This week’s Rome AgriKnowledge ‘share fair’ included a session on ‘innovation platforms’ as vehicles for rural change. It highlighted some experiences of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), the International Crops Research Institute for the Tropics (ICRISAT), and the CGIAR Challenge Program on Water and Food (CPWF).
The innovation platforms discussed in the session grew out of the concept of ‘innovation systems’ that is used in agricultural research to guide the design of inclusive research and development interventions. Focusing on the innovation system as an intervention domain is particularly promising as a mechanism that makes knowledge work for specific ‘value chains’ or across natural resource ‘landscapes’.
In the CGIAR, ‘innovation platforms’ are being facilitated to tackle a wide range of rural development challenges. They provide spaces for value chain or innovation system actors to interact, communicate and act to improve the performance of their value chain/system.
The session looked at ways in which innovation platforms are being used to:
- Make livestock value chains work for women and other vulnerable groups in Mozambique and India. The ‘imGoats‘ project aims to transform goat production and marketing from the current ad hoc, risky, informal activity to a sound and profitable enterprise and model that taps into a growing market, largely controlled by and benefiting women and other disadvantaged and vulnerable groups; while preserving the natural resource base. The project facilitates the formation and functioning of innovation platforms and producer hubs whose purpose is to enable identification and testing of viable, sustainable and environmentally sound organizational and technical solutions along the value chain (input supply, service provision, research, production, processing, transport, marketing).
- Offer a new approach for market development and technology uptake in southern Africa. The ‘Livestock and Livelihoods’ (LiLi) project in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Namibia is testing innovation platforms as a real world implementation of the innovation systems concept that facilitates dialogue between the main local players in the value chain: farmers, input suppliers, traders, transporters, processors, wholesalers, retailers, regulators, and the research and development fraternity.
- Catalyze community efforts to address land and water management challenges in the Nile and Limpopo river basins. Innovation platforms are increasingly used as a mechanism to stimulate interaction between various stakeholders to enhance innovation processes.
- Help poor livestock keepers benefit from improved fodder and access to markets in Ethiopia. The Fodder Adoption Project experimented with the introduction of forage technologies combined with active brokerage of interactions between farmers and value chain actors. In Ethiopia this brokerage was achieved through innovation platforms while in Vietnam the brokerage was more ad hoc and targeted at particular issues as they arose. In both cases it appeared that the combination of technical inputs and active engagement of value chain actors was a key element of successful development of enhanced feed supply for smallholder livestock production.