Three-quarters of the world’s poorest billion people live in rural areas, and the vast majority depend on agriculture for their livelihoods and survival. Encouraging the growth of the agricultural sector is therefore one of the most effective ways of tackling poverty and reducing hunger and malnutrition. Smallholder farmers, fisherfolk and livestock keepers produce 50–80 per cent of the staple foods consumed in developing countries, but many are inadequately served by research, extension and advisory services. These rural producers need support so that they can improve their knowledge and skills and take advantage of new technologies, policies and market opportunities.
Revitalising extension and advisory services was the focus of a landmark conference held in Nairobi in November 2011. The International Conference on Innovations in Extension and Advisory Services attracted over 450 delegates from 85 countries. It brought together farmers, extension agents, scientists, politicians, policymakers and representatives of development organizations. Their aim was to share knowledge and experiences, and identify ways of transforming extension and advisory services for the benefit of smallholder farmers.