The agricultural industries in the Pacific region are largely made up of smallholder farming households. As agriculture becomes more commercialised and production constraints increase, the need for sound agriculture advice and support has never been greater for these farmers (GFRAS, 2015). Farmers require information to be able to sustainably increase productivity and enhance profitability in the face of climate change, climate extremes and rural out-migration.
Extension services are aimed at helping farmers and their households achieve efficiency and profitability. Agriculture extension in the Pacific islands, since colonial times, has been vested with government departments and provided as a free service. However, over the years, this system has faced shortcomings in delivering services efficiently and effectively. This has been due to a combination of funding and staffing constraints and the structural limitation of government based systems to address the needs of increasingly commercially orientated smallholder farmers.
Alternative approaches are needed to supply Pacific island farmers with the information they require to effectively respond to commercial and environmental challenges. In recent years Farmer Organisations (FOs) have contributed to filling the widening information gap – often complementing, and in collaboration with, government services. This Policy Brief examines the importance of improving farmers’ access to relevant useable information and how FOs are helping in this regard through their field services. The case is made for such efforts to be supported by public funds, including aid donors.