Research and Extension

Agricultural research and extension systems are central to unlock the potential of agricultural innovation and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Agricultural research, extension and advisory services are essential for increasing productivity and promoting sustainable agricultural growth and alleviating poverty.
FAO supports its member countries by providing policy advice and technical assistance, sharing knowledge and developing institutional and technical capacities so that they can transform their agricultural research systems and extension and advisory services, thereby unlocking the full potential of agricultural innovation.

FAO’s role in Research and Extension

Research and extension systems play a crucial role in agricultural and rural development. Moreover, they are central to realizing the potential of agricultural innovation.

In developing countries, innovation can address most of the challenges facing agriculture and natural resources management. Many developing countries, however, don’t have sufficient resources to properly develop their capacity to innovate. More specifically, the activities of agricultural research institutions are often affected by scarce investments and poor financial management, as well as limitations in technology transfer strategies. Similarly, extension systems are often under-resourced and not sufficiently coordinated and use outdated approaches and methods.

FAO aims to address this gap by contributing to transform agricultural innovation systems (AIS) of its member countries. By AIS we mean all the individuals, organizations and enterprises that bring new products, processes and forms of organization into use to achieve food security, economic development and sustainable natural resource management.

FAO works to develop an enabling environment and to enhance national agriculture research institutions and rural extension services by providing policy advice and technical assistance to member countries, by promoting studies, policy dialogue, networks and partnerships at all levels, and by supporting capacity development for rural knowledge institutions. In particular, FAO focuses on strengthening inclusive AIS to address the needs of small producers to fully realize the potential of agricultural innovation in family farming. 

To achieve this goal, FAO has adopted a systemic approach encompassing 5 major areas of work:


FAO supports the strengthening of capacities in FAO member countries using the AIS concept in shaping their institutions and their policies. This includes the AIS, its sub-systems at all levels and the respective institutions (farmer organizations, advisory systems and its services, research institutions, private enterprises, etc.) using the FAO capacity development framework and emphasizing stakeholder ownership and participatory processes. FAO is also acting as a coordinator to facilitate the activities of the Tropical Agricultural Platform (TAP),  a multilateral dynamic facilitation mechanism, which promotes improved coherence and greater impact of Capacity Development (CD) for AIS in tropical countries. To advance its mission, TAP has developed a Common Framework on CD for AIS. The three main products of the Framework are the Conceptual Background, the Guidance Note on Operationalization and the Synthesis Document.   


Through the development of tools and methodologies, FAO promotes networking, knowledge sharing and interaction of multiple actors in AIS and its sub-systems. FAO supports member states in applying Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), such as TECA and VERCON, to facilitate stakeholder dialogue and accessibility of information.


FAO assists its member countries to develop their capacities in agricultural biotechnologies and related issues through technical cooperation and training and provides advice to them on the development of national biotechnology strategies and biosafety frameworks. 


FAO also promotes agricultural R&D through partnerships with a wide number of other international partners, including the  The Global Forum on Agricultural Research and Innovation (GFAR), the CGIAR Independent Science for Development Council (ISDC) of the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), and the CGIAR Standing Panel on Impact Assessment (SPIA), each of which has its Secretariat hosted by FAO in Rome. FAO was also a founding member of the Global Forum of Rural Advisory Services (GFRAS).


FAO promotes inclusive agriculture innovation for its member countries, focusing on smallholder farmers and their organizations, through provision of policy advice, including advice on investment requirements, directly to member countries and assists in developing the programmes, strategies and approaches needed for their implementation. FAO also prepares policy studies such as the flagship publication on “Innovation in Family Farming” which was launched on 16 October 2014 as part of its State of Food and Agriculture (SOFA) series.

More on this topic

Share this page