Advisory services for farmers and other actors in the value chain are key to inclusive agricultural development. Before the 1990s, advisory services (also known as extension services) were seen as a service to be provided solely by governments. During the 1990s, confidence declined in the effectiveness of public-sector extension agencies. In many countries, however, privatisation resulted in most farmers losing their access to any form of advice, let alone impartial and independent advice.
Other organisations have jumped in to fill this gap, including the private sector, NGOs and farmer organisations. The result has been ‘messy’ systems, referred to as ‘pluralistic service systems’, in which farmers and other actors are supported by different providers, funded from different sources.
Understanding pluralistic service systems better
KIT (Royal Tropical Institute), in collaboration with SNV, Common Fund for Commodities (CFC), Centre for Development Innovation and Agri-ProFocus, has made a purposeful effort to understand such systems better and how to support them to make them operate more efficiently and successfully. Two major questions have been at the core of this research:
- To what extent do these service providers work together? In other words: what are – if at all – the coordination mechanisms in the pluralistic system?
- To what extent are these emerging systems responding better to farmers’ needs?
These questions were answered by documenting case studies in the vegetable oil seed sector, where a number of innovative projects have tried to strengthen different service providers. Field work was conducted in Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Mozambique and Uganda. The four case studies can be downloaded here.