What do we need to professionalise RAS?
Some basic requirements need to be in place in order to professionalise RAS. These are fundamental and common to all countries and regions where RAS is a profession. They include legal bodies/structures responsible for managing the professionalisation of RAS, and applicable by-laws and standards that can be communicated and enforced.
Legal bodies and industry structures
There is a need for a specific legal body/entity or industry structure that is responsible for the professionalisation of extension and RAS. Depending on the country and region, these bodies or structures are hosted by different institutions, and may be governed by legal regulations. In some cases, these legal bodies may also regulate other agriculture-related professions, and may work closely with agricultural extension-related professional associations. Box 2 presents some examples.
Other countries – including Argentina, Australia, Republic of Ireland, the Philippines, and Switzerland – are also moving towards a professionalised RAS with legal coordinating bodies. In European Union (EU) countries generally, implementation of the Farm Advisory System requires national or regional training and registration systems for advisors who support farmers engaging with the Common Agricultural Policy.
These are rules and regulations that govern the internal affairs of a corporation or society. The following by-laws are commonly applicable to the professionalisation of RAS. They are presented in order of priority as defined in the GFRAS scoping study: (7)
- code of ethics/conduct
- field of practice
- continuing professional development (CPD)
- standards of practice
- disciplinary mechanisms.
Continuing professional development is an internationally recognised tool used by professionals to maintain and enhance their knowledge and skills. It is an essential part of supporting professionals in their current roles and career progression.
Box 2: Examples of legal bodies and industry standards
SIA in Canada: The Saskatchewan Institute of Agrologists is an organisation of university-trained professionals that protects the public by ensuring its members are qualified and competent to provide advice on agriculture and related areas. In Saskatchewan, the profession of agrology is regulated by provincial legislation (Agrologist Act 1994). This gives the Institute authority to make regular administrative by-laws concerning membership, code of ethics, meetings, continuing professional development (CPD), standards of practice, and discipline.
EUFRAS in Europe: The European Forum for Agricultural and Rural Advisory Services has adopted the Certificate for European Consultants in Rural Areas (CECRA). (10)
SACNASP in South Africa: The South African Council for Natural Scientific Professions (SACNASP) works in collaboration with the South African Society for Agricultural Extension (SASAE) to ensure that extension advisers in South Africa register with the Council according to the Natural Scientific Professions Act 2003. As per Schedule 1 of the Act, no one may practise in any of 23 listed fields unless they are registered in a category of the schedule.
NAEPSDP in the USA: The National Association of Extension Program & Staff Development Professionals provides an organised forum enabling professionals who are actively engaged in, or have a strong commitment to, programme and staff development in the cooperative extension system to come together, both physically and virtually.