What Is Agricultural Consultant;What Does It Do

Agricultural Consultant and advisory services play a large role in the development of world agriculture and are of great importance for the world economy. The most recent large survey of agricultural advisory services in the world, conducted in 1988–1989. FAO (FAO, Food and Agriculture Organization – Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations), has covered 550 thousand employees in 108 countries.

In it, in particular, it was noted that in 1988 more than $ 6 billion, or about $ 8.5 thousand per person employed, were allocated to finance 207 such organizations in FM countries [1]. Since then, the need for agricultural advisory services has only increased. At the same time, the provision of services has been considered in a wider context – as an important part of the system for obtaining and disseminating innovative knowledge.

The essence of consulting activity is to provide non-material assistance to people in solving problems with which they cannot cope on their own. The advisory services that carry out such activities in agriculture are part of the system for obtaining and transferring the agricultural knowledge and information necessary for efficient production. The relationship between the consulting service and agricultural science can be very close, since the knowledge transferred by the consulting service is often obtained by agricultural science in the process of solving the problems of rural producers, who were identified and formulated by the service personnel during their interaction with the latter. In addition, the service is closely linked to the agricultural secondary vocational and higher education system.

Agricultural Consultants service

In the term ” Agricultural Consultants service”Many experts put different meanings in accordance with their ideas about its goals and objectives. In the narrowest sense, the goal of the agricultural information and consulting service is seen in the dissemination of information that helps to increase the efficiency of specific production processes. In a broader interpretation, the goal of the agricultural information and consulting service is to increase the efficiency of economic activity and, thus, to increase the income level of rural producers. In the broadest interpretation, the agricultural information and consulting service is designed to provide continuous education to an adult rural audience, including commodity producers, families, youth, the local community, and the development of agriculture or the regional community.

To better understand why there are such differences in the understanding of the goals and objectives of the agricultural information and consulting service, it is necessary to recall the history of the development of modern services and consider their types. This story begins approximately from the first third of the 19th century, when the most widespread countries in Western Europe began to widely disseminate democratic values ​​and ideas of education and populism. The consequence of this was the emergence of a movement that brought together the best representatives of all sectors of society, who sought to selflessly convey the latest knowledge and skills to members of the poorest and most undeveloped segments of society. The impetus for the creation of agricultural services was the catastrophic crop failure of potatoes in Europe in 1845.

The first agricultural service was Irish: in Ireland, the negative effects of crop failure were particularly serious, since potatoes prevailed in the diet of the local population. Earl Clarendon, who became governor of Ireland in 1847, sent an official letter to the President of the Royal Agricultural Society of Ireland (founded in 1841) about the need to search and send lecturers to the most affected areas of crop failure. Their task would be to tell and show small farmers how to improve the cultivation of potatoes, as well as other types of root crops. Lecturers were found, trained and directed to the specified areas. The system worked for four years. It was financed half by landowners and half at the expense of charitable donations. The lack of funds was covered from the funds of the government[2] .

So began the first stage of development of information and consulting services, which can be called educational. During this period, the term ” extension ” appeared in England , which was commonly used in conjunction with the “university extension” (“university extension of knowledge” – approximate translation) and was understood as the distribution of knowledge by university teachers. The earliest action of the extension movementbelong to the 1840s, when James Stewart, a professor at the University of Cambridge, began giving lectures to members of women’s associations and working clubs in the north of England (in this connection, he is often called the father of “university extension”). In 1871, Stewart turned to leadership Cambridge University with the proposal to organize centers for lecturing to the public under the auspices of the university. In 1873, Cambridge approved a system of such centers. In 1876, his example was followed by the University of London, and in 1878 – Oxford University. This activity by the 1880s. It has already been characterized as an “extension motion” [3] .

Similar movements swept across Western Europe. In Germany from the mid-1850s. (first in Hesse and West Prussia) itinerant lecturers appeared who operated under the auspices of agricultural extension societies. Usually such lecturers traveled around the farms during the warm season — they read lectures and gave advice to farmers, and during the winter they taught at the agricultural school, teaching the sons of farmers. Although officially the lecturers were representatives of non-state societies, their work was financed from the state treasury, and the lecturers’ councils were free for farmers [4] .

In Russia, a similar movement in the same period was called “going to the people.” The ideas of this movement further influenced the creation and development of the public agronomy system, the ancestor of which was A. V. Chayanov.

We indicate the main features of the information and consulting service of the educational type:

  • The aim of the activity was to improve the living and working conditions of the poorest and most undeveloped segments of society (including people living in rural areas) through training (enlightenment);
  • The target group was members of these sectors of society who understand their problems and want to actively participate in changing the situation (in rural areas they were representatives of small, mostly natural farms);
  • The whole society represented by individual active and enlightened citizens and charitable organizations acted as consultants;
  • the organizational system was built on the basis of “knowledge circles”, universal educational institutions and educational organizations;
  • only transfer of knowledge through training was envisaged, services of any other kind were lacking;
  • tuition fees, as a rule, were absent or were minimal.

The essence of the information and consulting activities of the educational type is the development of the poorest and underdeveloped segments of society by providing charitable assistance to representatives of these layers in solving their problems through training.

The origin of the information and advisory service in agriculture as an independent service (eng, agricultural extension service– agricultural advisory service) associated with the agrarian crisis of the late XIX century, when against the background of the industrial revolution, the rapid development of science and technology and the wide use of their achievements in all spheres of human activity, on the one hand, and the increased demand for agricultural raw materials and food products – on the other hand, the backwardness of patriarchal agricultural production became particularly noticeable, retarding the development of other industries. An additional impetus to the development of agriculture and information consulting services was given by the First World War, when the problem of ensuring the food security of a country involved in hostilities took on particular importance.

This period includes the creation of state-owned or state-supported structures of information and consulting services in agriculture in the UK, USA, Russia and other countries. IKS is beginning to be considered as an instrument of agrarian policy, which is of great importance for the development of agriculture. So, in 1896 in Bavaria, the system of transfer of agricultural knowledge was built as a public service. At the beginning of the XX century. in Scotland, three agricultural colleges in the form of independent regional institutions were created and funded by the state represented by the Ministry of Agriculture of Scotland in order to provide training and advice to farmers (they were later merged into the Scottish Agricultural College). In 1914 in the United States, the Smith-Lever Act was adopted on the creation of the Cooperative Extension Service under the patronage of the Department of Agriculture. The basis of the information and advisory service were universities created in accordance with the federal Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890. (so-called land-grant universities).

 

Such services, which can be called academic-type services , have the following features:

  • the purpose of the activity is to improve the living conditions and increase the efficiency of the work of the representatives of the rural community through special training, as well as to stimulate (motivate) the population to make these improvements;
  • the target group is the local (regional) rural community, all its members, without exception;
  • as consultants are professionally trained specialists, employees of state organizations and institutions;
  • The organizational information and consulting service is built on the basis of universal scientific and educational institutions and includes a system of local and regional offices for working with clients, as well as applied scientific, laboratory, pedigree, sanitary-epidemiological and other institutions;
  • knowledge transfer occurs through specialized training, professional counseling, and provision of scientifically based information;
  • The client is an active participant in the process of creating and sharing knowledge, there is a steady ongoing feedback service with customers.

The essence of information and advisory activities of the academic type is the development of rural areas (rural community) by providing state assistance in the form of training and counseling to rural residents in solving their problems of great public importance.

In the name of this kind of activity in different countries, one way or another sounds the motive of learning (spreading knowledge) or assistance. For example, in the Netherlands, the word voorlichting (road lighting) is used, in Germany – Berating (assistance in the form of advice), in France – vulgarisation (simplification), in Spain – capacitacion (improvement of skills), in Austria – Förderung (assistance, promotion), etc.

Professor Van den Ban (the Netherlands), one of the world’s most famous experts in the field of agricultural consulting, defines ICS as a service that is designed to “assist rural producers in forming opinions and making informed decisions by disseminating information” [6] . This modern widespread definition requires additions, since it speaks only of rural producers (in the original – farmers), but there is no talk of training and innovation and the active role of the service entrusted to it is completely invisible. The adjusted definition could be as follows. Information and Advisory Service –It is a service that assists villagers in identifying and analyzing problems related to their activities in rural areas, in forming opinions, making and implementing decisions by providing them with the necessary information, training and encouraging the use of innovations. This concept is close to the concept formulated by Maunder as early as 1973: “… a service or system that, through training procedures, helps farmers improve production methods and technologies, increase production efficiency and income, improve living standards, raise social and educational standards of rural life “ [7] .

Professor Van den Ban specifies the three main functions of ICS, which carry out activities of an academic type [8] :

  • technology transfer to agriculture to increase production sustainability;
  • transfer of management skills and abilities in order to mobilize and organize the interaction of producers, their groups, certain rural social groups and rural communities in general;
  • knowledge transfer, social capital increase and rural community sustainability.

It is necessary to pay attention to the following important points. During the period when academic services appeared, the rural population was actually an agricultural population, and no distinction was made between these concepts. The main clients of the service were people employed in multi-product small-scale farms. The ICS of an academic type carried out continuous monitoring of rural problems and initiated changes for development, while maintaining the “educational spirit” in its work.

The set of tasks facing the services of different countries was, of course, different. For example, in accordance with the 1944 Agricultural Law, the main tasks assigned to the National Agricultural Advisory Service (NAAS) of Great Britain were as follows:

  • give advice to rural producers to help them make the best use of their resources and improve their standard of living;
  • to cooperate in the framework of consulting activities with organizations related to agriculture, in particular the National Union of Farmers, product marketing councils;
  • conduct research on the problems faced by rural producers, and also develop and apply research results;
  • give advice to the minister on the technical implications of the policy.

It should be noted that the term “extension” began to gain popularity around the world and began to be applied not only in relation to agriculture, as services with similar goals (the spread of so-called non-formal education – delivery of nonformal education) began to appear in other industries. In industry, industrial extension services (industrial extension) have emerged, in rural areas, rural development extension services, in the field of health care, extension health services (health extension services), etc. True, by that time agricultural information and consulting services had already entered the next stage of development.

A new stage in the development of information and consulting activities in agriculture, which led to the mass emergence of other types of services, came after World War II. In agriculture, the most developed countries under the influence of scientific and technological progress, there was a process of specialization and concentration of production, increasing the intensity and efficiency of production. At the same time, the countryside was being transformed, and rural communities were changing. Agriculture has reached a relatively high level of development. Now rural producers had not to teach basic knowledge, but to improve their skills, not to identify and explain the problems facing them, but to help in making decisions on many very specific issues.

The field of activity of state organizations is narrowing, the center of development interests is transferred to the sphere of regional policy. Unlike the previous period, when the main thing was the academic type of information and consulting activity, during the implementation of which the state assumed all costs, since it was about the interests of social development, now that agriculture has reached a satisfactory level of development, the state is trying to “leave” from agrarian economy. The state seeks to support the functioning of the market system in rural areas, strengthening and modifying its functioning, reducing to the maximum its support for individual groups of producers. Its place is largely occupied by non-state commercial organizations that conduct activities of a consulting type.

We indicate the main features of the information and consulting service of the consulting (consulting) type :

  • the purpose of the activity is to increase the efficiency of individual enterprises by providing them with information and consulting services;
  • the target group is specialized agricultural enterprises;
  • knowledge transfer occurs through specialized training, professional counseling, and provision of scientifically based information;
  • organizational service is built on the basis of organizations of any kind with the ability to provide professional information and consulting services;
  • as consultants are professionally trained professionals;
  • The service provides an integrated set of paid services.

The essence of the information and consulting activities of the consulting (consulting) type is to assist rural producers in making decisions by providing information and advice. Solving client’s problems occurs through the provision of information, improvement of his qualifications in making decisions, and conducting special scientific research.

Both public and private organizations can provide such assistance. When it comes to improving the efficiency of agricultural sectors in general and carrying out measures of the state agricultural policy, it is possible to provide information and advice to all enterprises on a fully or partially free basis (at the expense of the state budget). This does not change the essence of the information and consulting activities of the consulting type. Services that provide information and consulting services can be both free and paid. This is a crucial point for determining the type of information and consulting activities.

In the homeland of the extension movement, in England, the state agricultural advisory service ADAS was privatized among the first in the world. Representative of ADAS management R. Densi in a report made at the International Symposium “Information and Advisory Services in the 21st Century”, held in Great Britain in 1997, said that ADAS service ceased to exist as extension service in the generally accepted meaning of this concept in 1987 city, i.e. from the moment when payment for its services was introduced.

There is an opinion that state organizations have no advantages when conducting information and consulting activities of a consulting type for a fee. A survey conducted among OECD member countries in 1992 confirmed that farmers and other clients who use consulting services on a fee basis are usually more satisfied with the products they receive and their benefits. In the research report, among the main advantages were a greater market orientation and expansion of market oriented programs; more efficient and rational use of the resources of the consulting service; higher level services and advice; more motivated staff; providing a better “measurement” of demand for specific consulting services, etc.

Further development of the division of labor in any type of activity leads to the fact that certain types of production activities are becoming more focused. In order to deal with them, deeper and more highly specialized knowledge and skills are required. This knowledge and skills are often lacking in the employees of a particular enterprise. At the enterprise, there are activities that are carried out with insufficiently high efficiency. If the problem of insufficiently high efficiency cannot be solved with the help of internal transformations, for example, changes in interfarm relations, additional training or counseling, and investing additional funds in its solution is not economically feasible, then the problem may become chronic.

It is necessary to minimize the scope of this type of activity or to abandon it altogether (which is often impossible), or to use the services of an external organization. In the latter case, the company transfers certain types of internal business activities (for example, accounting, statistical and other reporting, information systems support, etc.) to the external organization, which can provide higher efficiency and quality of this work. This phenomenon in modern literature has been called “outsourcing” (from the English. support of information systems, etc.) in the management of an external organization that can provide a higher efficiency and quality level of this work. This phenomenon in modern literature has been called “outsourcing” (from the English. support of information systems, etc.) in the management of an external organization that can provide a higher efficiency and quality level of this work. This phenomenon in modern literature has been called “outsourcing” (from the English.outsourcing – using an external source / resource).

Outsourcing, despite its seeming novelty, is not a new phenomenon in agriculture. For example, assistance to farmers in maintaining accounting records has been provided by the Danish information and consulting service since the 1920s. However, in modern conditions it is of particular importance. The wide distribution of outsourcing deals shows the success achieved with it.

These processes have led to the emergence in agriculture of the following type of information and consulting service, which can be called an integration type service .

Its main features are:

  • the purpose of the activity is to increase the efficiency of the enterprise-client by taking over the management of some auxiliary types of non-production activities of the enterprise;
  • The main target group is highly specialized agricultural enterprises;
  • transfer of skills and abilities to the client in the field covered by outsourcing does not occur;
  • organizational information and consulting service is built on the basis of private enterprises, unions, cooperatives, etc .;
  • The service provides a highly specialized distributed set of services.

The essence of the information and consulting activities of the integration type is to assist rural producers in solving their problems by assuming the execution of certain functions.

It is important to note that it is a question of performing only auxiliary functions, and not, for example, marketing of products. Suppose consultants provide their services in the following areas of activity: preparation and verification of financial statements, financial analysis of economic activities, economic analysis and forecasting, financial strategy issues. This work can be completely transferred to a consulting firm – in this case we are talking about information and consulting activities of an integration type.

Speaking about the types of information and consulting activities in agriculture, it should be understood that these four types of activities do not replace one type with another in the course of historical development, as it may seem, due to the chosen form of presentation. On the contrary, they usually existed and, apparently, will exist for a long time at the same time, having their own goals and methods for achieving these close, but not completely coinciding goals.

In addition, it should be noted that in the world it is rare to find an agricultural information and consulting service that carries out this or that type of agricultural information and consulting activity in its pure form. As a rule, these are varieties of activity or “mixing genres,” which, of course, is not a whim of individual decision-makers; rather, it is a consequence of the influence of a combination of factors of the socio-economic development of a country or a given area.

Within the listed types, various types of information and consulting activities are carried out. The main activities include the following.

  • Agency activity is a type of information and consulting activity based on systematic visits to farms, analysis of the situation and the performance of their employees in order to identify problems, form relationships and socially significant opinions, and also motivate rural producers.
  • Adaptation activity is a type of information and consulting activity based on the development (adaptation) and implementation of a management system (production) in a given zone or in an enterprise. The goal of the activity is to increase the number of implemented modern production systems.
  • Outsourcing (outsourcing) – taking over the service to perform a number of management functions in the client’s household. The purpose of the activity is to increase the efficiency of the implementation of the main functions by the client in his own enterprise by transferring the execution of the auxiliary management functions of the external organization.
  • Innovation activity – a type of information and consulting activity, covering the development and implementation of applied scientific research and measures to introduce their results, leading to complex changes in the way of managing and (or) the way of life of the population.
  • Informational activity – a type of activity based on the dissemination of information related to public policy, as well as market information. The purpose of the activity is to increase the awareness of customers (producers, population) about changes in government policy and the situation on the market and, as a result, increase the competitiveness of enterprises.
  • Consulting activities – assistance in making decisions on specific problems of a specific client. The purpose of the activity is to increase the sustainability of production, increase the competitiveness of the enterprise.
  • Educational activity – an activity based on general development and vocational training. The goal is to increase the level of education, including professional, rural population.
  • Participatory ( cooperative ) activities – a type of information and consulting activities, involving the involvement of producers in the process of voluntary communication, exchange of views and experiences, the creation of associations. The purpose of the activity is the identification and dissemination of useful practical knowledge and experience independently acquired by commodity producers, the development of interpersonal relations within and outside the local community, the formation of public or production associations of commodity producers.
  • Recommendation activities – development and dissemination of recommendations, promotion of advanced knowledge and experience. The purpose of the activity is to increase the scientific and methodological level of decisions and actions taken by the client.
  • Training, with feedback (coaching ) – targeted training through the dissemination of specialized knowledge, the development of individual skills in a specific field of agricultural knowledge and the simultaneous control of the correct use of this knowledge, skills and skills through farm visits and other methods. The purpose of the activity is, for example, an increase in crop yields (production volume, etc.) in farms covered by the training program.

Each individual advisory service may engage in several activities. It depends on the approach to the organization of the service, which was chosen when it was created. For example, the activity of the service can be aimed at increasing the productivity of agriculture or solving the problems of rural residents, it can be created centrally at the national scale or decentralized at the local level, provide for the involvement of rural producers to formulate and fulfill the tasks of the service, engage only in the transfer of knowledge to participate in knowledge creation, etc. etc. The structure and tasks of the service are specified depending on the scale and complexity of the problems of the target group of clients, on the range of political tasks and other functions assigned to the service,

At the same time, the set of activities that services of different types are involved in varies quite significantly, narrowing from the widest range in educational services to one or two activities in outsourcing services.

Each type of information and consulting activities in agriculture has its own set of forms and methods of work. A more detailed discussion of this will go to ch. 2 and 3 of this tutorial. The situation in the region, the goals of state and local policies, the most appropriate for them to achieve, and the types of information and consulting activities dictate which organizational (organizational and legal) form of service should be chosen to achieve the maximum effect.

The long-term work of FAO and World Bank staff with the participation of involved specialists in creating effective information and advisory services in agriculture in many countries of the world allowed them to draw important conclusions, consideration of which can facilitate the service’s adherence to its principles (see paragraph 1.3) and create favorable conditions for it development. Professor Van den Wan speaks of eight “lessons” that need to be taken into account when organizing and managing agricultural information and consulting services [9] , four of them (1-4) relate to the external conditions of the SEC, four (5–8) – to the internal organization. “Lessons” are as follows.

  • The desire of the government to promote the development of agriculture and agricultural information and consulting services is necessary. Without state support, development is very slow.
  • Institutional pluralism in the development of ICS is very important. To achieve the objectives of the agrarian policy and meet the various target groups of the population, a combination of public, private and public (voluntary) initiatives in the field of VICs is necessary.
  • The development of information and consulting services is a long process; it needs considerable effort to be effective.
  • Creation of X-ray requires large investments At the same time, the payback of the initial investment can occur only in 10–15 years.
  • ICS should have effective organization and management focused on a specific situation.
  • Agricultural Information and Advisory Service requires work methods and technologies specific to a particular locality. A variety of features and needs of clients, social norms, land tenure and land use, transport conditions and others require that the X-ray methods and technologies be adapted to the conditions in which field personnel work.
  • Counseling services should be able to navigate and respond to changing conditions. X-ray systems should be flexible, with mechanisms to respond to changing policies and the needs of rural producers.
  • The participation of rural producers is a fundamental principle of sustainable development of ICS, especially the first two types. Rural commodity producers participate in the activities of ICS as consumers of information and provide feedback, they should be involved in the development of programs and, ultimately, in determining the priorities of ICS activities.

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