15 July 2008

Outsourcing agricultural advisory services in Africa

The Royal Tropical Institute (KIT) just published a new Bulletin on Outsourcing agricultural advisory services: Enhancing rural innovation in Sub-Saharan Africa.

It starts from the perspective of "Ms Kanaga, a dynamic east-African farmer in her late thirties. She started cultivating rice during the last growing season. But before becoming involved in this new agricultural enterprise, she spoke with her neighbours, who had recently introduced rice into their farming system; she also spoke with the Village Women’s Farmer Group, the local extension worker, the local credit and savings bank, the local materials supplier, and an NGO focused on enterprise development. And she listened to a local radio programme on agriculture. At that point she became slightly confused because the information from these various sources was not always the same."

Clearly, "information on agricultural activities can be confusing or contradictory, and requires a lot of perseverance to obtain. A recent trend is that agricultural advisory services are sometimes ‘outsourced’, or ‘contracted out’. Since outsourcing advisory services is rather new, not much is known about how it can best be implemented or the conditions under which it is helpful. This bulletin discusses several cases concerning extension outsourcing so that we can learn how it can benefit farmers like Ms Kanaga."

The report contains findings and lessons learned from case studies in Tanzania, Mozambique, Uganda and Mali.

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