Agricultural advisory and other rural business services
Agricultural services, particularly extension services, have been and still are being criticised for ineffectiveness, supply drivenness, lack of sustainability and inability to offer services which benefit the poor. Nevertheless, agricultural advisory services remain crucial to improving the livelihoods of rural poor people. Even the best policy environment will not result in pro-poor agricultural growth if the concerned rural people do not have access to adequate services – be they knowledge services, or more tangible services such as inputs, water or marketing.
Agricultural advisory services have been government and NGO domains in most countries for a long time. Nowadays the trend is towards private sector services, demand-orientation, pluralistic service delivery mechanisms, service market development, and less reliance on public funds. Previously, services concentrated on productivity increases; now more emphasis is laid on improving incomes and thus on services related to value increases. This means that the distinction between what was traditionally called extension services, and business development services for rural clients becomes increasingly blurred. It also means that attention can no longer be only on services for producers, but that services to other actors along value chains are equally important.
Agricultural services have been AGRIDEA International professional mainstay since its initiation in 1984. Today we are engaging in the current discourse on new concepts and approaches for these services in diverse ways.
Innovative concepts, approaches and strategies for rural service systems
We provide assistance and guidance to programmes engaging in developing rural service systems in the form of short-term consultancies and longer-term backstopping. The most recent longer-term backstopping mandates include the Programme for Enterprise Development in the Fruit and Vegetable Sector in Bosnia-Hercegovina and the Lao Extension in Agriculture Project (LEAP) in Lao PDR. Examples of short-term assignments in this area are contributions to World Bank-funded projects with major extension components in Nigeria and Ethiopia.
Financing agricultural and rural services
Sustainable financing of rural services has been a contentious issue for a decade now. The main dispute is to what extent market-based private financing of services is possible when aiming at access to services for the poor and environmentally sound practices.
We offer guidance to programmes which struggle with financing issues, e.g. in Macedonia. We have produced a publication "Innovative approaches to financing extension services for agriculture and natural resource management", we worked together with GTZ and the French Cooperation Agency on a booklet "Common framework on financing agricultural extension" within the framework of the Neuchâtel Initiative, and we offer training: Innovative financing mechanisms for rural extension.
Interface between agricultural services and research
Getting research and extension to work effectively together is a challenge that has been on the table for at least 25 years. Many efforts to enhance these linkages have been undertaken. Nevertheless, the interface between research and extension is still some sort of grey area; the factors and mechanisms that make linkage arrangements functional over an extended period of time are poorly understood.
Study (together with the Swiss College of Agriculture) to gather and analyse the experiences in enhancing linkages between research and extension in programmes of SDC's East Asia Division