To provide a space for sharing current thinking and practice and building coalitions of farmers, practitioners, policymakers and other key actors to advocate and implement policy reforms and innovations in extension and advisory services; especially those that benefit smallholder and resource poor farmers, including women and marginalized rural communities.
There are four cross-cutting conference themes.
- Policy: What are the policy lessons from the past two decades of reforms of governance structures, reductions in public funding and increased privatization of extension and advisory services? Have they resulted in increased accountability, efficiency, empowerment and impact? What is the future role of governments in providing extension and advisory services as public goods? What mix of regulations, goods and services is most appropriate for offering extension and advisory services that meet country-specific goals within any given socio-economic and agro-ecological context? What research is needed to fill the knowledge gaps?
- Capacity Development: What new knowledge, skills, and infrastructure are needed in light of the expanded role of extension and advisory services? How best can the capacity of the actors (farmers, organizations and networks) be strengthened in the short to medium term? What good practices exist in capacity development? What research is needed to fill the knowledge gaps? What types and level of investments are needed?
- Tools and Approaches: What innovative tools (including the use of ICTs and the mass media) and approaches are proving effective in the delivery of extension and advisory services? How can the islands of successes be captured and the lessons and best practices shared within countries and across regions with policymakers, development actors and extension practitioners? How can they be up-and out-scaled to ensure quality, cost-effectiveness, sustainability and impact of these services on agricultural productivity, sustainable livelihoods and natural resource management?
- Learning Networks: What is the role of learning in enhancing the effectiveness of extension and advisory services and increasing their impact? What institutional arrangements need to be put in place to support lifelong learning by farmers and other key actors for continuous innovation? What form should they take and how should they evolve? What mechanisms exist for monitoring and evaluating extension and advisory services to support learning and make them more accountable and which are feasible? What research is needed to fill the knowledge gaps?