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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 identified 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 efficient 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. This note gives an overview of these diverse roles, while presenting the conditions under which they can contribute to accessible and sustainable RAS for smallholder farmers.

Box 1: What is a producer oranisation?

A producer organisation (PO) is defi ned as a formal (registered under national legislation) or informal (unregistered) institution for collective action. Its members are rural dwellers that get part, or all, of their livelihood from agriculture (crops, livestock, fi sheries, and/or other rural activities). Services provided by the PO aim to improve the livelihoods of its members, and include access to advice, information, markets, inputs, and advocacy. Source: adapted from Rondot and Collion (2001) (1)
(1)  Rondot, P. and Collion, M.H. 2001. Agricultural producer organizations: their contribution to rural capacity building and poverty reduction. Report of a workshop, Washington, DC, 28–30 June 1999. Washington, DC: RDV, World Bank.

Philosophy and principles

Bearing in mind the key issues for RAS to be effective listed in Box 2, POs are particularly well-placed to be major actors in RAS thanks to their specifi c human and social capital and their practical knowledge, which give them comparative advantages over other service providers. (2)
(2) GFRAS. 2015. Producer organisations in rural advisory services: evidence and experiences. Position Paper. Lindau, Switzerland: GFRAS.
 These include:
  • knowledge of producers’ needs, demands, and contexts
  • trust of their members, providing legitimacy for their work
  • capacity and space to encourage farmers’ learning and testing of innovations
  • scope for linking producers to other actors in the agricultural system
  • experience in activities that complement RAS, especially in fi nancial services and advocacy on rural issues.