POs should take the following issues into consideration when identifying suitable roles that they can play in pluralistic advisory systems, and to target services that they could facilitate or provide in an efficient manner:
- Their stage of development: Some POs are still at early stages of development, with very limited activities, such as storage of agricultural products of their members. Such POs should not engage in more than one or two services to their members. Others are at advanced stages with capacity to govern several services without compromising quality, efficiency, or reliability.
- Their own capacity development issues: POs should integrate the roles they wish to play in RAS into their strategic plans, to ensure that they have the capacity to offer all the services they want to and the finances to do so. It is counter-productive and damaging to the PO to offer too many services, provided badly due to lack of technical or financial capacity.
- Encouraging a demand-led approach: Successfully organising and clustering individual needs, and transforming them into collective and well-articulated demands requires capacities that range from listening, analysis, and facilitation to brokering and negotiation.
- Adapting existing RAS. POs should be involved in the design of innovative advisory methods, such as approaches to management advice. (4) For example, in Burkina-Faso, “warrantage” systems (5) have been tested and adapted with POs in order to make them more suitable. POs should customise their own advisory services, by combining existing methods or co-designing new approaches with research partners. Testing or adapting new approaches also has positive impacts on PO’s capacity development (e.g. increased autonomy and improved efficiency in each specific local situation).
Evidence of impact
RAS provided by POs facilitate changes at four levels:
- At the farm level: Much evidence worldwide shows how POs contribute to alleviating poverty and professionalise and empower farmers through the services they provide. (6,7)
- At the producer organisation level: Provision of RAS contributes to improved know-how, skills, and strategies of PO leaders and managers. (8)
- At the regional level: POs enable interaction and create synergies between existing networks in order to facilitate exchanges of knowledge and experience; they contribute to building local collective capacities and support innovation processes. (9)
- Within value chains: In many countries, POs play an essential role in the development of new agricultural products (such as cotton in Burkina Faso) or in the introduction of new models of production (such as organic agriculture). Their fieldwork, based on information gathering and training of thousands of producers, acts as a true driver of development. (10,11)