What is the GFRAS Annual Meeting?
The GFRAS Annual Meeting is the central instrument to foster exchange on rural advisory services (RAS) between stakeholders and across regions, and to discuss GFRAS strategic directions and functioning. The GFRAS Annual Meeting contributes to all three GFRAS functions, but mainly to functions 1 (providing a voice within global policy dialogues) and 3 (strengthening actors and fora in RAS).
The GFRAS secretariat, guided by an organising committee, organises the GFRAS Annual meeting in collaboration with GFRAS members. Logistical support is provided by the host of the GFRAS Annual Meeting.
1st GFRAS Annual Meeting, Chile 2010
2nd GFRAS Annual Meeting, Kenya 2011
3rd GFRAS Annual Meeting, Philippines 2012
4th GFRAS Annual Meeting 2013 Germany
5th GFRAS Annual Meeting 2014 Argentina
6th GFRAS Annual Meeting 2015 Kyrgyzstan
7th GFRAS Annual Meeting 2016 Cameroon
8th GFRAS Annual Meeting 2017 Australia
9th GFRAS Annual Meeting 2018 South Korea
8th GFRAS Annual Meeting 2017 Australia
7th GFRAS Annual Meeting 2016 Cameroon
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An overarching conclusion from the debates at the Annual Meeting is that actors in the rural landscape need to adapt to a new context in which private sector operators and agripreneurs are important players in agricultural development. RAS thus needs to adapt, and encourage the adaption, of a new mind-set, which shifts the perception from project-oriented approaches towards more business-oriented approaches to agriculture, in which the role and importance of profit is recognised (profit being conceived as income minus expenses, or transaction costs).
Participants identified key recommendations for all actors and stakeholders involved in agriculture, rural development, and RAS to strive towards to better support agripreneurship.
These included the following:
- Key aspects of policy frameworks and the enabling environment need to be adapted, including:
- education systems, to include agripreneurship, commodity knowledge, value chain knowledge, and participation of value chain role-players;
- financial insurance systems, to include incentives, grants, and risk mitigation measures; and
- agripreneurship-oriented governance, to include more appropriate business-friendly infrastructure, trade, business and fiscal policies
- Principles of action need to be developed, including for example:
- promoting both pro-active and reactive approaches to service provision;
- recognising and endorsing the very different needs of diverse rural actors, particularly the different needs of women, men, youth, smallholders, and vulnerable people;
- encouraging innovation and creativeness, among rural actors and RAS; and
- supporting sustainable and inclusive business models that (i) support sustainable production systems; (ii) live up to equitable social standards; and (iii) are profitable
- Efforts to support linkages and coordination are needed, including for example:
- working towards a better coordination and complementarity (as opposed to competition and duplication of efforts) between different RAS providers;
- enhancing knowledge exchange and coordination amongst all actors along value chains, including support for new forms of public-private partnerships;
- ensuring unconditional access to information and knowledge by all actors, using new forms of communication and learning, and strengthening knowledge exchange and sharing; and
- building stronger awareness of RAS networks and fora and strengthening their supportive roles to agripreneurship.
- Continued efforts to strengthen capacities of RAS actors are needed, particularly in the following areas:
- strengthened internal capacities of organisations and institutions to be better equipped to respond to changing situations and emerging needs;
- appropriate structures, approaches, and methods for the provision of services, potentially also comprising the development of fee-based RAS services;
- strengthened functional skills and competencies of RAS providers, particularly with regard to value chain and business knowledge, management, facilitation, mobilisation, negotiating with partners and buyers, and ability to broker business relationships
6th GFRAS Annual Meeting 2015 Kyrgyzstan
Global Good Practices in Rural Advisory Services
14 to 17 September 2015 in Issyk Kul, Kyrgyzstan
The 6th GFRAS Annual Meeting took place from 14 to 17 September 2015, with side events on 14 and 18 September. Organised around the topic of Global Good Practices, this year’s annual meeting challenged participants to reflect on the process of generating, documenting, sharing, testing, and adapting knowledge and good practices.
130 participants of 54 countries and 12 regional networks argued that sharing, discussing, using, and adapting good practices are part of a wider and complex learning process in RAS. They discussed that learning happens at different moments, can be implicit or explicit, and is a complex and continuous cycle, involving many actors at different stages within agricultural innovation systems and beyond. Thinking about the potential benefits of sharing good practices, participants agreed that a good practice must be end-user oriented, demand-driven, and include best-fit considerations. While it is important to note that there is no ‘bad practice’ as long as we learn from it, for good practices to be really useful and beneficial for the end-users, we need to strategically decide what, when, and how we share our experiences.
As success and failure of RAS approaches, tools, and methods highly depend on the context, we must include considerations of best-fit into our good practices and document them as well.What are contextual factors (such as the political, economic, socio-cultural environment) and the general characteristics of RAS in the specific geographical entity that influence the success of a good practice? In which contexts do we have to expect challenges in implementing it?
But the participants also addressed the end-users and clientele of good practices, who bear a responsibility and play an important part in the learning cycle too. They are advised to be open, flexible, and innovative to see and use good practices not as one-size-fits-all solutions, but rather as input and inspiration, to be used, re-shaped and recombined to fit in their local context. Without feedback on good practices by end users an improvement of the best-fit considerations and the practice itself is not possible.
Participants recognised the crucial brokering role that RAS, and regional RAS networks and country fora, play in this learning cycle within the AIS. However, in order to be fully able to do so they need strengthened skills and capacities, an enhanced exchange with the clientele, especially with producers and producer organisations, use new tools and means, especially those provided by ICTs, and support inclusive RAS environments that include all actors from all gender and age.
Concretely, participants recommended the following to enhance efficient learning in RAS:
- Promote the idea of learning as a dynamic and circular process that includes many different actors of the agricultural innovation system who share, discuss, test, and adapt experiences and knowledge.
- Define good practices as demand-driven and end-user oriented, which include honest and tangible information and incorporate best-fit considerations within the wider RAS contexts. They should challenge stakeholders to reflect on their own practices.
- Recognise and assume each and every stakeholder’s responsibility to act as a catalyst in the agricultural innovation system (AIS) to ensure that good practices are shared, tested, used, and refined in the field.
- Develop individual capacities of RAS providers that go beyond technical skills and enhance career development in RAS to ensure a sustainable, well facilitated, and effective process of experience and knowledge exchange within the AIS.
- Enhance capacities of RAS networks, fora, and champions to allow for them to fully use their potential as knowledge and experience brokers within the AIS.
- Promote community-based approaches and enhance synergies with producers and their organisations, as they are the ones providing the ultimate reality check and feedback regarding workability, sustainability, effectiveness, efficiency, and inclusiveness of any good practice or approach.
- Prominently include all relevant actors of the AIS, especially women and youth, in learning cycles and create spaces for open and honest dialogues amongst the different stakeholders.
- Use and promote ICTs as prominent tools to disseminate, share, and discuss experiences and good practices to reach a wide audience, especially end-users.
- Advocate and work towards an enabling policy environment for RAS that allows for testing, using, and adapting new approaches and experiences.
5th GFRAS Annual Meeting 2014 Argentina
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.
Main Conclusions and Recommendations of the Meeting
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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)
Presentations and speeches
Field trip descriptions (pdf 325KB)
Concept note (pdf 268KB)
Announcement (pdf 253KB)