Arab Forum for Rural Advisory Services launched to catalyse advancement of extension and advisory services in NENA
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), in collaboration with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the Global Forum on Rural Advisory Services (GFRAS), have launched today the Arab Forum for Rural Advisory Services (AFRAS), working towards the acceleration of Rural Advisory Services (RAS) and inclusive and sustainable rural transformation.
“AFRAS can well become one important lever for the modernization of rural advisory services in the Near East and North Africa. It is an insightful example of collective action geared towards inclusive rural transformation. I encourage all existing and future members of the AFRAS community to engage actively with the AFRAS web platform making the most of the wealth of experiences, learning, networking and discussion opportunities it will harbour,” said Ahmad Mukhtar, FAO Senior Economist, in his opening statement.
AFRAS is a regional collaborative network dedicated to advancing extension and rural advisory services across Arab countries. It aims to foster networking, knowledge and information sharing and exchange of experience among RAS stakeholders from different sectors.
Extension and RAS play a key role in empowering small-scale farmers with the skills and practices they need to make informed decisions to address their productivity and profitability challenges and improve their livelihoods, hence contributing to rural transformation.
AFRAS was officially launched during a virtual side event held in the context of NERC37 Senior Officers Meeting. The event highlighted milestones in the journey towards establishment of AFRAS, its institutional structure, and also presented the new AFRAS web platform. The web platform will help in fostering networking, knowledge management, learning and exchange among RAS stakeholders, highlighting AFRAS commitment to catalysing positive change and sustainable development in rural communities.
The establishment of AFRAS took shape and received endorsement during three consecutive regional consultations organized respectively in June 2022, February 2023, and July 2023. These symposia brought together key extension and RAS stakeholders from the region including policymakers and representatives of regional and international organizations, RAS experts and champions. Together they reached consensus on crucial elements such as the vision, mission, values and principles, functions, and the roadmap for the establishment of the forum.
Dina Saleh, the Regional Director of the Near East, North Africa and Europe Division (NEN) in IFAD highlighted “A dedicated Arab Regional Advisory body such as AFRAS is long overdue and essential with the multiple challenges smallholders, in particular, are increasingly confronting. I am convinced that in collaboration with local stakeholders (government advisory agencies, inputs and service providers, processors, traders, etc.), AFRAS will play an important role in the Arab region to improve smallholder access to information, advisory services and markets. As IFAD we are proud to be part of this journey with FAO and other regional organisations for the establishment of AFRAS.”
"It is with great pleasure GFRAS welcomes AFRAS to the family of regional and subregional rural advisory services networks. With AFRAS we are 18 such networks, jointly constituting the global voice for pluralistic and demand driven agriculture extension and advisory services. As you all experience, food production systems are rapidly changing around the world due to demographics, climate change, conflicts, and economic developments. These changes lead to challenges that need to be addressed simultaneously and collectively. This is a daunting task both for the farming families and their advisors. Through knowledge sharing, advocacy, capacity building and network strengthening the GFRAS community help each other to address this. With the launching of AFRAS the engagement and commitment of the Arab world in this endeavor will be greatly strengthened," stated Carl Larsen, GFRAS Executive Secretary.
FAO, in collaboration with IFAD and GFRAS, has actively supported the incubation of AFRAS. This support involves facilitating the interactions among stakeholders at regional and country levels, as well as supporting the diverse technical, institutional, and organizational arrangements required for its operationalization, making it ready to be officially launched.
With the official launch, AFRAS is entering a dynamic phase, emphasizing community engagement, utilizing its web platform for knowledge exchange, and fostering collaboration among stakeholders. AFRAS is set to hold its inaugural annual meeting in the second half of 2024, providing a platform for sharing experiences, networking and advocacy, while emphasizing sustainability planning and continuous innovation in the field.