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

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.

Blue Fashion Steals the Show at Nairobi Conference

The fashion industry is the second largest polluting industry in the world. Pesticides and insecticides used on crops grown for fabrics together with the chemicals used in the production of fabrics cause enormous damage to the environment. Some of Africa’s leading fashion designers staged a fashion show at the Blue Economy Conference in Nairobi Kenya to unveil innovative creations made from natural materials sourced from seas, oceans and lakes. The aim was to showcase the use of environmentally friendly marine materials in the fashion industry. IPS was there.

By Sam Olukoya
NAIROBI, Dec 3 2018 (IPS)

The fashion industry is the second largest polluting industry in the world. Pesticides and insecticides used on crops grown for fabrics together with the chemicals used in the production of fabrics cause enormous damage to the environment.

Some of Africa’s leading fashion designers staged a fashion show at the Blue Economy Conference in Nairobi Kenya to unveil innovative creations made from natural materials sourced from seas, oceans and lakes. The aim was to showcase the use of environmentally friendly marine materials in the fashion industry. IPS was there.


Fish Farming Takes on Crime in Papua New Guinea

A fish farm in Central Province near Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. Credit: Catherine Wilson/IPS

By Catherine Wilson
CANBERRA, Australia, Dec 3 2018 (IPS)

In the rugged mountainous highlands of Papua New Guinea in the southwest Pacific Islands fish farming has transformed the lives of former prisoners and helped reduce notorious levels of crime along the highlands highway, the only main road which links the highly populated inland provinces with the east coast port of Lae.

Moxy, who completed his sentence at the Bihute Prison in Eastern Highlands Province ten years ago, has used skills learned during his time in gaol to set up a fish farming enterprise in his village, located 15 kilometres northwest of the Province’s main town of Goroka. Today he is proudly known as ‘Daddy Fish’ in his community where he has regained self-esteem, social status and is sought after for his wisdom and knowledge.

“Whenever I feel down or I am tempted to do wrong, I sit by my fish ponds and look at what I achieved,” he said.

Moxy is one of many inmates who have participated in the Fish for Prisons program, the result of a partnership between Papua New Guinea’s National Fisheries Authority and the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR). The initiative, begun in 2008, aims to train and mentor prisoners in aquaculture practice so they are equipped for a new livelihood before they are released.  But the training has also made ex-prisoners more disciplined, self-motivated, emotionally resilient and less likely to reoffend.

Aquaculture, while still a relatively under-developed industry in the Pacific Islands, possesses huge potential to help meet future food and nutritional needs in the region, where fish is a major part of the daily diet.

The global average fish consumption rate of 20.2kg per person pales in comparison to the Pacific Islands where consumption is 53kg per person in Papua New Guinea, 85kg in Tonga and 118kg in the Solomon Islands.

Yet for people living in inland areas of Papua New Guinea, far from the sea, protein deficiency is common. It was high levels of malnutrition in the highlands which prompted the introduction of aquaculture into the country in the 1960s, although development of the sector was very slow until recently. A decade ago, there were an estimated 10,000 fish farms in the country, but today the number has jumped to about 60,000 aided by improved research, training programs and outreach support.

Fish farming is as important as ever to combating malnutrition, which remains pervasive among the Melanesian nation’s population of more than 8 million people. The child stunting rate is the fourth highest in the world and children living in the highlands are at greater risk than those living in coastal communities.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) claims that, with its multiple nutrients, fish is the optimum single food for addressing undernourishment.  It possesses high quality animal protein, omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, minerals, as well as fat and water soluble vitamins.

But aquaculture is also giving young people in rural areas, where unemployment is as high as 70 percent, the chance to acquire vocational skills, economic self-reliance and sense of achievement.

This has happened in the Eastern Highlands village of Hogu where a criminal band, locally known as a ‘raskol gang’, renowned for car jackings, extortion, robbery and an illegal marijuana racket, had turned the nearby section of highway into the infamously known ‘Barola Raskol Hotspot.’ It was a treacherous place for any motorist or traveller.

But that all changed when fish farmer training was conducted in the village three years ago, gaining the attention of the gang.

“They saw the training being held and came down to see what was going on in their territory. They became interested, were welcomed by the [training] team and eventually participated,” Associate Professor Jes Sammut of the University of New South Wales’ Centre for Ecosystem Science and the fisheries consultant in Papua New Guinea for the ACIAR told IPS.

The program covered all facets of practice, including husbandry, water quality management, building and maintaining fish ponds, producing low cost fish feed and the use of organic fertilisers with the aim of strengthening sustainable food security and household incomes.

After finishing the course, the raskols, aged from 25-47 years, established 100 fish ponds, which now produce tilapia and carp and help to feed the village’s population of more than 680 people. In so doing, they gained an honest livelihood and respect within the community, eventually destroying their marijuana crops and abandoning crime.

Micah Aranka, who works with fish farmers in Hogu, said that “they [the gang] worked hard on digging their ponds and digging canals to draw water to their ponds…..and by watching the fish in their ponds they have found peace.”

In the most populous Pacific Island nation, aquaculture has emerged as an unlikely agent of social change, as well as a more secure food future.

Q&A: How Political Will can Accelerate Green Growth in Africa

Okechukwu Daniel Ogbonnaya, the Acting Country Representative and Lead Advisor for Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), says the enabling environment in Rwanda is because there is a high level of commitment by the government to develop and create a climate-resilient economy. Courtesy: Emmanuel Hitimana

By Emmanuel Hitimana
KIGALI, Dec 3 2018 (IPS)

While the African Green Growth Forum 2018 was taking place for the first time ever in Kigali, Rwanda last week, IPS sat down with Okechukwu Daniel Ogbonnaya, the Acting Country Representative and Lead Advisor for the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) to talk about the new forum, working with Rwanda and green growth integration in Africa. GGGI organised the forum with the Government of Rwanda.

According to World Bank figures, Rwanda achieved impressive real GDP growth of about 9 percent per annum between 2000 and 2014. As a result, Rwanda is experiencing high urbanisation rates concentrated in its capital, Kigali. The GGGI has been supporting the Government of Rwanda’s work on the green development of six secondary cities and in operationalising the National Fund for Environment and Climate Change (FONERWA) to manage the country’s environmental projects. Excerpts of the interview follow.

Inter Press Service (IPS): You have had your first successful continental forum. How did it come to be?

Okechukwu Daniel Ogbonnaya (ODO): Usually the GGGI holds annual international conferences but in the last couple of the years we have seen that governments understand that they can use this platform to become leaders and champions of green growth. Now we no longer have a separate international conference each year, rather there are country, regional and continental level conferences.

IPS: What was your goal in creating the African Green Growth forum?

ODO: GGGI’s goal is to share knowledge, to create awareness of green growth. Green growth is a concept that is applicable to our lives today, in the way we live in our homes, in our workplaces and in our societies. It is all about livelihoods. Our aim is to share this knowledge related to the work we do as an organisation globally but also tailored to the needs of individual countries. The African Green Growth Forum brought together policy makers, private sector and the general public to learn about green growth.

IPS: How was it to work with Rwanda, a country known to be serious about business?

ODO: Rwanda is the African country when it comes to green growth. The government has put together a National and Green Growth Resilience Strategy and anyone who comes here can see that the infrastructure being developed takes into consideration green growth issues. The enabling environment is here because there is a high level of commitment by the government to develop and create a climate-resilient economy. Let’s take for example when you drive to the City of Kigali, you can see that the road infrastructures that pedestrian walkways and bicycle lanes are being integrated more and more.

IPS: Is that why you have introduced eco-bikes public sharing project?

ODO: The bike sharing project that also involved electric-bicycles, started earlier this year where we did studies in two secondary cities of Rubavu and Musanze. The idea is to understand an existing behaviour in terms of where people were using bicycles. But then we wanted to make it a business rather than just something that is seen as a way of life among the low-income community. We did that study and our aim is that private sector companies will pick up on the results of this study and invest in it as a business opportunity.

IPS: But there is a perception that green products are expensive. What it is your take on that?

ODO: I think it is just a mindset issue. We have seen in the last decade that in areas like renewable energy there has been drastic reduction in the costs of products like solar PV and solar home systems. So the mindset about the cost of green growth needs to change. There are upfront costs that might pull you up, but when you look up the life span of your project and the return on investment, it always shows that it is even more attractive to build green or to do sustainable development.

You said there has been change in public opinion about green economy, what is the rate of that change?

ODO: It is gradually changing when it comes to the public. When it comes to governments, we do note that countries we work with there is real change in the way policies are made, in the way things are done. Green growth policies are being mainstreamed into national plans. And when you go to the broader public, where you talk of the society, businesses, this is also gradually happening. We are now seeing green growth being talked about not only from the conference pulpits, but also in places like schools, in places like civil society organisations.

IPS: Any insight into Rwanda’s “Africa’s greenest airport” project?

ODO: In 2016, GGGI did discuss with the Ministry of Infrastructure about the possibility of greening the new Bugesera International Airport. The government was very positive about the need to ensure this big flagship infrastructure project was not only beautiful but beautiful in a sustainable way. We have worked closely with the Bugesera Airport Company where we looked closely into three areas: energy, water use efficiency and building materials resource use. These areas have been integrated into the design to ensure that when the airport is completed it will get green certified by Singapore’s Building and Construction Authority when the project is complete.

IPS: Are you happy with how African countries are integrating the green growth revolution?

ODO: Some countries in Africa are moving forward while others are lagging behind. There has been some recent development in regards to trade and transport in terms of collaboration. For example the African Free Continental Trade Area (AfCFTA) is a good sign that the continent wants to work together, to trade together and this is really important for the continent to grow.

IPS: How about the youth?

ODO: Youth are the future when you look at the demographics of the continent since most of the population are young people.  They are the driver of change that the continent needs. To support youth we run a program called “Greepreneur” where we ask young people to submit their ideas and ten are selected to receive training and the finalists are awarded with seed capital. Coming back here to Rwanda, we also have worked closely with the Ministry of Environment and Rwanda Green Fund to institute a green growth award within the Youth Connekt Africa program. In the coming years we are looking at the opportunity of not just giving the award but making sure that the winners, and those who came up with good ideas, could be supported so their ideas turn into good opportunities for entrepreneurs.

IPS: Where do you see the green growth revolution in five years?

ODO: My expectation is that we will see very solid projects that demonstrate that green growth is here and it’s real. We are already seeing this but I expect there will be more and bigger infrastructure projects proving that green growth works but most importantly that people are at the center in terms of job creation.

Get Ready for COP24: Transition to a Sustainable Future

UNFCCC Secretariat | COP24 opening plenary

By Manuela Matthess
BERLIN, Dec 3 2018 (IPS)

COP24 is the time for governments to act and increase their pledges to prevent global warming ensuring a just transition that leaves no one behind.

The Paris Agreement and the most recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) deliver a clear and potent message: we urgently need to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees celsius if we want to protect our ecosystems as well as the livelihoods of millions of people worldwide.

To prevent severe consequences caused by the devastating effects of climate change, it has become evident and imperative that “business as usual” is not possible anymore. We need a transformation to a zero-carbon world in pretty much all sectors; we need to decarbonize our energy systems, our industries as well as our transport systems, we need to establish sustainable ways to do agriculture, and we need to re-think the way we build cities.

The challenges we are facing are enormous, but they come with endless opportunities as well. For the necessary transformation processes to be successful, they must be managed in a just and inclusive fashion: we need a just transition to a sustainable future!

In December 2018, heads of State will gather for the 24th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24), in Katowice, Poland, to continue discussing ways to implement the Paris Agreement. A just transition will be high up on the political agenda. But what does it encompass?

A just transition is defined by the need to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees celsius, as stated in the Paris Agreement, but in a way that the well-being of all people is protected. The recent IPCC report on 1.5 degrees spotlights the need for early action, once again reinforcing that a rapid transition across all sectors of the economy is necessary to mitigate the most catastrophic risks of climate change.

There is great urgency involved—we only have 12 more years to turn things around! The lives and livelihoods of millions of people, especially in Global South countries, depend on fast action and ambitious climate policies to prevent the worst-possible impacts. For them, climate change is already a harsh reality, even though they have contributed almost nothing to its creation.

A just transition can only be successful if it brings all affected groups to the table. It maximizes climate protection while minimizing the negative impacts of climate change and climate policy on societies, lives and livelihoods. Climate change will influence every sector of our lives.

This includes the employment sector, which will be impacted by climate change as well as by climate change policies. Workers in the fossil industries and their families and communities are at the front line of the transition away from fossil fuels towards renewable energies. Their interests need to be considered in the process.

Structural-change processes always have a strong regional component as sometimes it is coal or oil extraction which serves as the only source of employment in certain parts of a country. Good alternatives must be made available for people who will be affected by the phasing out of coal, oil and gas—even more so because that phase-out needs to happen fast to stop global warming.

Limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius through a just transition of the world economy opens up many opportunities, including possibilities for decent work and quality jobs. Communities least responsible for and most negatively affected by climate change can and must profit from a Just Transition through poverty eradication, sustainable development opportunities and the creation of decent and quality jobs.

There is huge job-creation potential in renewable energies. The jobs of the future need to be green jobs with decent working conditions everywhere in the world. A just transition is a time-limited opportunity to shape the necessary change. If we do not act now, the risks could be uncontrollable, not only for workers and their communities but also for societies, lives and livelihoods of all people worldwide.

A Just Transition starts with a high level of ambition and accelerated climate action. This is the only way to ensure that there is sufficient time to implement the transition in a just way. Currently, countries’ Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) are not nearly ambitious enough, putting us on a pathway to global warming of 3–4 degrees celsius.

What does that portend? Unbearable extreme weather conditions, sea-level rise that threatens the existence of many people, loss of biodiversity, lack of food security, disappearing coral reefs that are essential to a healthy balance of our ecosystems as well as an increasing number of climate refugees and violent conflicts fuelled by the consequences of climate change. Do you want to live in a world like this?

COP24 is the time for governments to act and increase their pledges to prevent global warming.

* For more information on the international work by FES on the topic visit the dedicated website page.
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