Panel discussion: How to reach the millions?


Panel discussion

Panel discussion


Kristin Davis (GFRAS), Rasheed Sulaiman (AESA, India), Xiangping Jia (Northwest Agriculture & Forest University, China)

See the key messages and conclusions, written by participants:

Key messages written by Andrea Siclari, SDC Switzerland:

1. How exactly do your systems in your countries reach the millions of smallholders?

In both India and China the RAS set-up is complex with some elements decentralized while others are kept at central level. India has only kept an advisory function at central level, while RAS is implemented by the states autonomously. The establishment of Farmer’s Organizations (FO) has been the key to reach the Millions in India. In China, the preconditions for an effective RAS system to reach out to large numbers of farmers have been land tenure security and access to market. Once these conditions were fulfilled RAS has enabled itself with a outreach capacities of the private sector.

2. What innovative strategies of India and China were presented regarding agricultural knowledge and innovation systems?

Again India has put in place a mechanism involving farmers in RAS and its shaping while in China farmers are not involved. In India FOs seem to be the answer to knowledge management, although their capacity remains very weak. This weakness is also recognized by GFRAS at a global level, but once strengthened the FOs can represent the link between farmers and research. In China the only recently established FOs are mainly used by input providers for distribution and for the government to access farmers. The panel agrees on the fact that the mandate of the extensionists has to be broadened. China sees a big potential in ICT to improve RAS knowledge transfer.

3. How is the private sector contributing to RAS?

Private sector is seen as a complement to public RAS, however implementation of the policies has proven a challenge. In China a conflict between public and private interest is evident, especially regarding environmental protection. The government needs to provide the regulatory framework and enforce a balance between these interests.  A possible solution is the Indian example of input dealers being trained by government schools. Another issue raised is the importance of large companies and the neglect of SME.

Key messages and conclusion written by Philaiphone Vongpraseuth, SDC Laos

  • Capacity of all actors
  • Ecological goals
  • Coordination of all actors to be strengthened
  • Farmers are the key group for RAS effectiveness evaluation
  • Dissemination of knowledge
  • Linking farmers to research
  • RAS is the key to bring all actors into one platform

Conclusion written by Antonio Dionico, AMMANI Philippines and his team

  • Farmer organizations can be important players in the RAS system, but they are not all the same and their capacities are often limited. The private sector can also play a major role but their profit and business objective have to be tempered.



MELA presents itself

Mela Planning

Mela Planning

Come join the MELA!

Participants of the SDC Face-to-Face Workshop in Hanoi have agreed to establish the Mekong Extension Learning Alliance, or MELA.

The theme of the Workshop was ‘Reaching the Millions’, which was highly relevant to planners and practitioners in the Mekong Region, which is home to 225 million people, more than 60% of whom are living in rural areas.

The Mekong River passes through five countries in South East Asia: Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. Agricultural extension and rural advisory services in this Region have many features in common. Investment, trade, expertise and labour are flowing from one country to another, while social and environmental impacts are also crossing national boundaries.

Four of the five Mekong countries were represented at the workshop. These participants recognised the value of regional networking and have agreed to meet again to share experience and explore opportunities for further cooperation. Together they aim to better serve the millions of small farmers in the Region, so that rural families may overcome poverty and have better livelihoods.

The name MELA is very appropriate for this network, being a Sanskirt word meaning ‘a gathering’ or ‘large meeting’.

Representatives from Laos have agreed to convene the first meeting of MELA in August this year with support from the LURAS project[1].  Meanwhile, the representatives from Vietnam agreed to create a Facebook Page as a channel of communication[2].  Those from Cambodia and Myanmar will act as focal points for their countries, and invitations will also be sent to relevant organisations in Thailand, which were not represented at the workshop in Hanoi.

The first meeting of MELA will have three objectives:

  • Define common interests of members
  • Discuss a draft charter for the network
  • Agree a work plan for next 12 months

The outcome of the first MELA meeting will be shared at the Annual Meeting of GFRAS, the Global Forum on Rural Advisory Services, to be held in Kyrgyzstan in September this year.

[1] Lao Upland Rural Advisory Service (LURAS), funded by SDC and implemented by the Lao Department of Agricultural Extension and Cooperative (DAEC), in collaboration with Helvetas and SNV.

[2] The page is already online at this address:

Watch the first MELA video:

MELA representatives

MELA representatives


The new MELA crew

The new MELA crew

Introduction speaker Rasheed Sulaiman (India)


Dr Rasheed Sulaiman V is Director, Centre for Research on Innovation and Science Policy, Hyderabad, India ( He coordinates the AESA (Agricultural Extension in South Asia) Network ( . Rasheed was trained as an agricultural extension specialist and is an internationally recognized authority on the reform of agricultural extension and the applications of innovation systems framework in agricultural research and extension. He was previously a Senior Scientist (Agricultural Extension) with the National Centre for Agricultural Economics and Policy Research (NCAP) of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research in New Delhi. Rasheed is currently the Chair of the Steering Committee of GFRAS (

Input: Learnings from SDC projects

Have a look at the presentation about “Learnings from SDC projects” (by Stefanie Kaegi)

Discussion points after the presentation (by Renate Lefroy, SDC Switzerland):

  • Why did demand side support not lead to beeter effectiveness or higher sustainability?
  • Where are the possible traps of demand-side financing?
  • You need pre-existing farmer organisations NOT create new groups for the purpose of increasing demand-side
  • Why does upscaling of participatory approaches lead to weakening of participative approaches?
  • Training without institutionalization of the training content is not effective
  • Research framework is very production-oriented: Dilemma between expectations and definitions
  • What is the consequence of reluctance of governments to finance RAS, if donors do it already?
  • Why should demand and supply side interventions be independent from each other?