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Diversity of roles in RAS and capacity requirements

Table 1 summarises the many different ways POs contribute to providing RAS. Depending on their level of involvement in the implementation of services with their members in the field, capacity requirements go from operational skills (capacity to manage human and financial resources, capacity to train advisors or famer extension workers) to relationship-building or communication skills (capacity to coordinate, to contract out, to network, etc.). Their roles in RAS delivery may be imposed by or negotiated with other stakeholders. For instance, in Burkina-Faso, in the cotton sector, farm advice activities are reserved for private firms but they tolerate POs provided that they respect firms’ interests. POs with greater autonomy, often those who emerged from grassroots initiatives, are more frequently involved in direct implementation, intermediary, or advocacy roles.


 Capacity requirements

Direct implementation 
Providing direct RAS to members. Implementing and controlling their own services

Capacities for self-sustainment 

Capacity to manage resources (especially funds and advisors) 

Capacity to express and address farmers’ needs

Complementing RAS provided by other service providers, through partnership or informal coordination, with economic activities such as input provision, warehousing, and value adding marketing

Capacity to coordinate with other services providers 

Capacity to find appropriate funding 

Joint implementation 
Jointly providing RAS with other value chain stakeholders (e.g. private firm) or with national agencies (state) 

Governance, funding, capacity development 

Evaluation of RAS is distributed amongst stakeholders, with shared objectives 

PO’s level of autonomy and responsibility depends on its capacities

Capacity to choose and use appropriate advisory methods and approaches 

Capacity to adapt to external requirements and make available suitable and skilled human resources 

Capacity to generate results and to account

Defining advisory needs and then contracting out with a service provider

Capacity to contract out, supervise, and assess the services provided and to ensure quality

Creating links and partnerships in the agricultural innovation system, specifically to other RAS providers and research organisations

Capacity to coordinate different organisations and to carry a vision 

Capacity to communicate

Participating in advocacy and policy formulation to improve RAS 

Ensuring the organisation is recognised as a voice for farmers 

This includes mobilising members and seeking partnerships

Capacity to recognise and support charismatic farmer leaders 

Capacity to communicate, to carry a vision 

Capacity to network, unify, and mobilise other actors in AIS

Table 1. Roles played by POs in RAS and main capacity requirements