Agricultural advisory services across continents are facing technical, social, environmental and climate change challenges. According to experts, new market-based mechanisms are required to ensure pluralism in rural advisory services (RAS) delivery based on demand. One of the key findings resulting from the institutional assessment conducted within the Global Forum for Rural Advisory Services (GFRAS) network, revealed the systemic issues impeding the flow of knowledge among the value chain actors. In the past years, GFRAS and regional networks (AFAAS, APIRAS, RELASER…) have put in place mechanisms to structure and strengthen the delivery of agricultural advisory services.
As a key financier in rural advisory services, IFAD declared agricultural advisory services for smallholder farmers and their organisations among its key priority areas for grant financing in 2018. In order to achieve its objectives, IFAD developed in collaboration with GFRAS network a programme named: Delivering Extension Services to the Last-Mile: Improving smallholders' access to innovation and pluralistic, demand-driven extension services. IFAD’s grant is placed within a larger and long-term intervention which is going to be co-funded, along with the European Commission, GIZ as well as with contributions from the Swiss Development Cooperation (SDC) and Heifer International. The IFAD’s grant is for a period of 5 years with 3 implementing organisations in 3 regions: AFAAS (Africa), APIRAS (Asia) and RELASER (Latin America).
The goal of the Last Mile Programme is to contribute to achievement of “improved incomes, sustained market linkages and reduction of climate vulnerability for smallholder farmers (women, men and youth), through capacity building plans to develop a range of skills across the value chains from technical to social, communication and business skills (using specific modules under the Next Extensionist Learning Kit -NELK).
The strategy of the Programme is to organise public, private and semi-private RAS service providers through Public, Private Partnership (PPP) platforms and strengthen them with solid business and market-oriented skills and a diversity of tools to enable them to directly engage with smallholder farmers (individuals/organizations). The entry point of the Programme in the 3 regions is Country Fora, a PPP platform model which was developed by AFAAS and is adopted by other implementing partners.
At the peak of its implementation, the Program is expected to reach around 14,000 – 16,000 direct beneficiaries (extension service providers) distributed over 18 countries in the three regions. The indirect beneficiaries are estimated to be not less than 1.4 Million farmers and could reach up to 5 Million farmers depending on the average number of farms outreach by extension service providers.