AgriLink The role of advisory services in farmers’ decision making for innovation uptake: crop diversification. - AgriLink

The role of advisory services in farmers’ decision making for innovation uptake: crop diversification.

France, Gers
Region

Gers, France, is an agricultural district (Nuts 3) in South West of France. Gers is a highly agricultural and rural territory:  agriculture provides 12% of employment. It is the 8th French country (out of 100) in terms of field crops (CAO, 2017).  Since the early 2000s, the number of farms has dropped significantly (CAO, 2017): in 15 years, from 2002 to 2017, Gers lost 1,416 farms (a decline of nearly 20%). The average farm size has increased sharply, well above the national average, now standing at 86.5 hectares (against 63 hectares – AGRESTE, 2018). Gers is an agricultural area with a high level of crop diversification.

Region map

Agricultural diversification is important in terms of both production and outlets; some farms have access to numerous export markets, while others (1 out of 6 farms, especially in viticulture) sell their produce directly to consumers. In addition, 1 out of 3 farms has an official quality label; organic farming is particularly developed, covering 13% of the Utilized Agricultural Area (UAA) of the county.

Study focus

The study focuses on a marketing innovation, the diversification of production with the introduction of Chickpeas. As grain-legume plants, chickpeas fix atmospheric nitrogen, a major component of protein and a required nutrient for plants. They are therefore increasingly considered as a central “lever” in the achievement of a sustainable agriculture and food. Benefits are expected in terms of both agronomy (legumes can contribute to the reduction of nitrate fertilization, greenhouse gas emissions and risks of plant diseases, and to soil improvement, etc.) and health (as they provide vegetal amino acids, they can contribute to reducing diabetes and cardiovascular diseases).

Advisory services are faced with a dual challenge to support farmers in adopting crop diversification is a sustainable way. They need to fill a knowledge gap (there is a lack of technical and economic references about chickpea production) and an organizational gap (there is not yet a supply chain dedicated to chickpeas).

In this study, the aim is to better understand the role that various organizations have played in farmers’ decision to adopt chickpeas or not. The study is also informative as regards changes or strengthening of the balance of power, competition or collaboration between suppliers of advisory services..

Full report is available here.

Partner and responsible person contact

INRAE

Pierre Labarthe, pierre.labarthe@inrae.fr

National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and Environment (INRAE)

INRAE (formerly INRA) is France’s public National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and Environment. The team involved in AgriLink involves three research units from the division Sciences for Action and Development of the Institute. INRAE coordinates AgriLink; the team has experience in former EU projects on farm advice, including PRO AKIS, and published various papers on these issues.

Lessons learned
1 Advisory services are taken over by traders.
In the case of chick pea production, advisory services are taken over by traders, especially farmers’ cooperatives. Advice was integrated into commercial contracts that guaranteed an outlet for this new production. Farm advice was one of the several services they offered to farmers, alongside input supply and agricultural trade. These packages of services that cooperatives offered to farmers strengthened their position vis-à-vis other extension organizations (the Chamber of Agriculture for instance).
2 Farmers’ micro-AKIS reflect their relation with upstream and downstream actors.
Two micro-AKIS stand out, depending on the commercial strategies of farmers. There is a division between farmers who are members of a trade cooperative to which they sell their production and farmers who subscribed to a service cooperative and have a storage capacity on farm. Storers, on the other hand, tend to have a more diversified AKIS, including neighbours, cooperative advisors, and local exchange group. In addition to their neighbours and colleagues, farmers from the other group are confident in their cooperative technician who constitutes their main source of advice.

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