In Africa, majority of the population lives in rural areas and depends either directly or indirectly on agriculture for their livelihood and survival. Agriculture plays an important role in economic growth, food security, poverty reduction, livelihoods, rural development and the environment. Growth in the agricultural sector stimulates higher rates of growth in the economy through forward linkage activities such as processing and transportation, and backward linkages like the provision of services to the sector, with further growth spurred as a result of spending incomes earned from all these productive activities.
Agriculture has undergone rapid changes as a result of changing policies, urbanization, population growth, and the opening up of local, regional and international markets. These changes have brought with it the need for farming to be adaptable to changing market conditions and to do so profitably. Farming has become market oriented.
The desire to increase income by taking advantage of market opportunities and to compete in this new environment requires farmers to become better decision-makers. To be more competitive they need to have better marketing and farm management skills. While farm management as a discipline may not have been a consideration in dealing with traditional farmers, over the last two decades as farming has become more market- and profit-oriented, farm management has rapidly gained importance.
In response to these changes, agricultural extension has taken on new roles. It is not only concerned with technology transfer, but how to promote farm commercialization and enterprise diversification. This implies that farmers need to be more responsive to the changing market conditions and the challenges and risks that this creates. As a result extension services have also had to change.
Public sector extension is not the only source of information and advice and increasingly the private sector and civil society are offering an alternative. The content of extension has also changed becoming more market oriented. Farmers now require advice in a host of new subject areas such as post-harvest handling, product quality certification, farm business management, contracting, market and financial linkages, farmer organization and market and business information.
As a result of this, there is the need for agricultural extension advisory service providers and other stakeholders to come together to form a network to spearhead the agenda of technology dissemination which African Heads of State agreed in the Maputo Declaration. A continental body called the African Forum for Agricultural Advisory Services (AFAAS) and member countries are also to form and establish country chapters.
In Ghana, an Interim Committee was inaugurated during the first National Stakeholders meeting held on 13th November 2012 in Accra. The Committee was tasked to develop the forum’s Constitution, begin the processes for registration and provide strategic direction. The Ghana Forum was incorporated on the 31st Day of March 2014, as a Non-Governmental Organization, with a formal name “Forum for Agricultural Advisory Support and Services, Ghana” (GFAASS).
The GFAASS has jurisdiction all over Ghana and has affiliation with the African Forum for Agricultural Advisory Services (AFAAS), Network of Agricultural and Rural Advisory Services of West and Central African countries (NARAS_WCA) and the Global Forum on Rural Advisory Services (GFRAS). GFAASS shall also be affiliated with any other Organizations and Networks with similar goals and objectives.