The idea of a portal on Agricultural Extension in South Asia emerged during the consultations on extension and advisory services organised by the APIRAS (Asia Pacific Islands Rural Advisory Services Network) at Los Banos, Philippines (14-15 September, 2011) and the GFRAS (Global Forum for Rural Advisory Services) at Nairobi, Kenya (13-18 November 2011).
AESA was formed in response to the demand for a network of those interested in extension and advisory services expressed in these meetings. This idea was further discussed during the 2012 GFRAS Annual Meeting at Manila, Philippines (26-28 September 2012).
Though South Asian countries have a long history of organising and reforming extension services during the last 4-5 decades, much needs to be done in terms of strengthening these considering the rapidly evolving agricultural and rural landscape. Though South Asian countries experienced robust economic growth and improvements in human development in the last two decades, poverty remains widespread in many areas. South Asia has the world's largest concentration of poor people (more than 500 million people live on less than $1.25 a day).
80% of South Asia's poor live in rural areas. Most depend on agriculture for their livelihood. Agricultural and rural development is key to eradicating poverty and creating conditions for sustainable and equitable growth. An effective and efficient extension and advisory service that offers a much broader support to rural producers (beyond knowledge on new technologies) is critical for agricultural development and poverty reduction. Commitment to pluralism is central to the discussion on extension reform as it is now widely accepted that no single actor or agency is best placed to offer the wide range of services required by the rural communities.
Extension faces challenging times in South Asia and extension professionals have to take a lead in shaping the future of extension and advisory services in the coming days. We hope a portal like this would be useful to share knowledge on different aspects related to extension practice and policy within the region and also to link all of us to new knowledge on extension and advisory service generated elsewhere.
We welcome all of you to share and contribute relevant publications and links to us so that we can keep on exchanging new knowledge and experiences in extension and advisory services (EAS) provision in the region and also collectively engage and influence policies relevant to EAS.
Rasheed Sulaiman V