Innovative rural advisory services approaches

A volunteer farmer trainer in Uganda shows visitors her fodder demonstration plot


Since the decline of government-sponsored extension systems during the 1980s and 1990s, little attention has been given to rural advisory services. This is particularly a problem for agroforestry practices because they are knowledge-intensive and require considerable skills that most farmers lack, such as raising seedlings in a nursery, pruning trees and harvesting tree products. How to facilitate the spread of innovation and how to help farmers access outside information are key challenges for improving livelihoods.

Research questions

Our overall research question is: How can innovative extension approaches foster entrepreneurship, improve farmers' capacity to innovate, and facilitate the spread of agroforestry practices? More specifically, we examine:

  • What are the key factors affecting the impact of innovative extension approaches such as volunteer farmer extension programmes, rural resource centres and SMS market information systems?
  • How does the impact of innovative extension approaches vary by commodity, by land use system, by social setting and by region?




Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Cameroon, Malawi

Livestock feeding systems and market access

As part of the East African Dairy Development project, the World Agroforestry Centre is working to improve feeding systems of smallholder dairy farmers through introducing improved fodder shrubs, herbaceous legumes and grasses, and promoting feed conservation. Marketing is a key feature of these interventions, and the Centre facilitates the development of seed and nursery enterprises. It also helps farmers link to business development services along the value chain such as feed suppliers and seed companies. The use of volunteer farmer trainers as a dissemination pathway is being tested and the trainers are assisted to develop enterprises for marketing inputs (e.g. seed), products (e.g. fodder) and services (e.g. making silage) which they are demonstrating. The process by which farmer trainers become business service providers is being researched and their effectiveness in disseminating innovations assessed.

For more information see:

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Steven Franzel

Website links

East Africa Dairy Development Project