I was honoured to moderate an extraordinary panel of leaders from around the world who are delivering key projects to benefit farmer knowledge systems, when USDA hosted a session on “Mobilising knowledge for agriculture” at Rio+20. Extension and rural advisory services (RAS) are key to putting farmers’ needs at the centre of rural development, ensuring sustainable food security and poverty reduction, and dealing with risks and uncertainty. Knowledge sharing mechanisms must focus on critical areas including protecting natural resources, productive farming processes, product development, marketing skills, nutritional needs, and household health. Improving institutional capacity in extension will help us to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and any future Sustainable Development Goals.
Kristin Davis of the Global Forum on Rural Advisory Services shared a growing call on the five key pillars to revitalize knowledge systems in agriculture:
- focusing on best-fit approaches;
- embracing pluralism;
- using participatory approaches;
- developing capacity; and
- ensuring long-term institutional support.
Many thanks to Greg Crosby, the session host from USDA and a panel speaker, for his tireless dedication to e-extension and his kind invitation. He reviewed the means to link knowledge to action. Bridgit Muasa, a veterinary scientist and AWARD winner from Kenya, gave a dynamic presentation on the mobile tools be used in Kenya, including ICow.
Zeinab Al Moumany of Jordan spoke about the needs for economic empowerment as part of knowledge systems, particularly to address the challenges faced by rural women. Last and by no means least, Rajeev Chauhan spoke about the extension systems in India, one of the few countries that is really investing in extension and rural advisory services.