Research & Extension

Expert Consultation on Agricultural Innovation Systems and Family Farming 19-21 March 2012, Rome, Italy

An Expert Consultation was organized at FAO Headquarters on 19-21 March 2012 with about 40 participants, from 14 different countries. Roughly 40% of the participants were invited experts while the remainder came from different FAO divisions and its regional offices. A highly participatory approach was used throughout the meeting to encourage full engagement of participants in discussions.


The general objective of the Consultation was to provide FAO with guidance and inputs on developing the major study, specifically covering areas such as the state of agriculture innovation and key issues and gaps in knowledge on agricultural innovation.

Major Conclusions from the Expert Consultation Meeting

The Expert Consultation:

1. Supported the proposal to prepare a major study on AIS that will focus on family farming. It will be important to define and clarify the precise meaning of key terms, such as innovation, AIS, smallholders and family farming. The family farmers should not be considered in isolation but within the context of rural households.

2. Emphasized that the study should focus on the policy level and policy-making, considering also the entry points in AIS where policy-makers can make a difference.

3. Emphasized that the study should also focus on the enabling environment, as this and the policy arena are key areas where FAO can make a unique contribution to the strengthening of AIS to benefit family farmers and build on recent related work by its partners, such as the World Bank.

4. Provided important insights into the current state of thinking and practice regarding key issues that can influence whether family farmers benefit from the AIS approach, i.e.

  • Level of organization of farmers – the importance of family farmers organizing themselves and the crucial role of these organizations in AIS was emphasized throughout the meetinga.
  • Characterization of actors in AIS – identifying the important players in AIS as well as their incentives
  • Research systems – ensuring that they focus on the needs and demands of family farmers
  • Extension and advisory services – ensuring that they are accountable to family farmers and provide access to appropriate and useful knowledge, and that communication is two-way
  • Linkage of family farmers to marketsf.
  • Engagement of the private sector and partnerships between the public and private sectors
  • Degree of empowerment and participation of family farmers in AIS
  • Funding and investment strategies – new funding mechanisms may be critical for enhancing AIS
  • Measuring and monitoring impact – although potentially difficult in practice, there was agreement that it was important to attempt to measure the impact of interventions aiming to strengthen AIS to benefit family farmers.

5. Suggested that the study pays considerable attention to best practices and lessons learned – using case studies from practical experiences to illustrate both what has worked and what has not.

6. Provided information on a wide range of resources, including case studies, ongoing projects and publications, that will be useful in preparing the study.



To see a set of photos from the Consultation, please click here.

For the final report of the Expert Consultation click here.

Read more about OEKR’s focus on Agricultural Innovation in Family Farming

E-mail Conference "Agricultural Innovation Systems in Family Farming" June, 2012

FAO hosted a moderated e-mail conference from 4 June to 1 July 2012 on "Ensuring the full participation of family farmers in agricultural innovation systems: Key issues and case studies". Read more...

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