Global Good Practices
The Global Good Practices Initiative aims to facilitate access to information and know-how on agricultural and rural advisory services for a wide audience of practitioners. It does so by preparing Global Good Practice (GGP) Notes, which are descriptions of key concepts, approaches, and methods in an easy-to-understand format. They give an overview of the main aspects of a practice or approach, best-fit considerations, and sources for further reading. The GGP Notes collated in this book, originally published individually between 2014 and 2017, are openly available as stand-alone publications at http://www.betterextension.org.
This compressed folder contains all the Global Good Practice Notes published so far (English and French versions)
In this fast-changing environment, farmers and their ruraladvisory service (RAS) providers must learn new skills andfind new ways of working together to develop inclusivebusiness models that help link diverse farmers andentrepreneurs to growth markets. One solution to help withrural commercialisation is to support the growing numbersof agripreneurs, who could play a catalytic role in generatingnew income streams and jobs. Politicians and practitionersas well as scientists have recognised that farmers,processors, and local service providers increasingly requireagripreneurship support, in addition to sound managementand technical skills, to be sustainable in the future.
The purpose of thisnote is to highlight the emergence of private sectordeliveredRAS that aim to address the gaps in traditionalgovernment extension. Private sector RAS can serve acompany’s business goals while also providing farmerswith the essential agronomic and business knowledgeneeded to be more productive and earn higher incomes.It is in the private sector’s interest to engage with andimprove their clients’ farming practices in order to achieveincreased company revenues and profits. This enablesthem to ensure commercial viability, resulting in long-termmutual benefits for farmers, employees, and shareholders.
The landscape of agricultural development has changeddramatically in the past two decades, calling fortransformation of the curricula of programmes, courses, andtraining related to agricultural extension and rural advisoryservices (RAS) in terms of what is taught, and how. Manyhigher learning institutions and training providers recognisethe need to review and change their existing curricula and/orto develop new ones that are responsive to current marketdemands. However, there is often limited know-how andcapacity to implement successful processes of curriculumdevelopment, especially in the extension and RAS community.This note describes a structured process of curriculumdevelopment in the context of extension and RAS. Theexperience of the Global Forum for Rural Advisory Services(GFRAS) in developing the New Extensionist Learning Kit1 ispresented as an example of this process at global level. Othercases are used to bring out the national-level experienceconsolidating the lessons learned.
While some professions,such as medicine and engineering, have been well knownand recognised through standard qualifications for manyyears, others – such as rural advisory services (RAS) – haveonly recently begun to aspire to a higher level ofprofessionalism. The benefit of professionalised practices isevident for both practitioners and those who receiveservices. Many professional regulatory bodies exist thatprovide checks and balances on the performance standardsof different sectors. While there are pockets of evidence onthe professionalisation of RAS, the majority of countries areat the stage of seeking to professionalise their services, andneed strengthened capacity to initiate this process.
Extension (also known as rural advisory services) has risen and fallen on the global development agenda. The focus on extension increased during the green revolution era. Today, due to factors such as food price crises and climate change, extension is increasingly recognised as critical for rural development. This note aims to introduce programme managers to extension philosophies and methods over the past decades. It demonstrates that each approach originated in specific circumstances, and has both merits and demerits.
Farmers, agri-business and service providers have to innovate continuously to adapt to an ever-changing environment (including markets, climate and resources). Innovation is about putting ideas that are new to a certain location into practice, and in this way changing the situa- tion of those living in this area for the better. These “ideas” can be a new way of irrigating a field (i.e. a technology), a new way of organizing women farmers to bulk their produce (i.e. an organizational innovation), or a new policy that supports smallholders in getting bank loans (i.e. an institutional innovation). In agriculture, innovation often involves a combination of these different types of changes. For example: a new way of diverting water to fields requires that the farmers organize themselves in water use associations, which must in turn be supported by the local authorities.
Farmer Field Schools (FFS) is a group-based adult learning approach that teaches farmers how to experiment and solve problems independently. Sometimes called “schools without walls”, in FFS groups of farmers meet regularly with a facilitator, observe, talk, ask questions, and learn together. Farmer field schools as an approach was first developed to teach integrated pest management (IPM) techniques in rice farming, but it has also been used in organic agriculture, animal husbandry, and also non-farm income generating activities such as handicrafts.
Smallholder farmers in developing countries face a number of challenges that impact their productivity and contribution to food security. These include lack of access to financial services (credit, savings, and micro-insurance) and limited access to rural advisory services. Over the years, there have been efforts to address these challenges to improve smallholder farmer productivity and contribution to food security. However, the lives of smallholder farmers have not significantly improved because only individual constraints have been addressed while others have been neglected. Mercy Corps realised that it was necessary to find an affordable, accessible way of providing services that addresses multiple challenges in sustainable business models.
Rural women’s roles and contributions to agriculture remain undervalued and neglected by the sector’s policy- making and implementation processes. Women typically are involved in many aspects of the agricultural value chain, often contributing anywhere from 25 to 75% of the productive labour. However, they generally have less access to rural advisory services (RAS) than men. They also have less access to agricultural inputs, such as fertilisers, technologies, and veterinary services, which reduces their overall productivity. This is particularly a problem in countries in Africa, where women’s agricultural involvement varies from about 30% in the Gambia to 60–80% in Cameroon.(1) Despite the evidence accumulated over several decades on women’s multi-faceted roles in farm-based livelihoods, and the need to support them, men are frequently still considered as the ‘lead’ farmer in a household, and RAS focus on their market-oriented interests.
Enabling Rural Innovation (ERI) is a participatory approach that puts family farmers in the centre of agricultural development. It strengthens their technical, organisational, social and entrepreneurial capacities to shift from subsistence to market–oriented agriculture. It aims at developing profitable agro-enterprises without jeopardising food and nutrition security. Farmer groups are supported in (re-)discovering social, technical, natural and economical resources around them, setting group objectives and monitoring their progress towards them, making market studies, experimenting with different technologies and setting up agro-enterprises while safeguarding their natural resource base.
Videos, especially digital ones, are a relatively new technology. Videos may help to meet the challenges of disseminating information to farmers and reaching the poor, marginalised, women, and young people. Some uses of video in agriculture include raising awareness, stimulating demand for support, farmer-to-farmer extension, training on agricultural innovations, stimulating creativity, and as a tool for documenting and monitoring and evaluation (M&E).
Following the decline of investments in government extension services in the 1980s and 1990s, community-based extension approaches have become increasingly important. One such approach is farmer-to-farmer extension (F2FE), which is defined here as the provision of training by farmers to farmers, often through the creation of a structure of farmer-trainers. We use ‘farmer-trainer’ as a generic term, even though we recognise that different names (e.g. lead farmer, farmer-promoter, community knowledge worker) may imply different roles.
In West Africa, during the 1990s, new innovative advisory methods were used that broke with the tradition of top- down public extension focusing on production, and instead helped meet the diversity of producers’ needs by using participatory methods. Management Advice for Family Farms (MAFF) is one of these approaches. MAFF has been adapted for diverse contexts and is today implemented by a wide range of actors, including non-government organisations (NGOs), producer organisations, cotton companies, and government agencies, in several African countries, reaching approximately 100,000 producers. MAFF has recently been further adapted to other contexts, including Myanmar (South East Asia), and Malawi (East Africa).
There is a heightened awareness globally and within development institutions and governments of the need to better understand the links between agriculture and nutrition, and to decipher the ways in which the agriculture sector can contribute to improved nutrition. The ‘what’ and the ‘how’ of effectively delivering ‘nutritionsensitive agriculture’(1) services to rural households remain even less understood.
Extension workers (through public, private, and nongovernment organisation (NGO) channels) are often thought of as a promising platform or vehicle for the delivery of nutrition knowledge and practices to improve the nutritional health of rural communities because they reach and interact closely with farmers in different settings. They act as significant service providers of crop, livestock, and forestry aspects of food security, consumption, and production.
In a rapidly changing world, farmers need a package of innovations and services, in addition to continuous access to knowledge and information. Having all this under one roof and in a rural setting can greatly accelerate adoption of innovations and increase benefits to farmers. Farmer training centres have been initiated by many actors, under different forms; for example, Maisons Familiales Rurales, Songhaï Centres, and Agribusiness Development Centres. These initiatives focus on training young individuals and preparing them for a career in agriculture. However, they are less useful in serving the wider farming community for large scale adoption of agricultural innovations. Therefore, new models of community-based extension are under development, such as the ‘Small Farm Resource Centre’ approach promoted in South Asia by ECHO and the ‘Rural Resource Centre’ concept, further described in this note.
Improved availability of, and access to, information and communication technologies (ICTs) – especially mobile phones, computers, radio, internet, and social media – has provided many more opportunities for collection, processing, storage, retrieval, managing, and sharing of information in multiple formats. Some of these applications, such as tele-centres, web-portals, call centres, mobile apps, community radio, digital videos, audio and video conferencing, and e-learning platforms, have the potential to provide a wide range of services (information, awareness, promotional, advisory, knowledge, technology transfer, training, education, and much more) to farmers and other agricultural innovation system (AIS) actors in a timely, comprehensive, cost-effective, and interactive manner. However, the high number and rapidly changing availability of ICTs may leave extension managers confused as to which methods are available and when to use them. This note explains how to navigate the many types and gives tips on when to use them.
Producer organisations (POs) form the interface between farmers and their economic, social, and institutional environments (Box 1). The involvement of POs in the provision of rural advisory services (RAS) has been identifi ed as a solution to the limitations of both the hierarchical public sector extension system and market- driven private sector extension systems. POs can make a positive contribution by articulating the demands and needs of their members for RAS, and directly or indirectly ensuring that these services are supplied in an effi cient and sustainable way. However, not all POs have the required capacities to carry out all these functions. Depending on their aims, resources, vision, or institutional environment, POs have a wide diversity of RAS roles.
Generating and applying new knowledge is important for all enterprises, including farming. But, quite often, new knowledge that can enhance productivity, competitiveness, and sustainability in farming is not widely adopted at scale. This lack of innovation in agriculture has led to the search for new frameworks such as ‘innovation systems’ that help in understanding how the process of agricultural innovation takes place and how its relevance and quality can be enhanced. An innovation system is nothing more than a metaphor to help understand the process of innovation, and to help consider how capacities for innovation can be developed.1 Though originally developed to understand industrial innovation, this framework has been increasingly used to understand the process of knowledge generation and use in agriculture. Recent research has resulted in new and better understanding of the structure and functions of the agricultural innovation system (AIS), which is defined as “a network of organisations, enterprises, and individuals focused on bringing new products, new processes, and new forms of organisations into social and economic use, together with the institutions and policies that affect their innovative behaviour and performance”.2 This interactive system is made of individuals and organisations that demand and supply knowledge, as well as the policies and mechanisms that affect the way different agents interact to share, access, and exchange knowledge.