ÆRAS Project as part of the GP-SAEP Program
The Global Forum for Rural Advisory Services (GFRAS) is implementing an Agroecology project in close collaboration with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). The project is called ‘Global Programme for Small-scale Agroecology Producers and Sustainable Food Systems Transformation (GP-SAEP)’ and is part of the larger funding envelope provided by the European Commission (EC) and the Belgian Development Cooperation, aiming at addressing key barriers for scaling up agroecology and the transition to sustainable food systems for small-scale producers (farmers and agri-food Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) in Africa and Latin America & the Caribbean (LAC).
Agroecology is knowledge-intensive and builds on small-scale producers’ collective knowledge combined with applied knowledge from modern science to identify problems and develop long-term solutions adapted to their ecological and cultural contexts. Extension and advisory services systems have a key role to play to support small-scale producers in transitioning to or improving their agroecological farming systems by bridging modern science and technologies with local, indigenous and traditional knowledge in joint experimental learning processes.
The overall GP-SAEP project has been signed in the first quarter of 2023 and will run until June 2026. However, the duration for the implementation of component 3 as follows:
- 1 August 2023 – 30 June 2026
- 1 July 2026 – 30 September 2026 closure period
- 1 October – 31 December 2026 reporting to EU period
GP-SAEP Structure and Components
The programme is structured around four components.
- Component 1: Improving access to inputs including seeds, bio-inputs and mechanical equipment;
- Component 2: Increasing value addition and markets for agroecological producers;
- Component 3: Enhancing Rural Advisory Services (RAS) and farmer-to-farmer joint
learning for small-scale producers in transition to agroecology; and
- Component 4: Improving Economic and Financial Analysis of investments (EFA+)
tools, to assess the impact and benefit of investments in rural agri-food sector.
The overall GP-SAEP programme goal is the transformation of food systems towards agroecology by enabling small-scale producers to strengthen their practices of agroecology, through better access to knowledge, support services, improved technologies and market outlets. Thereby, improving their resilience to climatic, environmental and socio-economic shocks and stressors as well as food and nutrition security and incomes.
GFRAS and Component Three (ÆRAS)
GFRAS in partnership with Access Agriculture and the youth network YPARD are responsible for Component 3, namely: “Increasing Access to knowledge and Empowering 10 000 Small-Scale Farmers in Agroecological Transition through Participatory Rural Advisory Services (RAS) and Farmer to Farmer joint learning”.
Component 3 focuses on “Empowering Small-Scale Farmers in the Agroecological Transition through Participatory Rural Advisory Services (RAS)” and the implementation will be done through specific activities designed and delivered parallel with and building synergies with the component 1 & 2 sub-projects.
The goal is to strengthen and support rural advisory services (RAS) providers (including public agricultural extension, CSOs, FOs, agroecology based MSME input providers) towards co-creation with and empowerment of small-scale producers and enabling them to innovate and adopt agroecological practices and technologies adapted to the accelerating challenges of climate change. Small scale farmers will be empowered in the agroecology transition through participatory, experiential learning approaches that recognize farmers as drivers of agroecological innovation in integrated practices and technologies.
The Project is composed of two subcomponents (as a part of the GP-SAEP Component 3), each with some key activities.
i) Strengthen the capacity of RAS for Agroecology; and
ii) Generate and disseminate knowledge on best practices for agroecology and RAS.
The overall objective will be pursued through the following outputs:
(i) Number of RAS providers applying mechanisms of continuous learning among themselves and farmers;
(ii) Number of small-scale producers reached by RAS, farmer-to-farmer and/or FFS co-learning;
(iii) Report on number of improved agroecology practices farmers has adopted,
(iv) number of RAS providers’ that has increased competences in delivering Agroecology centred extension services,
(v) number of RAS providers that have increased capacity to integrate digital tools in their work,
(vi) number of RAS provider organisations actively promote agroecology; and
(vi) Number of Youth influencers with improved capacity to promote Agroecology within their country.
Ultimately, GFRAS is focused on the promotion of agroecology, but changing the approach of extension to be more geared towards co-creation of knowledge, and
taking the local conditions and realities into consideration.
Target Countries and Target Groups
Implementation of the third component by GFRAS and its partners will happen in four countries. In Africa, Madagascar and Uganda have been selected while in Latin America implementation will happen in Costa Rica and Ecuador. The GFRAS regional networks, AFAAS and RELASER and the country fora in the respective countries will be essential in the implementation of this project.
Direct and indirect target groups
The aim is to reach approximately 10,000 farming families (an estimated 2,500 per country) and support transforming their production towards agroecology methods and technologies. These beneficiaries will be reached via a total of 20 Master Trainers, 240 RAS (Rural Advisory Services) facilitators (60 per country), 20 Young Professionals for Agricultural Development (YPARD) agroecology extension fellows (5 per country), and 12 teams of 2-3 Entrepreneurs for Rural Access (ERAs) who will be promoting agroecology through farmer-to-farmer videos in local languages, in Africa.
In Latin America, there will be no ERA teams, but about 15 people within the 60 RAS facilitators will be selected in each country to receive further training on how to use the digital projector.
The selection of beneficiaries and trained persons at all levels will ensure that at least 40% are women, 30% are youth (defined in this Project as people under 35 years of age) and 10% are indigenous people where applicable.