Evidence of impact and potential scalability
One of the weaknesses of many RRCs is a lack of systematic reporting and monitoring. This makes evaluating their impact in the field difficult. RRCs are significantly contributing to improving livelihoods of farmers in their intervention areas. A majority of beneficiaries of RRCs in Cameroon are satisfied with the information, technical backstopping, and training provided. RRCs are also helping communities to get access to high-quality tree planting material at affordable prices. Between 2011 and 2013, five RRCs produced more than 370,000 tree seedlings, of which 67% was sold. The other plants were distributed to farmers and planted in public places such as schools and hospitals, and to protect watersheds, showing the social dimension of RRCs’ activities.
An important condition for scaling of RRCs is ensuring their long-term financial viability and sustainability. To become sustainable, RRCs have to develop other funding mechanisms than external support. Several RRCs generate enough income to cover a substantial portion of their expenses. Nevertheless, many continue to rely on support from a parent organisation. Further technical and organisational assistance is needed to strengthen RRCs in order to increase their production capacity, skills, visibility, and credibility. In that way they can better sell their products and services and become autonomous enterprises. The RRC model should be promoted more widely. Where possible, it should be integrated in national extension strategies to complement other methods. Partnerships between RRCs and other actors, in particular government programmes, development organisations, and local authorities should be actively encouraged.
Another difficulty in scaling the approach is the context-specificity and large variability between RRCs. There is a need to better understand the institutional set-up and processes required to make RRCs effective in different socio-economic and political contexts.
>Box 4: Strengths of RCC and challenges
- The RRC approach is in line with recent reforms of agricultural extension in many developing countries. RRCs propose advisory services that meet specific needs and demands, are run by actors that have strong anchorage in the rural milieu, and also explore modes of financing other than subsidies. However, the long-term success of the RRCs will depend on:
- Capacity of staff to ensure effective advice in a large range of domains that often go beyond purely technical aspects (e.g. agroforestry) to include group dynamics, leadership, marketing, and even rural development as a whole. Would it not be better for the RRCs to keep their identity and specialise in fewer domains, rather than disperse efforts?
- Capacity to pursue activities when external funding stops. Can farmers and other target groups participate in the funding of RRCs? In what way? Is there a risk that the search for income generating options overshadows the primary role of RRCs, which is training and extension?
- Capacity to develop synergies and partnerships with other agricultural extension services or even more generally with development organisations. Is the institutional and policy context favourable to such synergies and complementarity? What strategies are needed to position RRCs on the national agricultural extension arena?