I travelled a long distance from India and landed yesterday in Limbe, Cameroon to attend the 7th Annual Meeting of the Global Forum for Rural Advisory Services (GFRAS), which kicked off today. Hats off to GFRAS! The agenda of the meeting, which covers the “The Role of Rural Advisory Services for Inclusive Agripreneurship” theme, looks quite exciting and engaging.
When the meeting formally opened, it looked like a big fair full of rural and agricultural extension service professionals of all ages gathered from all regions around the world and sectors involved in agricultural and rural advisory services (RAS). They all have only one thing in their minds and that is to talk about Agripreneurship! Although I have written several blogs on Agripreneurship (like this one, this one, this one and this one), I believe this will be a wonderful opportunity to learn more about inclusive agripreneurship.
The meeting appears to be structured in a very interactive way, giving the approximately 150 participants from all over the world plenty of opportunities to actively shape and contribute to the event. I am grateful to GFRAS for giving me the opportunity to participate in this mega event.
Agriculture today faces many challenges, many of which may directly or indirectly lead to changing markets. The challenges will also create both opportunities and risks for farmers, especially for smallholders, youth, and women. Consensus is growing that there is a need to move beyond subsistence agriculture in order to build sustainable livelihoods, ensure the wellbeing of smallholders, and achieve food security worldwide. Agripreneurship offers one response to those challenges, and actually RAS plays a crucial role in supporting farmers, especially women and youth, to become successful agripreneurs. In this context, the 7th GFRAS Annual Meeting will provide an opportunity to widely discuss the topic of agripreneurship, and focus on the role that RAS can play in strengthening inclusive agripreneurship.
During the coming four days, we are going to have discussions and exchanges as well as learn, and formulate recommendations on the roles and required capacities of RAS for supporting inclusive agripreneurship as important elements of sustainable rural development. We are going to develop a comprehensive understanding of inclusive agripreneurship and its relevance for food security, poverty reduction, and sustainable development. We will also identify factors that influence inclusive agripreneurship. In particular, we will be discussing the role of RAS and the capacities needed on the individual, organisational, and system levels to strengthen inclusive agripreneurship. In addition, we will provide recommendations on how those capacities can be strengthened.
Another agenda topic worth noting will cover discussions that will consider how RAS networks and fora can be generally strengthened so they can become strong and more successful players in agricultural innovation systems in their regions. The meeting programme seems to have a good mix of thematic discussions and field trips.
The GFRAS Annual meetings have always been organized very professionally, so I look forward to yet another exciting experience. The GFRAS has organized six Annual Meetings since 2010 in different regions and every meeting has been an intellectually stimulating learning opportunity for the participants. I was able to attend one such previous meeting in Buenos Aires in 2014 and I shared my experience then. Similar to last time, the GFRAS circulated a well drafted concept note for this meeting long before the event. Again, hats off to the GFRAS for organizing its activities with inspiring professionalism!
So, what am I going to do here?
I am excited and looking forward to my presentation entitled “Motivation for Agripreneurship -Theoretical and Practical paradigms.” It is scheduled for 4 October, 2016 and I will be addressing issues related to the support needed by agripreneurs to become and stay successful. My presentation will address some key questions such as what makes an agripreneur successful and what support is needed by farmers to become thriving agripreneurs. I will tackle issues like accepting risks, being business-oriented, and caring about partnerships.
The presentation will also make reference to key areas for farmers, who want to become agripreneurs, obtain external support and it will specify the support that can be covered by RAS providers. I shall also try to answer questions like: (1) What is the role of RAS providers in strengthening inclusive agripreneurship? How effective are they?; (2) what capacities, especially skills and competencies, do RAS providers need to become more effective in their role and how can they be strengthened?; and,finally, what are the opportunities and challenges that RAS providers face in this context and how can they be seized or overcome? I shall be using examples of Indian agripreneurs whom I interacted with and reported about in last few months, to support my arguments on agripreneurs and agripreneurship. I am also going to suggest that we have to go beyond traditional RAS approaches and try new things like working with agripreneurs who act as extensionists themselves and at times know better than extensionists.
Before I take my flight back home on 9 October, I expect to be a little more enlightened professionally on matters related to agripreneurship. I am certainly hopeful that I will!
Guest blog post by Mahesh Chander (drmahesh.chander(at)gmail.com), Principal Scientist & Head, Division of Extension Education, ICAR- Indian Veterinary Research Institute
The views expressed are personal, and cannot be attributed to ICAR or GFAR.
Photo credits: Dr Mahesh Chander