Strengthening extension and rural advisory services to contribute to reaching the 2030 Development Agenda: What works in Rural Advisory Services?

What are Rural Advisory Services and how are they relevant to the 2030 Development Agenda? - Women farmers clearing farmland in Northern Bangladesh. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

Women farmers clearing farmland in Northern Bangladesh. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

By Karim Hussein
ACCRA, Dec 3 2018 (IPS)

In mid-2018 the Global Forum for Rural Advisory Services (GFRAS) that brings together key development partners  and 17 multistakeholder Regional Networks and country fora across six continents, published a new book :  What Works in Rural Advisory Services: Global Good Practice Notes .

This book includes over 30 Notes on a wide range of essential topics for strengthening agricultural  extension and rural advisory services, drawing on contributions from the GFRAS family of experts, practitioners, governmental and non-governmental  stakeholders, facilitate access to know-how and support RAS organisations, managers, and individual field staff with easy-to-understand overviews on key approaches, principles and methods.

It is a unique effort drawing on the experience of more than 90 people involved in agriculture and advisory services drawn from 6 continents.

 

What are Rural Advisory Services and how are they relevant to the 2030 Development Agenda?

When agricultural and rural advisory services, whether public or private, are properly resourced and have the right skills and capacities, they play vital roles in enabling agricultural producers to access the services and advice they need to improve skills, productivity and incomes.

They are vital in order to achieve the 2030 Development Agenda, particularly SDG 2 that seeks to end hunger, achieve food security and improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture. The important roles of rural advisory services for inclusive development and rural transformation have indeed been recognised by the OECD, the UN, the G7 and G20.

However, agricultural extension and advisory services have in many countries suffered over many years from inadequate policies, underinvestment, weak institutions, limited opportunities for capacity development and learning across regions and an insufficient uptake of responsive, demand-driven approaches. This has particularly been the case in lower income countries.

This book compiles Notes on a variety of critical issues for strengthening RAS to serve development, including an overview of extension philosophies and methods, innovative financing, roles of the private sector and producer organisations, capacity development and professionalization, a review of advisory methods (from farmer-to-farmer approaches, farmer field schools, community knowledge workers to ICT and mobile phone extension) and key cross-cutting issues (such as gender and nutrition).

 

RAS as brokers and facilitators in sharing new technologies, approaches and knowledge

The Notes highlight the roles of advisory services as facilitators in sharing new agricultural technologies, practices and knowledge. They show how such services have the potential to play critical roles in improving the livelihoods and well-being of farmers, particularly rural smallholders worldwide, and to enable them to contribute to sustainable development.

They highlight the need to address three levels of capacity development in RAS: (i) building a good policy environment that enables RAS to do their work effectively; (ii) strengthening institutions and organisations involved in RAS (including producer organisations, civil society and private sector operators); and (iii) building the capacities of individuals involved in providing advisory services.

 

Knowledge needed for RAS to be able to play new roles

RAS providers are being asked to fulfil a wider range of tasks with very limited capacities and resources. To fulfil expectations and undertake these tasks, a wide range of approaches, methods and principles exist.

The success or failure of particular approaches is always closely linked to the context in which they are applied and therefore it remains critical to strengthen the capacities of all stakeholders in RAS, from farmers and rural producers through to private and public service providers, to select and adapt approaches to specific contexts.

Without adequate skills development it will be extremely difficult for RAS to achieve the hoped-for development impact and results.

 

Limitations of the book and areas for further work

This book addresses a vital topics for capacity building in RAS. However, it could go further in addressing the question of how RAS can better demonstrate their capacity to respond to local,  national and international development challenges that are at the top of development agendas.

For example, they need to engage more with youth, women and poor smallholders, consider ways in which to take account of the challenges posed by migration and urbanisation in their work to foster more inclusive, safer and more efficient food systems and they need to review the challenges RAS face in responding to fragile and conflict-affected situations.

The GFRAS Issues Paper Series launched in early 2018 begins to address such challenges and more work is needed here.

 

The sustainability of the Forum and knowledge network model in agricultural and rural development: making it more relevant, demand driven and sustainable

Lastly, true, effective and efficient subsidiarity between the global, regional, national and subnational levels remains an enormous challenge for all knowledge sharing networks and for a given resource and capacity constraints.

These reviews of existing practices need to be complemented by consistent policy and advocacy efforts and a tighter connection to programmes that invest in inclusive rural transformation in order to persuade decision-makers to mobilise new resources for extension.

The global networking approach taken by GFRAS needs to change focus to mobilise investments in concrete programmes that ensure RAS generate positive impacts on the lives of rural people in a shorter timescale.

Information sharing, knowledge development and networking are not sufficient. This will involve assessing the real demand for services and networks by the ultimate users and intended beneficiaries and the value they place of the advice and support they receive.

Otherwise it would be fair to reflect on whether resources should be directly made available to ultimate users, such as farmers and their organisations, who then decide how best to use these to serve their needs.

GFRAS was established in 2010 to nurture a global network of agricultural extension and rural advisory services (RAS) to enhance their performance so that they can better serve farm families and rural producers, thus contributing to improved livelihoods and the sustainable reduction of hunger and poverty.

Rural advisory services help to empower farmers and better integrate them in systems of agricultural innovation. GFRAS reaches smallholder farmers through its regional RAS networks, which in turn have national-level platforms or country fora.

The country fora bring together stakeholders from all sectors working in RAS, and work directly with smallholders. Country fora help prioritise national-level issues relevant to extension and RAS, and formulate requests and proposals to be taken to the regional and global levels.

 

Following more than 10 years in rural development research and a wide range of publications, Karim Hussein served in several senior technical and advisory roles at the OECD and the UN International Fund for Agricultural Development he was appointed  Executive Secretary of the Global Forum for Rural Advisory Services from 2016-2018.

Limiting Climate Change to 1.5 C is not Impossible, Says IPCC Chair

Lee Hoesung was appointed Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2015. He is also the Endowed Chair Professor of economics of climate change, energy and sustainable development in the Republic of Korea*.

By Lee Hoesung
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 3 2018 (IPS)

When governments set a target in December 2015 of limiting global warming to well below 2ºC above pre-industrial levels while pursuing efforts to hold it at 1.5ºC, they invited the IPCC to prepare a report to provide information on this Goal.

Lee Hoesung

They asked the IPCC to assess the impacts of warming of 1.5ºC, the related emissions pathways of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide that would result in warming of that amount, and the differences between warming of 1.5 and 2ºC or higher.

The new IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5ºC shows that it is not impossible to limit warming to 1.5ºC but that doing so will require unprecedented transformations in all aspects of society.

The report shows that this is a worthwhile goal as the impacts of warming of 2ºC on lives, livelihoods and natural ecosystems are much more severe than from warming of 1.5ºC.

The global temperature has already risen about 1ºC from pre-industrial levels. The report shows that because of past emissions up to the present it will continue to warm. But these emissions alone are not enough to take the temperature to 1.5ºC: it is still possible to hold it at that level.

This requires very strong cuts in emissions of greenhouse gases by 2030, for instance by decarbonization of electricity production, and further cuts after that so that emissions fall to net zero by 2050.

Net zero means that any continuing emissions of greenhouse gases, for instance in transport, are compensated by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through measures such as afforestation or other techniques and technologies.

This will be achieved by reducing energy demand, for instance through greater energy efficiency, and changes in energy use, construction, transport, cities and food and diets.

Limiting warming to 1.5ºC is possible in terms of physics; the technology and techniques are there; the question is whether people and societies will support politicians in taking these measures.

What do world leaders need to know about the climate science that will affect the prosperity and well-being of their citizens?

World leaders need to know that the climate is already changing because of emissions of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide from human activities such as energy production and use, transport, and agriculture and other forms of land use.

These changes pose threats to people from increases in extreme weather events such as heatwaves, forest fires, drought, heavy precipitation and floods. The warming climate is causing the sea level to rise.

It is affecting biodiversity and making it harder for species to survive or forcing them to move. These are already affecting people’s lives and livelihoods.

If we carry on emitting greenhouse gases the climate will continue to warm and these threats will get worse. The new IPCC report shows there is even a big difference in risks between warming of 1.5ºC and 2ºC: every bit of warming matters.

The report also shows that it is pursuing policies to address climate change, by reducing emissions and adapting to the changes already underway, can creates a more prosperous and sustainable society by fostering innovation and the green economy and building more resilient communities. Economic development and climate action go hand in hand as sustainable development.

How optimistic are you about our ability to limit global warming to 1.5 C?

The new IPCC report shows it is not impossible, in terms of physics or technology, to limit global warming to 1.5ºC. But the unprecedented transformations in society will require continuing technical innovation and changes in behaviour and lifestyle.

The question is whether individuals and companies are ready to make those changes and encourage politicians to put the conditions in place to create a prosperous and sustainable low-carbon society.

*Originally published by the SDG Media Compact which was launched by the United Nations in September 2018 in collaboration with over 30 founding media organizations –– encompassing more than 100 media and entertainment outlets. The SDG Media Compact seeks to inspire media and entertainment companies around the world to leverage their resources and creative talent to advance the Sustainable Development Goals.

World leaders are meeting at the Climate Conference (COP24) in Katowice, Poland, 2 to 14 December, to finalize the rulebook to implement the 2015 landmark Paris Agreement on climate change. In the agreement, countries committed to take action to limit global warming to well under 2°C this century. At the conference in Poland, the UN will invite people to voice their views and launch a campaign to encourage every day climate action.