FAO’s Office of Knowledge Exchange Research and Extension (OEK) organized an Expert Consultation on Communication for Development: Meeting Today’s Agriculture and Rural Development Challenges, that was held at FAO headquarters from 14 to 16 September, 2011. The main purpose was to identify challenges and strategic actions to maximize ComDev contribution to the agriculture and rural development sector, while positioning it in the work of the Organization.
The Expert Consultation was organized by the FAO ComDev team in collaboration with the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and the International Institute for Communication and Development (IICD). The event brought together 32 international ComDev experts and representatives from development agencies, donors, NGOs, communication networks, rural institutions and the academic community. In addition, a number of FAO specialists participated as observers and contributed to specific sessions.
Objective and Expected Results
The overall purpose of the Expert Consultation was to assess the role of ComDev in relation to emerging challenges and to identify priorities and strategic initiatives, to position ComDev in the development agenda and to maximize its contribution to agriculture and sustainable rural development.
The expected outcomes of this Expert Consultation included:
- Key issues, challenges and trends identified in relation to the application of ComDev in the agricultural and rural development sector.
- Learning practices and innovative applications of ComDev to agriculture and rural development shared.
- Experiences and perspectives on the institutionalization of ComDev services into agricultural and rural development policies gathered.
- Priorities and strategic interventions to enhance the effectiveness of ComDev in agriculture and rural development identified at the institutional and field level.
- Prospects and key initiatives to position ComDev in the agricultural sector identified, and collaboration among the various partners strengthened.
- Potential partner international organizations, able to implement and support priority ComDev programmes and follow up actions, identified.
For more information see the concept note of the Expert Consultation
Format, structure and themes of the Consultation
The sessions were designed as interactive discussions and group work based on the active contribution of all experts involved. The first two days were structured into four half-day thematic sessions, addressing the following key topics:
Session 1. Communication for rural development today
Session 2. Key areas of intervention for ComDev in the agricultural sector
Session 3. Challenges and opportunities for ComDev in the agricultural sector
Session 4. Enhancing ComDev impact on agricultural development
The third and final day of the consultation was designed to move from reflection to action. The last session was in fact titled “ComDev in action: the way forward” during which the experts focussed on issues related to:
- Mainstreaming and funding of ComDev
- Priorities and follow-up actions
- Mechanisms for collaboration and joint initiatives
For more information see the complete agenda
The variety of inputs emerging from group discussions were consolidated into a number of common recommendations which, in turn, were collectively prioritized and further refined into four final recommendations
Conclusions and final recommendations
Participants identified key challenges and strategic areas for ComDev support to agriculture and rural development such as capacity development for rural institutions and projects, interface with other approaches such as knowledge management, convergence between mass and community media, need for regulatory frameworks, and access to funding. Special attention was given to the need for documenting ComDev impact in the field and for mainstreaming ComDev into agricultural policies and programs.
The experts concurred that FAO should take a leading role in mainstreaming ComDev in the rural development agenda. Four main recommendations were prioritized for follow-up by FAO and partner institutions:
- International rural development organizations and national institutions should include communication for development in their vision, policy, and strategic framework
- Make ComDev relevant and compelling to key audiences (FAO, academia, other institutions)
- Establish a multi-institutional alliance to promote ComDev principles and practices within agricultural innovation systems and translate these into actions at the country level
- Facilitate national ComDev networks that involve practitioners, academicians and stakeholders, connecting theory, research and practice, and systematically improve standards of programs
In consideration of its commitment to improving the livelihoods of small farmers, the expert consultation urged FAO to take an active role in promoting ComDev as a key element in agricultural and rural development policies and programs. In particular, the participants encouraged FAO to adopt a corporate ComDev strategy to ensure stakeholders’ engagement and increased effectiveness of FAO’s work in member countries.