Africa Forum for Agricultural Advisory Services


Theme and sub-themes
of AAEW 2021


“Effective Agricultural Extension Systems for Sustainable Agripreneurship in Africa “

1. Innovative AEAS approaches for resilient and practical actions

Population growth, rapid urbanisation, and dietary changes are placing tremendous pressure on food systems, particularly in developing countries. Based on current income, population and consumption trends, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that, by 2050, some 50% more food will be needed to satisfy the extra demand compared to 2013 (Alexandratos and Bruinsma, 2012). The challenges posed by rapid growth in food demand are intensified by the effects of climate change on agricultural systems. Leveraging on technologies can contribute significantly to livelihoods within the agricultural sector with effective AEAS systems in place.

A number of innovative approaches have been introduced to enable agri-food systems actors to adapt and mitigate the effects and impacts of climate change as well emerging catastrophes. Promotion of such approaches requires innovative extension approaches. Multiple innovative AEAS models including digital extension, village agent models, market-oriented agriculture among others, that innovatively enable agri-food systems to meet the income, food, nutrition and climate smart farming objectives while building social and natural resilience of systems, are being experimented and some scaled out across Africa. Such innovations have moved beyond proof of concept and piloting, and are increasingly becoming routine practice.

This sub theme will focus on innovative AEAS models that are enabling farmers achieve their livelihood goals (income, food, nutrition) inclusively (gender responsive) while fostering resilience to climate change, emerging crises and shocks.

2. Towards professionalisation of AEAS systems in Africa: Where are we?

Professionalism at both systems and individual levels among providers and clients of AEAS along the agricultural value chain is critical for sustainable agripreneurship. According to Shelvy et al. (2014), professionalism in the workplace is a specific style of behaviour that influences the level of service delivery. In some professions (such as medicine, engineering, law and accounting etc.), there are clear systems and regulatory frameworks for members to be recognised as professionals. However, in agriculture the AEAS providers have only recently begun aspiring to professionalise the discipline. The benefit of professionalised practices is evident for both practitioners and beneficiaries/clients. Some fundamental requirements need to be in place in order to professionalise AEAS.

This sub theme will focus on: experiences and extent of operationalisation, institutionalisation, enforcements, and support to professionalisation across Africa; different professionalisation models adopted and their challenges; technical issues on standards, guidelines, ethics, regulation, processes, systems and structures; capacity development efforts towards professionalism of AEAS actors and systems; and appropriate governance and institutional arrangements for effective actor coordination under pluralistic extension systems including research-extension-farmer linkages.

3. Agro-industrialisation in the context of trade regimes: Implications for AEAS

The increased demand for agro-processed products due to rapid urbanisation offers opportunity for industrialisation in Africa, yet the continent continues to grow into a net food importer with an annual import bill estimated at $80 billion. Agro-processing in most African countries has remained low, at about 3-4% share of total GDP. The continent’s exports are dominated by raw agricultural materials.

The Africa Continent Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) has a potential to unite more than 1.2 billion people in a $2.5 trillion economic bloc to offer a market for agro-processed products. Intra-African trade in food and agricultural products is estimated to increase by 20-30%. This would provide increased employment, sustained growth and livelihoods for the most vulnerable agricultural value chain beneficiaries, especially women and youth.

However, the above aspirations will not be automatically realised given the long-standing disconnect between agricultural production and market requirements. Therefore, in order for the stated opportunities to be harnessed, it is critical to technically enhance the capacity of actors across the value chain to produce the required quality and quantity as per market requirements. The AEAS has a critical role to play in addressing these challenges and tapping into the opportunities.

This sub-theme therefore will focus on: understanding the link between AEAS, agro-industrialisation and negotiated trade regimes (bilateral and multi-lateral) on the continent; and exploring the catalytic actions to be undertaken to foster appreciation of AEAS’s critical function to enable African countries, small holder farmers, small and medium enterprises exploit the market opportunities under the various trade regimes and the agro-industrialisation agenda.

4. Harnessing agripreneurship opportunities for youth and women

Africa, with the youngest population globally and 50% of the agricultural labour force provided by women, continues to grapple with unemployment and/or underemployment. Efforts by governments to create new employment opportunities for the youth and women through “agripreneurship ”, are hampered by inadequate extension services amidst the complex socio-cultural categories of class, ethnicity and gender. These complexes result in inequitable delivery of AEAS. An effective agricultural extension system should have initiatives that are aimed at counteracting the disproportionate service delivery especially to the women and youth whose livelihoods are worst hit in times of severe shocks.

This theme therefore will focus on: AEAS approaches that integrate the disadvantaged groups of society in profitable agri-businesses; experiences and lessons on proven mechanisms used to harness heterogeneity within the social groups; and innovative agribusiness models for youth and women participation along agricultural value chains.

5. AEAS resilience to pandemics and emergencies: Lessons across Africa

The COVID-19 pandemic and several emergencies have caused immeasurable disruptions in the agriculture sector especially, the provision of AEAS. These disruptions are more evident in the context of distorted food production, disrupted food supply system and change in household consumption (demand). Indeed, the economic and social impact of these pandemics and emergencies on food security in Africa cannot be overemphasised. In Africa, the locust invasion, the COVID-19 pandemic, floods and droughts, the surge in mycotoxins in agricultural produce and many more calamities, have negatively affected food production, distribution and consumption. The strict mitigation measures and quarantines against pandemics and emergencies hinder the availability of effective AEAS. This theme therefore will focus on how to build resilient and responsive AEAS systems; policies and structures that support AEAS actors amidst pandemics and emergencies.