabling environment
- Raise awareness on the importance of evidence for policy influencing
- Strengthen RAS fora’s capacity to engage in partnerships between and amongst regions, with policy makers, financial partners, and other actors in agricultural innovation system
The following side-events took place on 22 and 26 September.
- ICTs: Enabling of Capacity in Agricultural Extension and Advisory Services for better impact, organised by CTA and GFRAS
- Capacity Development for Agricultural Innovation Systems,
organised by TAP, FAO and AGREENIUM
- Asia-Pacific Islands Rural Advisory Services,
organised by APIRAS
- Global Good Practices Initiative,
organised by GIZ and GFRAS
- Rural Advisory Services for Family Farming,
organised by FAO
- Role of Producer Organisations in RAS,
organised by the GFRAS working group on PO
- Policy Compendium Validation and Future Opportunities,
organised by MEAS and GFRAS
- GFRAS Consortium on Extension Education and Training,
organised by the GFRAS Consortium
Main Conclusions and Recommendations of the Meeting
RAS policies – Evidence and practice
During the meeting, many topics related to RAS policies, the role of evidence for RAS policies, and opportunities and challenges for influencing policy processes were discussed. Participants concluded the following:
- Inclusive, context-related and evidence-based RAS policies help guide actions and decisions of RAS providers, RAS clientele, and donors. They regulate the AIS and coordinate between sectors, topics and institutions, and thus help to avoid gaps between the institutional level and the field.
- In order to be effective and useful for RAS providers and RAS clientele, RAS policies need to be anchored in the national government, be free from political populism and choose a holistic, multidisciplinary and participatory approach. They need to integrate the context and all concerned stakeholders, including their psychology and profile.
- Evidence helps to make sure that RAS policies are systematic, rational, free from ideology, and serve a common interest. Evidence also makes it easier to assess the impact of policies.
- Evidence for RAS policies needs to be based on common research guidelines and be of the best quality, accuracy, and objectivity. It should be credible and rely on a strong and clear line of arguments. It must also be easily accessible and understandable by the ones using it.
- RAS providers and clientele can influence policy processes. Strategic, long-term alliances and regular presence in policy processes are important. Similarly important is the way how, when and to whom evidence and experiences from the field are communicated.
- There are external factors which shape and influence the scope of action that have to be considered and accepted. These include the political economy, the political and economic stability of the region, the relation between government/politicians and other people, national capacities in the policy formulation process, existing information and knowledge management, and so forth.
Based on these findings and insights, participants have identified the following recommendations for RAS networks to strengthen the role of RAS actors in policy processes.
RAS networks should help RAS actors to
- strengthen institutions, their organisation and cooperation
- build capacities on issues regarding communication and advocacy
- build capacities with regard to the implementation of policies
- help formulating a common strategy for lobbying and advocacy work
- help systematise evidence for policy makers in order to make it internationally and regionally comparable.
The role of partnerships for strengthening networks
Participants discussed and assessed their performance with regard to the following 4 types of partnerships:
- Between and among regions: In general, all network assessed the already existing partnerships of this type as working well. This type of partnership also seems to be the one that newer networks struggle least with its elaboration. However, networks identified some challenges evolving when networks grow and thus become more complex.
- With policy makers: This was the partnership considered as least performing by all networks. Networks face challenges when trying to partner with policy makers. Capacities, skills and knowledge on advocacy and communication need to be strengthened. Participants also expressed the demand for more exchange between the different networks on these challenges.
- With financial actors: Many networks face challenges to ensure long-term, sustainable financing. Participants also discussed solutions to the dilemma that donors and private sector companies have their own interest which sometimes do not fully overlap with the networks’ aims and goals.
- Partnerships with other actors from the AIS: Discussions on this issue were very broad and touched on many issues. Participants agreed that too many actors are still missing in their networks, most importantly the private sector. Also, networks admitted that a higher self-reflection and self-criticism is needed, as they are only one actor in a wide and very complex system.
As a follow-up of this meeting, GFRAS in 2015 will increase its efforts in working on the policy compendium , which will become a one-stop-shop for those working on, advocating for, and implementing extension policy to direct decisions and facilitate successful policy processes and outcomes in extension and advisory services. Other planned policy-related activities of GFRAS may include national policy dialogues as well as the development of training modules for policy and advocacy.
2015 will also be the year where the GFRAS strategic framework will be revised and adapted. In taking a very participatory approach, GFRAS provides the networks with the opportunity and responsibility to shape GFRAS’ future work and actions.
The 2015 Annual Meeting will be held in September in Issyk Kul, Kyrgyzstan. RAS stakeholders from public, private, and civil society are invited to register between April and July 2014.
Overall, participants were very satisfied with the Annual Meeting, both regarding content as well as logistics. While appreciating the good mix of agenda points and methods used, suggestions and requests with regard to the general programme included more open space for exchange and interaction, as well as more time and space for the share fair. With regard to logistics, participants thanked INTA, RELASER and GFRAS for their great work. The only suggestion that some participants mentioned was to improve the communication with regard to registration fees. The GFRAS secretariat thanks the participants for their participation, cooperation, and feedback. It will consider the evaluation results and try to implement the suggestions in the next Annual Meeting.
Report (pdf 1.36MB)
Participants list (pdf 544KB)
Programme (pdf 235KB)
Evaluation report (pdf 817KB)
Field trip descriptions (pdf 325KB)
Concept note (pdf 268KB)
Announcement (pdf 253KB)