APIRAS Logo 415x155The Role of Rural Advisory Services in Agricultural Innovation Systems

26-28 September 2012, Manila, Philippines

icon pdf Programme (pdf, 90KB) 
Side events: APIRAS meeting, Farmers' Experiences, Gender in RAS, Extension Policies

icon pdf Participants list (pdf, 319KB)

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Context and objectives of the meeting

From 26-28 September 2012, the 3rd GFRAS Annual Meeting took place in Manila, Philippines, hosted by the Asia-Pacific Islands Rural Advisory Services (APIRAS) Network. 141 people from various countries and sectors participated in the 3rd GFRAS Annual Meeting. The meeting focused on the role of rural advisory services in agricultural innovation systems and the functioning of the Global Forum for Rural Advisory Services (GFRAS), especially in regards to results-oriented networking.

Objectives of the 3rd GFRAS Annual Meeting were to:

  1. Understand and agree on the role of rural advisory services (RAS) in agricultural innovation systems (AIS)
  2. Strengthen RAS networks for results-oriented activities
  3. Update participants on progress in GFRAS

Since its 2nd Annual Meeting in Kenya, GFRAS developed into a functioning network on RAS. Its vision to see RAS effectively contributing to the sustainable reduction of hunger and poverty worldwide can only be achieved in collaboration and active exchange with other actors in AIS and rural development. The 3rd GFRAS Annual Meeting gave space to reflect on the roles that RAS need to play in AIS and on actions that are required from other actors to realise operational agricultural innovation systems. Participants reflected on how their fora can be strengthened to be reliable partners in AIS that contribute to results in regards to rural development and poverty reduction.

Participants appreciated the participative approach of the event. The opportunity to network and exchange with peers was considered motivating and helpful for activities to strengthen RAS. “To compare with others helps to develop your own organisation: GFRAS meetings are perfect to do so” (male participant from Europe). The GFRAS Annual Meeting was recognised as a mechanism to create relations and access information and documents. “Participation in this 3rd Annual Meeting gave me the opportunity to create relations with an organisation using ICTs in the Philippines and…to know how to apply a number of tools in Benin in addition to the existing ones” (male participant from West Africa).New affiliates increased their understanding of the purpose and functioning of GFRAS. Sponsored participants plan to share meeting outputs with their constituency and apply new insights in their positions. “I plan to conduct a workshop…to discuss RAS and AIS from different perspective in order to promote better RAS and AIS services” (female participant from South East Asia).

icon pdfMinutes (pdf 1MB)

Recommendations and main conclusions of the meeting

An evaluation showed the vast majority of participants were very satisfied or satisfied with the achievements of the meeting. The recommendations and conclusions they gave during the meeting and in evaluation forms and reports are summarised below. GFRAS will consider them in 2013 and report on them at its 4th GFRAS Annual Meeting.

The role of rural advisory services in agricultural innovation systems

Innovation is crucial in rural development and happens mostly through interaction between actors and sectors in AIS. Based on discussions about RAS links and institutions, capacities and policies for effective RAS, and business orientation in RAS and AIS, participants elaborated a shared position on the role of RAS in rural development and AIS. They concluded that RAS contribute to innovation by facilitation, fostering joint learning, alliance building, empowering and strengthening capacities of farmers, not neglecting technical tasks. In order to play this role, RAS need the ability to deal with change, entrepreneurship and business skills, and the capacity to listen and respond to demands.

  • Other AIS actors should create an enabling environment for interaction with RAS:
  • Farmer leaders need to collate and express demands
  • Education should revise curricula and develop module-based courses and distance learning
  • Policy is required to coordinate and integrate actors in AIS on different geographic levels and introduce incentives
  • Investors should use mechanisms that reflect sustainability

The session on the role of RAS in AIS increased participants’ understanding of the need for capacity strengthening in RAS, coordination and advocacy in AIS, and for the involvement of producer organisations and the private sector.

RAS fora: Strengthening results-oriented networking

After a period that concentrated on the inception of regional fora, the 3rd GFRAS Annual Meeting provided a space to reflect network mechanisms and structures that lead to results and a strong position in AIS. Presenters from Africa, Europe, and Latin America shared their approaches with less established networks and identified as success factors for young fora to

  • Elaborate an overview of the RAS and AIS system and generate evidence on effects of RAS
  • Identify focal points on national level who gather diverse actors, coordinate activities in countries, collate a country-based position, and strengthen thereby advocacy
  • Initiate the establishment of country fora and provide guiding documentsEstablish working groups, virtual social network platforms, and partnerships
  • Attract interest by responding to identified needs and elaborate concrete results

The GFRAS steering committee and secretariat were recommended to continue supporting the institutionalisation of (sub-) regional networks, fostering interaction and networking between regions, engaging in capacity strengthening and thematic support, and advocating for RAS.

Comparing their own regional efforts with other networks helped participants in the GFRAS Annual Meeting to better understand how to establish or strengthen their RAS fora. “A learning from the meeting was about how collaboration in RAS networks can take place. In this regard, we improved our ideas about how to…transform RELASER into a dynamic network with high utility to support Latin American RAS” (male participant from Latin America). Participants got a deeper insight of the functioning of GFRAS and found partners for networking and content-related activities. “The meeting was an opportunity for me to meet AFAAS members and discuss about the development of the network within Benin and also in West Africa” (male participant from West Africa).


GFRAS will continue fostering RAS and strengthening their contribution to AIS. Interactions with different AIS actors will be key: The GFRAS capacity working group and (sub-) regional networks will discuss RAS roles, strategies, and capacities and engage in improving education curricula on RAS. A stronger focus will be put in 2014 on RAS interaction with policy makers. “Funding and political influences remain the main hurdles in the development process of our region” (male participant from South Asia).The role of producer organisations and private sector in RAS will be the topic of the 4th GFRAS Annual Meeting, taking place on 24-26 September 2013 in Berlin, Germany.

(Sub-) regional networks will contribute to these planned activities and initiate their own discussions and results that are appropriate to their contexts. “The learnings from this meeting will be used to improve the links between research and extension in innovation while searching a much more integrated process with a high level of participation of producers in all steps” (male participant from Latin America). GFRAS will continue backstopping (sub-) regional networks upon demand and fostering their exchange. In response to enhanced structures, learning between country fora from different regions will be initiated and supported.