This working paper by Tesfaye Lemma Tefera, Azage Tegegne and Dirk Hoekstra of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), on Capacity for knowledge-based smallholder agriculture in Ethiopia: Linking graduate programs to market-oriented agricultural development: Challenges, opportunities and IPMS experience was released by ILRI in January 2012.
Graduate programs in agriculture and allied disciplines in Ethiopia are expected to make concrete contributions towards achieving market-led and knowledge-based transformation of smallholder agriculture. To that end, strengthening capacities of the graduate programs and linking them to development deserve due policy attention. No panacea exists, however, as to how the programs can be better strengthened, linked and become more responsive. Lessons from initiatives on the ground in the country and beyond are thus crucial to inform policy and the development of context specific innovative strategies. This paper aims to make a modest contribution to the discourse in Ethiopia and beyond on transforming graduate programs related to agriculture into ‘developmental institutions’. The paper highlights the imperatives for knowledge-based transformation of smallholder agriculture in Ethiopia and emerging roles of graduate programs; discusses key challenges of the graduate programs to realize their mandates and to meet ever changing expectations.
It also presents a case study of an initiative by +aimed at linking graduate programs through research by students to commodity value chain development and actors, and discusses qualitative and quantitative indicators of outcome in terms of enhanced research and learning experience. The paper draws out some lessons and identifies strategic and practical options, including from the review of good practices elsewhere, that may help to improve learning and research in the graduate programs. The analysis shows that the graduate programs are facing several challenges that could not be solved by government or by the programs alone, but rather require multiple linkages and collaborations. On the one hand, graduate programs need to be more proactive in creating links and partnering with regional and federal governments, and with development/interventions. On the other hand, actors who are truly committed to sustainability should be more willing to integrate systematically into development programs, as a critical component, partnering with and strengthening capacity in key capacity building national institutions, such as the graduate programs. Revitalizing the programs calls for taking a holistic approach and an innovation systems perspective, multi-pronged and multi-level strategies, and long-term commitments.