This system harnesses the ‘wisdom of the crowd’ and integrates farmers with extension professionals, researchers, agricultural educators and private providers to share and develop knowledge and information. It is a system through which farmers clearly identify their issues and opportunities and that then promotes shared learning and mutual support to achieve outcomes that can benefit all stakeholders.
AKIS commonly involves facilitating discussion and inquiry by farmers and the range of other stakeholders, in an environment where outcomes are not pre-set. Importantly it recognises that farmers have (or can access) knowledge which provides a key contribution, which can help in devising workable solutions and outcomes for their individual situations.
The approach is most often demand driven via the empowerment of farmers who “own” their role and in doing so it ensures their individual needs are met. By creating an interface between the range of stakeholders, it fosters collaborative input to directly meet the needs of the farmers that are involved.
“The farmers must (in the process) first learn about, define and validate their problems and then they also need to feel some responsibility for finding solutions. The process encourages farmers to use their own experience and knowledge, but the key point of difference is that once their problems are clearly defined, it motivates them to access the expertise and knowledge from other sources and stakeholders that are part of the system.”
Importantly the approach can also involve a broad range of private sector actors or stakeholders, who can provide different roles and input into the system. Farmers and other rural stakeholders are genuine partners in the process, rather than recipients of it.
Where government or private funding is being provided, AKIS can be a process to ensure the initiative genuinely meets the needs of the farmer stakeholders and whilst doing so, create synergies and opportunities to better leverage any investment or resource, by harnessing the wisdom and support of the crowd.
Where practice change is an objective, it is more likely to occur if the farmers (or other targeted stakeholders) have ownership of the problem and the possible solutions. So, for success in any Research, Development and Extension activity, AKIS approaches have proven it is beneficial to allow farmers to be involved in defining their problems and hence in owning them.
Any initiative that is about creating a change in behaviour (e.g. farming practices) could benefit from considering some form of AKIS approach. When extension programs promote genuine and active participation of farmers in Research and Development processes, another key benefit is that it enables the stakeholders/actors in Research and Development to have a greater understanding and ownership of key problems, an ability to test their work and combining this with extension policies and tools; it can maximise the accessibility of information and ideas to and from farmers, in the development of workable solutions.
For Further Information
Extension Science: Information Systems in Agricultural Development. Niels Roling