AUSTRALIA –As the rural advisory services (RAS) struggle to new challenges and adapt to the trends and demands of globalization, the exchange of best practices in the developing countries is still fundamental for better knowledge generation and formulation of global policy environment. With the goal to form part of the global peer exchange and learning in the context of RAS, the Philippines thru the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI), recently participated in the 8th Annual Meeting of the Global Forum for Rural Advisory Services (GFRAS) in conjunction with the Australasia-Pacific Extension Network (APEN) International Conference.
OIC-Director Luz Taposok together with Engr. Renato Dela Cruz, ATI-Partnerships and Accreditation Division Chief, and Dr. Arlene Flores, ATI- Training Center Director in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), represented the Philippine government and shared the country’s innovative and responsive extension modalities. These include the establishment of learning sites and schools for practical agriculture.
With the theme, “Rural Advisory Services and Empowered Youth for Balanced Transformation in Rural and Urban Communities”, the 8th GFRAS Annual Meeting highlighted various concepts and issues on strengthening the capacities of RAS networks such as the role of RAS in empowering youth for sustainable rural–urban transformation; the role of youth in building more inclusive, context-sensitive and demand-driven RAS in the processes of rural–urban transformation; RAS, youth, and rural–urban, urban–rural migration patterns.
The Asia-Pacific Island Strengthened Agricultural Advisory Services (SAAS) Regional Networking Conference was conducted during the meeting which provided updates on the project, “Supporting Smallholder Farmers in Asia and Pacific Islands Region through Strengthened Agricultural Advisory Services.” This was a grant from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).
Furthermore, GFRAS carried out network capacity assessments and provided a synthesis of the results. This enabled the participants to exchange experiences in a peer-to-peer learning session, stressing the needs identified in the assessments. They were also able to convene and discuss how to meet the capacity needs and develop the 2018 Annual Meeting roadmap. Consequently, the delegates expressed their commitments in strengthening the extension services in their respective countries.
Meanwhile, the 2017 APEN International Conference dubbed as, “Facilitating balanced change for rural and urban communities”, presented the complex and challenging role of extension that is primarily geared towards poverty alleviation and sustainable socio-economic progress. Among other topics discussed were exploration of the potential of Social Practice Theory (SPT) on rethinking agricultural practice change; governance challenges and gender issues in agricultural innovation systems in the developing world; meeting consumer demands through extension activities; and the challenges faced by extension providers.
Field trips to different areas of interest and industries in Ingham and Townsville, Australia were also arranged during the conference. Delegates have the opportunity to visit dryland sugarcane growing region, land care project, secondary schools to view first hand trade training facilities in agriculture and industrial training, public health units, irrigation areas, grazing properties, as well as the Australian Institute of Marine Science and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.
The 8th Annual Meeting of GFRAS and APEN International Conference was held last September 6-16, 2017 in Ingham and Townsville in the said country.