Rural institutional development

Sociological study of the degree of affiliation of the Rural Advisory Service network to farmers in Kyrgyzstan

SCS system
The Rural Advisory Service (RAS) system is an advisory service consisting of seven legally autonomous oblast-level RAS organizations (regional RAS), which are managed by organizational councils and led by regional managers. Each regional RAS is registered or is in the process of registration as a public association.

RAS was formed and started as a donor funded project in 1998. Since then, it has been in the process of constant institutional development all the time. Above all, this process was driven by donors wishing to see RAS as an association of seven independent regional extension services in which farmers play a leading role. Later, in view of the upcoming cessation of donor funding, RAS management began organizing further decentralization of the service and reducing costs.

Key facts
Years of implementation:   2006
Place of implementation:   Chui, Talas, Naryn, Issyk-Kul, Batken, Osh and Jalal-Abad regions
Donor:   Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation

Objective of the project
This study was carried out to analyze and assess the degree of ownership of the Rural Advisory Service (RAS) to farmers through the prism of their own perception.

Project task
The main objective of the study was to "assess in an impartial and objective way how deeply the network of rural advisory services is actually managed and owned by farmers."

The main activity of the project
The study covered 700 people in 15 districts across all seven regions of the country. In total, the study was carried out in 97 villages, which is 30% of villages in which RAS is present. In the implementation of the project, almost all the main methods of conducting sociological research were applied: document analysis, desk analysis, observation, questionnaire survey, in-depth and semi-structured interviews, focus groups.

Project results
The study made it clear that for farmers who are RAS members, the quality, access and efficiency of service delivery are more important than participation in management and control. Farmers, in most cases, see themselves as recipients of RAS services as an external entity, but not as an association they own. The survey results indicate that more than 75% of farmers chose to become RAS members in order to gain access to its services at a discount, and less than 7% joined in order to become eligible to participate in RAS policy discussions and activities.

Of course, passive membership is characteristic of many associations, but the lack of formal channels for members' control of activities and the absence of any foreseeable attempts to achieve this give us reason to assume that this element of "belonging" is insignificant.

The surveyed farmers believe that the majority of the RAS beneficiaries are groups of farmers with an average income. RAS works with the poor, mainly on behalf of other donors, or as part of special tasks such as forming self-help groups to obtain loans.

The overall level of satisfaction of farmers with RAS work is high. Farmers value the advice and knowledge provided by RAS staff. Farmers view RAS as the single most important source of information.