Africa / Agriculture / Central Africa / East Africa / Innovation Systems / Research / Rwanda / Uganda

Innovation platforms for development oriented agricultural research

A central question in African agriculture is how to catalyze a more competitive, equitable and sustainable agricultural growth within the context of smallholder production systems, inefficient agricultural marketing, inefficient investments by private sector, and a degradation-prone natural resources base.

Integrated Agricultural Research for Development (IAR4D) is a promising organizing concept that builds on the Innovation Systems Approach – in which the generation, diffusion and application of impactful innovations depend on systemic integration of knowledge systems that promote communication, interaction and cooperation between agricultural research, education, extension, farmers, private sector and policy regulatory systems.

Two papers in the January 2011 open access ‘Journal of Agriculture and Environmental Studies‘ examine different experiences with ‘innovation platforms’ as a tool for development-oriented agricultural research in Central and east Africa.

The article entitled ‘Institutional Innovations for Building Impact-oriented Agricultural Research, Knowledge and Development Institutions‘ describes the “participatory establishment of twelve Innovation Platforms as tools for pooling knowledge across the agricultural business, education, research and extension systems… There were major breakthroughs which included bringing on board non-traditional private sector and policy maker partners, overcoming the predominant “farmer handout syndrome”, building consensus and addressing common interest challenge. Making markets work, bringing various stakeholders including universities to the community and vice-versa, appreciation of indigenous knowledge system, propelling collective soil and water conservation and demand/utilization of technologies hitherto on-shelf were other very significant breakthroughs.”

The second article, on ‘Agricultural Innovation Platform As a Tool for Development Oriented Research: Lessons and Challenges in the Formation and Operationalization‘ presents processes, lessons and experiences from the Lake Kivu area. “The lessons and experiences are shared across 6 stages of agricultural innovation platform formation, namely; Identification of a research and developmental challenge(s), Site selection, Consultative and scoping study, Visioning and Stakeholder analysis, Development of action plans and Implementation of the action plans.”  Foeriming such platforms was “faster in creating win-wins when market led. Strong leadership, strategic partnership, information flow, interactions and dealing with recurrent challenges during the formation process are critical in fostering innovations. The major challenges included capacitating the stakeholders in requisite skills and dealing with persistent handout-syndrome.”

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