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South African Journal of Agricultural Extension

On-line version ISSN 2413-3221
Print version ISSN 0301-603X

S Afr. Jnl. Agric. Ext. vol.45 n.1 Pretoria  2017 



Extension and advisory services: the African renaissance



Zwane E. M.I; Davis K. E.II

IProfessor of extension in the Centre for Rural Community and Empowerment. University of Limpopo, South Africa. Email:
IIResearch fellow with the International Food Policy Research Institute





This paper highlights the establishment of development organisations on the African continent and beyond, namely the New Partnership for Africa's Development's Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP), the African Forum for Agricultural Advisory Services (AFAAS), and Southern Africa Regional Forum for Agricultural Advisory Services (SARFAAS), country forums (CF), and the Global Forum for Rural Advisory Services (GFRAS). These organisations can be considered as a source of renaissance in agricultural advisory services. They have facilitated the development of structures that advocate for extension and advisory services. These organisations have brought focus, and initiated debate on the concept of extension. The importance of such services is promoted as a means of assisting marginalised farmers and encouraging countries to adopt "pro-poor" approaches to farmer development. A literature review and expert opinion for analysis is provided to illustrate the findings, indicating different understandings of the concept of extension, and that extension actors are organised in sub-regional networks and countries as a link to GFRAS, AFAAS, and the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), sub-program CAADP. GFRAS has developed downloadable learning materials to stimulate debate and provide evidence for the importance of Extension and Advisory Services (EAS). Such information could help to strengthen the knowledge base needed to guide farmers' activities both globally and nationally. In conclusion, some recommendations are made to further promote advisory services in Africa, and beyond.

Keywords: AFAAS, GFRAS, CAADP, extension and advisory services




The establishment of three organisations in the development arena on the African continent and beyond its borders, namely the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), the African Forum for Agricultural Advisory Services (AFAAS), and the Global Forum for Rural Advisory Services (GFRAS) can be considered as a source of renaissance in agricultural extension and advisory services (EAS). Their guidance and further development of enabling structures has helped to highlight the situation of extension and advisory services. Agricultural extension, also known as agricultural advisory services, play a crucial role in promoting the objectives of extension, such as increased agricultural productivity, increasing food security, improving rural livelihoods and promoting agriculture as an engine of 'pro-poor' economic growth. These objectives are also supported by previous research conducted by Davis (2008) and the National Planning Commission (2012). The use of the term extension has been reformed due to its past misinterpretation as a one-way transfer of technology.

Extension is today, defined as the systems that facilitate the access of farmers, their organisations and other market actors to knowledge, information, and technology. This helps to ease their interaction with partners in research, education, agri-business, and other relevant institutions assisting them to develop their own technical, organisational, and management skills and practices (Christoplos, 2010:3).

The reason why extensions encompass this broader mandate, is that it seeks to include other role-players who operate in the sphere to provide information, but who may not be named as extensions explicitly. It is important that an extension's potential is mobilised to broaden its impact within the complex systems of what Christoplos (2010:1) calls "the broad and complex flow of information and advice in the agri-food sector" and is referred to as an innovation system by Daane (2010).

There is no doubt that there is still much to be done in the extension field; from improvements in household livelihoods to adapting to climate change. Therefore, this paper calls for an effective extension system to be implemented, to be able to achieve the objectives of development, which includes food security, amongst others. Extension will only be effective if other services are in place (Mollel, 2005), and if research is focused on the current problems facing farmers such as the accessibility of market inputs and available land. Other role-playing factors include sufficient social, political, and economic security to be in place, creating a positive environment for rural development (Christoplos, 2010).



The problem investigated is to determine the extent to which certain organisations have played a role in the renaissance of bringing extension challenges back to the development agenda. The call for the important role of extension has previously been echoed by a number of researchers such as Mutimba (2014), GFRAS (2008), and AFAAS (2010). There is new focus on extension, partly due to the fact that in spite of huge budgetary allocations for national and international development, there is still persistent rural poverty and global hunger (UN, 2015). Extension and advisory services should be implemented by prominent institutions that can be used to achieve national and global development objectives. According to Mutimba (2014), advisors are not prone to effectively document the impact of extension where they work, hence many critics claim there is limited evidence, despite the fact that extension has demonstrated positive impacts due to under-resourcing (GFRAS, 2008). In light of this, the objectives of the paper are as follows:

  • To investigate how extension organisations are contributing to influence rural development.

  • To establish the role played by AFAAS, GFRAS, and CAADP as the agricultural developmental arm of NEPAD.

  • To document the spread and links of AFAAS, CAADP, and GFRAS in service delivery for extension advisors briefly.



Data was collected through assembling a literature review, focusing on relevant work conducted by the identified institutions involved in agricultural renaissance such as the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), which has invested resources in dissemination channels of their research results, AFAAS, GFRAS, Extension Africa1, and the Southern Africa Regional Forum for Agricultural Services (SARFAAS).



The results show that the main organisations identified have an influence on the global development agenda, with regards to extension and advisory services. With the exception of the CAADP, they are structured as networks. These networks are presented in terms of their role in advisory services, their mandate, achievements, and the implications for extension and advisory services.

4.1 Comprehensive African agricultural development organisations

The CAADP's origins can be traced to NEPAD and FARA. FARA was formed in 2001, as a facilitating and information exchange forum for sub-regional research organisations (SROs), and as an apex body to represent SRO's. FARA has since become the lead agency for CAADP to work on agricultural research and dissemination jointly with AFAAS.

FARA serves as the technical arm of the African Union Commission (AUC) on matters concerning agricultural science, technology and innovation. It provides a continental forum for stakeholders in AR4D to shape the vision and agenda for the sector and to mobilise themselves to respond to key continent-wide development frameworks, particularly the Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) of the African Union (AU) and the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) (FARA, 2015:7). In short, FARA aims to achieve "sustainable improvements to broad-based agricultural productivity, competitiveness and markets" through five networking support functions as described by Adolf (2010:10).

Both FARA and the SRO's are committed to using the Framework for African Agricultural Productivity (FAAP) and its nine principles2 to guide all their activities. FAAP principle number five asks specifically for an "integration of agricultural research with extension services, the private sector, training, capacity building, and education programmes" (Adolph, 2010:10).

The FARA is the apex continental organisation responsible for coordinating agricultural research for development (AR4D) in Africa, to increase its efficiency and effectiveness. It serves as the entry point for agricultural research initiatives designed to have a continental reach or a sub-continental reach spanning over more than one sub-region. The African Heads of States and Governments declared 2014 to be the Year of Agriculture and Food Security in Africa. It marked the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the CAADP by the African Union (AU) and the NEPAD. It also marked the AU's adoption of the Malabo Declaration on Accelerated African Agricultural Growth and Transformation (3AGT) (FARA, 2015).

FARA shapes the vision and agenda for the AR4D sector and mobilises a response to key continent-wide development frameworks, notably the CAADP of the AU and the NEPAD. FARA plays an important role and lead the Science Agenda for Agriculture in Africa (S3A) in promoting science in enhancing agricultural productivity, competitiveness, and market access. This S3A initiative was founded in 2013, and has seven principles3. The initiative was prepared by an African-led expert group through a consultative process involving the broader agricultural science community and rural development professionals as well as high level decision-makers on the continent. African leaders have resolved to take charge of the science needed to transform agriculture by supporting the development of the S3A. The S3A moniker is shorthand for the science, technology, innovations, extension, policies, and social learning that Africa needs to apply in order to meet its evolving agricultural development goals. The vision of S3A is that "by 2030 Africa is food and nutrition secure, a global scientific player, and the world's food basket" (FARA, 2015:1). Figure 1 is a schematic representation of the various networks that cooperate with AFAAS for agricultural advisory services.



AFAAS works closely with sub-regional institutions based in the western, central, southern, and eastern part of Africa. This study showed that there are currently four sub-regional research organisations (SROs) in Africa. These include the West and Central African Council for Agricultural Research and Development (CORAF/WECARD), formed in 1987, with 22 West and Central African National Agricultural Research System (NARS) members; Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern Africa (ASARECA), formed in 1993, with 10 East and Central African National Agricultural Research System (NARS) members; the Southern African Development Community (SADC), and Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources (FARN), formed in 2001. The Food Agriculture and Natural Resources Directorate of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Secretariat is tasked with the co-ordination and harmonisation of agricultural policies and programmes in the SADC region, in line with priorities in the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP).

Mirroring these organisations are the extension and advisory services sub-regional networks: "Réseau des services de conseil agricole et rural d'Afrique de l'Ouest et du Centre" (RESCAR-AOC or the Network for Rural Advisory Services in West and Central Africa) and Southern Africa Regional Forum for Agricultural Advisory Service (SARFAAS), formed in 2015. The mandate of these sub-regional bodies differs, but in the final analysis they strive to promote improvement in reaching farmers from different perspective views (Adolph, 2010). There are no sub-regional extension networks in North or Eastern Africa, though there is co-ordination through FARA and the sub-regional research networks. There are also academic institutions under the umbrella of the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM), which also works with AFAAS, and also has a memorandum of understanding with the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN), which works mainly in Southern Africa, but is now expanding.

4.2 Continental organisation of extension: AFAAS

4.2.1 Background of AFAAS

The origin of AFAAS is linked to the establishment of the New Partnership for Africa's Development. NEPAD originates from "The New Millennium for African Recovery Program" (MAP), which was proposed by South Africa's previous president Mr. Mbeki and the Omega Plan proposed by President Wade, of Senegal, in 2001. Their plans were merged to form the New African Initiative (NAI). The latter name was changed on 23 October 2001 in Abuja, Nigeria, to New Partnership for Africa's Development. African Heads of State through their Implementation Committee, chaired by President Obasanjo of Nigeria, adopted the new plan, NEPAD (2002). The African Forum for Agricultural Advisory Services is a continental body in partnership with NEPAD through a Memorandum of Understanding with the African Union under the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme. AFAAS has the mandate to implement the agricultural advisory services aspects of the CAADP and African-owned and Africa-led initiative, through which interventions to transform agriculture are co-ordinated. AFAAS now has an MOU with the AU Commission (AFAAS, 2016).

4.2.2 History of AFAAS

AFAAS was initially formed as the Sub-Saharan African Network for Agricultural Advisory Services (SSANAAS). The SSANAAS was created during the 1st Regional Networking Symposium on innovations in agricultural advisory services, held in Kampala, Uganda, 11-14 October 2004. The initial participating countries were Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, and Uganda. However, a second symposium was held from 24-27 September 2006 in Kampala, successfully adding additional African countries to take part (Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, and Zambia). This brought the total of participating African countries to 14. At this symposium, it was also decided that the network should go beyond sub-Saharan Africa and embrace the whole of Africa. This necessitated the organisation's name change to the African Forum for Agricultural Advisory Services (AFAAS). The AFAAS was accordingly set-up as the successor (and substitute for and permanent replacement) of SSANAAS, and was legally established in Uganda as a non-governmental organisation (AFAAS, 2015).

4.2.3 AFAAS vision, mission, and mandate

Like most organisations, AFAAS has developed a strategic plan to guide its activities. It has a vision, mission, objective, and goal statement that seeks to achieve its mandate. The vision of AFAAS is, "Agricultural advisory services that effectively and efficiently contribute to sustained productivity and profitability and growth of African agriculture for poverty reduction". Its mission is to "promote lesson learning and add value to initiatives in agricultural advisory services through the sharing of information and increased professional interaction." As far as its goal is concerned, the purpose of AFAAS is "to have sufficient capacity in agricultural advisory services to effectively support value chain actors towards increasing agricultural productivity and food security in a sustainable manner." The AFAAS mandate is to "implement the agricultural extension and advisory services aspects of the CAADP-an African-owned and African-led initiative through which interventions to transform agriculture are coordinated" (AFAAS, 2016). The main objectives of AFAAS are:

  • To ensure that CAADP, pillar 4, directly addresses the needs of African farmers with regards to advisory services, contributing to making these services more effective and relevant.

  • Mobilise and utilise synergies across Africa for advisory service development.

  • To ensure the accessibility of appropriate and up-to-date knowledge on advisory services from a range of sources in Africa and internationally.

  • Empower country level advisory service stakeholders to determine their own priorities and lead efforts to improve their national and local advisory service systems.

  • Build partnerships at national, regional, and international levels between agricultural advisory services and other institutions contributing to sustained growth and transformation of agriculture.

  • Build a continental African organisation that can sustainably support national agricultural advisory services to continuously enhance their contribution to national, regional, continental, and global development objectives (Nahdy, 2012).

4.2.4 The influence of AFAAS and its achievements

Since its inception in 2004, AFAAS has led work on advisory services in the continent through knowledge exchange events, studies, and the strengthening of multi-sector national extension platforms called country fora. The main exchange takes place during the African-wide extension week, previously called Symposia. Two Africa-wide extension weeks have been held; one in Botswana in 2013 and another in Ethiopia in 2015. The next is planned to take place in South Africa end October 2017. Both the previously completed events (before 2017) were focused on seeking support for farmers in terms of information and knowledge transference, as well as enabling the extension advisors to better assist farmers. The symposia held by AFAAS in Uganda in 2004 and Ghana in 2010 discussed critical areas of intervention, in an attempt to strengthen extension and advisory services.

Furthermore, AFAAS has commissioned the establishment of documents that have made extension information available to support extension and advisory practices. Some of these include a gender scoping study, guidance for the country fora, emerging approaches for climate change, and adequate documentation to guide the establishment of country forums (Nahdy and Olupot, 2014). AFAAS currently operates in more than 40 countries in Africa, and has facilitated the establishment of national extension forums, which serve as a platform to convene and co-ordinate stakeholders, identify capacity gaps, prioritise research needs, and drive professionalisation efforts. The country fora allow for sustainability of extension efforts in African countries (Nahdy and Olupot, 2014).

4.3 Global network for extension (GFRAS)

4.3.1 The history of GFRAS

The Global Forum for Rural Advisory Service was created in January 2010 to provide space for advocacy and leadership on diverse and demanding rural advisory services within the global development agenda (GFRAS, 2010). GFRAS evolved out of a series of discussions during various international meetings (primarily the annual meetings of the Neuchâtel Initiative) over several years, where the need for a more proactive formal structure to promote rural advisory service development was recognised and various options were considered (GFRAS, 2010). GFRAS emerged when AFAAS stakeholders recognised a gap on a global level. The GFRAS role fulfils an important missing gap in the rural development arena. GFRAS provides adequate space for extension and rural development actors to advocate for, and lead advisory service issues. The forum plays a catalysing role, promoting inter- and intra-actions on regional, national, and international levels.

4.3.2 The focus of GFRAS

GFRAS focusses on enhancing the performance of advisory services, so that they can better serve farm based families and rural producers, thus contributing to the improvement of livelihoods in rural areas and the sustainable reduction of hunger and poverty. Rural advisory services help to empower farmers and better integrate them in systems of agricultural innovation. The GFRAS structure reaches smallholder farmers via the regional rural advisory services networks, which are made up of national-level platforms, such as the country fora. The national platforms work directly with smallholders and include actors from all sectors working in rural advisory services. Country fora help prioritise national-level issues, and the formulation of demands to be taken to regional and global levels. The vision of GFRAS is for rural advisory services to effectively contribute to agricultural innovation systems for sustainable development. The mission is to provide advocacy and leadership on pluralistic and demand-driven rural advisory services for sustainable development (Davis, 2016).

4.3.3 Influence of GFRAS on extension worldwide

Since inception of GFRAS, regional and sub-regional extension networks and country fora have sprung up to advocate for advisory services in their geographies. GFRAS seeks to allow the exchange of knowledge between the networks and country fora, co-ordinate activities and respond to demands of the region, while advocating for extension and advisory services at a global level. The worldwide networks of GFRAS is represented in Figure 2.

The Asia-Pacific Island Rural Advisory Services Network was formed in 2010 to represent Asia and the Pacific within GFRAS, and later also represented the South Asia Extension Network since 2013. Similarly, the Latin American Network for Rural Extension Services began just after GFRAS in 2010. The Pacific Islands Rural Advisory Services Network was formed prior to GFRAS in 2005, and originally called Pacific Islands Extension Network. Its primary aim is building the capacity of extension staff and associated institutions including government, non-government, and academic institutions to assist in research and extension activities in partaking countries. The Australasia-Pacific Extension Network is a professional association with around 500 members, mostly based in Australia. During 2013, the Caribbean Extension Providers Network was launched to represent GFRAS in that region and has started some country fora. The Mekong Extension Learning Alliance was launched in 2015 to support extension exchange in the Mekong area.

GFRAS systems also further consist of European networks, including two sub-networks. The International Academy for Agricultural and Home Economics Advisory Services (IALB) is a platform for German-speaking RAS that fosters exchange of information and experiences. Participants of the 49th IALB conference in Besancon mentioned the need to intensify and enlarge the European exchange on RAS to benefit from Europe's diverse experience. The South-Eastern Europe Advisory Service Network (SEASN) was formed in 2016. GFRAS also interacts with the United States National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). The US, Canada, and Japan all have decentralised extension systems with no national-level coverage. GFRAS has recently started to engage with China, but has yet to engage with Russia. While the Middle East and North African countries are represented in GFRAS (and North Africa partially covered by AFAAS), there is no formal network in the region.

4.3.4 Achievements of GFRAS worldwide

GFRAS hosts an annual meeting for its members and affiliates in the extension and advisory services community. The annual meeting is the central GFRAS event for experience exchange and to discuss strategic directions. Since its inception from 2010, GFRAS has held seven annual meetings in the following countries, Chile in 2010, Kenya in 2011, Chile in 2012, Philippines in 2013, Buenos Aires in 2014, Kyrgyzstan in 2015, and Cameroon in 2016.

GFRAS working groups are composed of a group of GFRAS affiliates or members actively working around a thematic topic, usually across regions and organisations. They are formed on a demand-driven basis with the direction of the GFRAS steering committee. They include topics such as policy, gender equality, and ICT's.

GFRAS has commissioned several studies that have made extension information available for reference on a number of issues such as mobilising extension, evaluation of advisory services and a synthesis report of extension, worldwide databases of providers and training opportunities in extension, and a series of some 20 'global good practice notes' on topics such as value chain extension, farmer-to-farmer extension, and others.

Additionally, the GFRAS Consortium on Extension Education and Training has developed the New Extensionist Learning Kit, a resource for extension personnel around the globe to improve on functional skills for extension. The kit is available for self-directed or face-to-face learning.

Recently, GFRAS launched a capacity assessment tool for regional networks and country fora to evaluate institutional and organisational capacity, as well as the capacity for knowledge management, advocacy, and professionalisation. At the start of their new 10-year strategy in 2016, this allowed a baseline for future monitoring and evaluation.

4.4 Discussion of the findings

4.4.1 Comprehensive African agricultural development programme

This program has provided an opportunity to bring agricultural development back on the agenda, both in Africa and on other continents. CAADP has provided a framework for agricultural and advisory services, important in terms of supporting families to improve their livelihoods.

4.4.2 African forum for agricultural advisory services

AFAAS has been a critical voice for extension and advisory services at a continental level. It is important to have an institution such as AFAAS to support the goals of NEPAD and CAADP. The AFAAS model of country fora is thus critical to ensure sustainability of advisory services.

4.4.3 Global forum for rural advisory services

GFRAS has filled a gap on a global level, and allowed for extension and advisory service actors from the regional and national level to have a voice on an international platform. GFRAS has advocated for extension and advisory services at global events, such as the United Nations Committee for Food Security, the Rio+20 event, the Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development, and has engaged in the development of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Furthermore, GFRAS helps to promote exchange and learning across regions through the Annual Meeting and participation in working groups. GFRAS supports the regional networks to strengthen their capacity to work through country fora to impact the lives of farmers and the rural population.

4.5 Meeting the objectives of the paper

In line with the three objectives of the paper, information gained revealed how extension organisations are contributing to influence rural development, the roles played by key institutions, and the spread and links of CAADP, AFAAS, and GFRAS in service delivery for extension advisors. As an example, the current study has explored the three identified institutions and indicated how they were established. This study went on to show the organisational structures, activities, and the impact it has had on African Extension service delivery.



It can be stated that both the two international bodies, AFAAS and GFRAS, have played a crucial role in bringing extension and advisory services back into the spotlight. This has been supported by the broader attention to agriculture brought forward by the CAADP. The establishment of these institutions has rekindled the lost enthusiasm amongst extension practitioners and their supporters for positive improvements in rural development. There is new hope in the profession of extension and advisory services due to these interventions. Moreover, through their advocacy spirit, the three institutions have made efforts to engage countries who have adopted 'pro-poor' approaches to farmers' development, which were previously neglected. It can be reported that both AFAAS and its sub-regional bodies, as well as GFRAS and its country fora, have strong interests to serve extension and advisory services in Africa, and the world at large.

Based on the findings of the paper it is recommended that:

  • The CAADP process in Africa should be supported, especially with the inclusion of advisory services in country investment plans.

  • There should be coordinated approaches at a national level through the AFAAS country fora model.

  • Better efforts should be made to share knowledge from the three institutions vis-à-vis extension and advisory services; this includes the translation of key knowledge pieces into relevant African languages.

In conclusion, it should be considered that GFRAS and AFAAS's role in the regions where they operate provide networking and learning opportunities so as to ensure that different active stakeholders in advisory services have the opportunity to learn from each other (Adolph, 2010). The globalisation of practices will assist in fighting our common challenges of food security, which is needed to feed the current and future global population.



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Prof. Elliot Zwane
Centre for Rural Community and Empowerment, University of Limpopo
South Africa



1 Extension Africa is a newly formed organisation constituted by extension professionals coming from African States (Ghana, Nigeria, Malawi, Tanzania, Botswana, South Africa) and two members in diaspora based in Ohio State University, USA.
2 The nine principles of FAAP are: 1) Empowerment of end users, 2) Planned subsidiarity, 3) Pluralism in the delivery of agricultural extension and advisory services (AEAS), 4) Evidence based approaches to AEAS, 5) Integration of AEAS with research capacity building, and education programmes, 6) Explicit incorporation of sustainability criteria, 7) Systematic utilisation of improved management information systems, 8) Introduction of cost sharing with end users, and 9) Integration of gender considerations at all levels.
3 The S3A foundation document drafted in 2013 stipulates seven overarching principles: (1) Africa needs an enduring vision for science in agriculture, developed and implemented by Africans; (2) the immediate priority is implementation of the CAADP; (3) research themes should connect science with needs and opportunities in African agriculture; (4) there is a need to strengthen the institutional systems responsible for science for agriculture in Africa; (5) sustainable financing of the S3A will be crucial; (6) creating a favourable policy environment for the performance of science is important; and (7) creating a fund to promote African solidarity in science.
4 Abbreviations: African Forum for Agricultural Advisory Services (AFAAS); Agricultural Extension in South Asia (AESA); Asia-Pacific Islands Rural Advisory Services Network (APIRAS); Australasia-Pacific Extension Network (APEN); Caribbean Agricultural Extension Providers Network (CAEPNet); Central Asia and the Caucasus Forum for Rural Advisory Services (CAC-FRAS); European Forum for Farm and Rural Advisory Services (EUFRAS); Mekong Extension Learning Alliance (MELA); Middle East and North Africa Network (MENA); Pacific Islands Rural Advisory Services Network (PIRAS); Red Latino americana de Servicios de Extensión Rural/Latin American Network on Rural Extension Services (RELASER); Réseau des services de conseil agricole et rural d'Afrique de l'Ouest et du Centre/West and Central Africa Network of Agricultural and Rural Advisory Services (RESCAR-AOC); Southern Africa Regional Forum on Agricultural Advisory Services (SARFAAS); United States National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).

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