As populations increase, so do the challenges in feeding the world. Rural Advisory Services (RAS) contribute positively to food security by ensuring rural populations have access to vital knowledge increasing yields and rural incomes. For historical reasons however, national RAS have often developed into complex networks of stakeholders which can confuse, and even in some cases provide conflicting advice. In order to improve internal and external knowledge of an advisory service, this article investigates the benefits and limitations of an approach that combines qualitative and quantitative stakeholder perception activities at a local and national level. Local and national workshops were held using focus group and open fora techniques in order to portray and visualise a crop health advisory system in Pakistan, a dynamic and complex case study. The approach manages to expose key differences between local and national perceptions of a crop health RAS: whilst both local and national workshop participants decidedly agree on the importance of local (provincial and district level) extension departments, local perceptions clearly identified the strength and value of private sector and community level interactions. At the national workshop, interpretations of ground level activities were vague, yet their mentions of microcredit initiatives, large scale Non-Government Organisation activities and semi-autonomous institutions demonstrate knowledge at a different scale. This approach demonstrates the value of an accessible methodology to measure and understand RAS. Whilst this approach is a key component in assessing the system’s dynamism prior to any future development initiative, it needs to refine its integration of gendered perceptions.
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