Context and objectives of the meeting
From 13-14 November 2011, the 2nd GFRAS Annual Meeting took place in Nairobi, Kenya, co-hosted by the African Forum for Agricultural Advisory Services (AFAAS). Almost 140 stakeholders from over 50 countries attended the meeting. The 2nd GFRAS Annual Meeting focused on the functioning of GFRAS, especially in regards to networking, evaluation, advocacy, and capacity strengthening. More content-focused discussions took place at the subsequent International Conference “Innovations in Extension and Advisory Services” that was organised by GFRAS in collaboration with a range of partner organisations. Find the proceedings of this conference here.
Objectives of the 2nd GFRAS Annual Meeting were:
- To provide a platform for regional networks to share lessons learnt on networking and reflect on ways to commit members on sub-regional and national level as a way to ensure impact
- To facilitate GRFAS affiliates to hold discussions on needs for inter-regional networking and identify actions to improve it
- To share with participants the ongoing activities in GFRAS (evaluation, advocacy, capacity strengthening in rural advisory services) and develop ways to contribute to them
- To elaborate on the recommendations for the International Conference on Extension
Since the 1st GFRAS Annual Meeting in Chile, GFRAS has been consolidated: Structures and strategic framework are in place, working groups are developing products, and a range of regional, sub-regional, and national fora have been created and started functioning. The 2nd GFRAS Annual Meeting gave space to reflect on this process and plan next steps. Participants appreciated the high level of participation, the momentum they gained for their own commitments for rural advisory services (RAS), and the opportunity to exchange with peers and potential partners. Access to knowledge and material was also of high value for many participants.
GFRAS partners who contributed to the 2nd GFRAS Annual meeting include the International Fund for Agricultural Development IFAD, the Bill and Melinda Gates-Foundation BMGF, and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation SDC.
Recommendations and main conclusions of the meeting
The vast majority of participants were very satisfied or satisfied with the achievements of the meeting. The recommendations and conclusions they gave during the meeting and in evaluation forms and reports are summarised below. GFRAS will consider them in 2012 and report at its 3rd GFRAS Annual Meeting.
Besides the existing fora in Africa, Europe, Latin America, and the Pacific Islands, several regional and sub-regional networks on Rural Advisory Services (RAS) were created since the 1st GFRAS Annual Meeting 2010, namely in Asia, the Caribbean, Central Asia, and francophone Africa. In order to increase their functionality, the 2nd GFRAS Annual Meeting began with experience exchange on networking. As a result of group discussions, participants recommended that:
- Fora on regional and global level facilitate networking and content-related activities by embracing the principle of subsidiarity
- RAS fora acknowledge diversity as opportunity
- GFRAS facilitates collaboration and exchange between regional networks and links them to the international development arena in order to increase their visibility
- Regional fora develop formal structures and visible products
The 2nd GFRAS Annual Meeting increased the awareness of the importance of networking: “I understood how important it is to network to hold the right position in Agriculture Innovation Systems.” (Participant from Latin America) The meeting associated participants more closely both to GFRAS and to regional fora. The intense peer exchange at the 2nd GFRAS Annual Meeting facilitated the consolidation of existing networks and the creation of RAS fora in new sub-regions and at national level. “I have learnt a lot from the experience of other participants in terms of building and managing networks. This will be useful for supporting the Benin Forum and the Francophone Sub-Sahara African Network on Agricultural Advisory Services.” (Participant from West Africa)
Networking happened also between individual participants who highly appreciated meeting new colleagues and opportunities for partnerships.
The GFRAS Guide to Extension Evaluation was finalised in 2011. Participants expressed a high interest in using the guide for their own work and initiated discussions on evaluating RAS within their community. They recommended that GFRAS and regional fora:
- Disseminate the guide, facilitate its use, and initiate exchange of experience
- Continue activities on evaluation of RAS by documenting good practices, facilitating capacity strengthening, brokering knowledge, and connecting to monitoring
- Advocate for consideration of monitoring and evaluation in extension policies and funding
Evidence-based advocacy on RAS takes place in two directions. Within the process of establishing RAS fora, GFRAS members started an internal discussion within their community. In the same time they intend to intensify their dialogues with decision makers to improve the environment for extension. Especially for advocacy activities at regional and national levels, GFRAS plays a crucial role: “RAS strengthening without reference to the international community has not the legitimacy it could have.” (Participant from Europe)
Participants of the 2nd GFRAS Annual Meeting recommended to the global and regional RAS fora to:
- Create, discuss, and communicate evidence at regional and global level
- Continue establishing multi-stakeholder fora that include representatives from different sectors and regions, including decision makers
- Support regional fora in their advocacy efforts
In 2011, the GFRAS capacity strengthening working group was established. Participants are interested to implement capacity strengthening in their context and advise GFRAS and the regional networks to:
- Develop a compelling vision for capacity strengthening based on a systemic approach
- Provide evidence on innovative actions, successful initiatives, and good practice
- Facilitate knowledge and experience sharing
- Raise the awareness on the importance of capacity strengthening and investment needs
Awareness of the importance of RAS and GFRAS
In addition to the planned results, the 2nd GFRAS Annual Meeting gave RAS stakeholders the opportunity to reflect on current concepts and approaches in extension, such as demand-orientation and pluralism. This encouraged participants to improve their own extension activities at local and national level: “GFRAS strategies to improve RAS has broadened my perspectives and provided innovative ways to achieve my personal working goals”. (Participant from South Asia)
As a network of stakeholders, GFRAS requires the commitment of its affiliates to provide a voice for effective RAS in different regions, fields, and geographic areas. The momentum created at the 2nd GFRAS Annual Meeting is an important potential for extension and the implementation of the GFRAS strategic framework. “I recognised that the enormous efforts made by GFRAS stimulated many to be affiliates in order to promote RAS.” (Participant from Latin America) It is important for GFRAS to acquaint new affiliates with GFRAS working principles and increase their ownership of GFRAS. “Most importantly, I learnt that GFRAS is not the secretariat but a joint initiative of all the different networks”. (Participant from the Caribbean)
The GFRAS working groups on evaluation and capacity strengthening will continue their activities in 2012. In early 2012, the GFRAS Guide to Extension Evaluation will be printed and widely distributed to GFRAS affiliates. The working group on capacity strengthening will elaborate a background paper and position paper on “the new extensionist”. Discussions will continue on the GFRAS blog.
The 3rd GFRAS Annual Meeting will take place on 26-28 September 2012 in the Philippines. It will deal with GFRAS internal matters including progress reporting from the GFRAS working groups and RAS fora, treat specific content issues, and give space for participative discussions and informal exchange. As a main focus, the RAS community will prepare a shared position for the Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development 2012. Stakeholders from public, private, and civil society sector working in RAS/ extension or in related fields such as producer organizations, research, or education, and representatives from development agencies, media, and others, are invited to register for the 3rd GFRAS Annual Meeting. Registration opens in May 2012.
Minutes (pdf, 364KB)
Summary (pdf, 168KB)
Resolutions (pdf, 240 KB)
List of Participants (pdf, 92KB)
Meeting programme (pdf, 108KB)
Announcement (pdf, 119KB)
Flyer (pdf, 178KB)
GFRAS Networking Stories (pdf, 201KB)
Evidence Based Policy Advocacy (pdf, 131KB)
Capacity Strengthening (pdf, 683KB)
Improving Extension Evaluation (pdf, 3MB)
GFRAS Networking Activities (pdf, 3.6MB)
GFRAS Thematic Working Groups (pdf, 95KB)