Knowledge for Development

Feature articles

Innovation: applying knowledge in development

By Calestous Juma and Yee-Cheong Lee  Co-chairs of the UN Millennium Project's Task Force on Science, Technology and Innovation   In this new lead article, Prof. Calestous Juma, Harvard University and Prof. Yee-Cheong Lee, UNESCO, reflect on the progress made since the UN Millennium Project's Task Force report on science, technology and innovation (ST&I) was published. In 2005, the Task Force released the report Innovation: applying knowledge in development. It outlined a number of ways in which ST&I could be used to realize the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The authors claim that the report has played a key catalytic role in raising global awareness of the importance of ST&I in development.   Prior to this, ST&I for economic development was considered to be relevant only to industrialized countries, and often discouraged in developing countries, neither was it a priority for the UN, as it was identified as 'Target 18 of Goal 8 - the very last target of the very last goal'. However, much has changed and the innovation systems approach, which included infrastructure, more advanced technical training and entrepreneurship was presented as a framework for thought and action. While the concept of ST&I for development has gained momentum, the authors are of the view that much more still needs to be done by developing countries to ensure that ST&I achieves greater impact on alleviating hunger, poverty, illiteracy and ill health, political and social upheavals. 


Is Quality Declared Seed Production an effective and sustainable way to address Seed and Food Security in Africa?

It is known that small scale farmers in Africa use 90 – 95 % farmer-saved seed for their crop production. The gap for additional use of certified seed cannot be solved by the seed trade only. Quality Declared Seed (QDS) sold locally in small quantities, where certified seed is not used or sold, is a good way to minimize this gap and to improve the seed trade and food production in Africa.The author of this article, Britt Granqvist, is a Lead Consultant working for BriAgri ApS Consultancy Company, Toldbodgade 19 B, 2nd, 1253 Copenhagen K, Denmark.This article is part of the Knowledge for Development dossier on Demanding Innovation.


Farmer innovation in Africa

Farmer Innovation in Africa: A Source of Inspiration for Agricultural Development (2001) summarizes the findings of two regional programmes in Africa that supported farmer innovators and their innovations in eight countries representing a wide range of agro-ecological and socio-economic conditions: Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Tunisia, Uganda and Zimbabwe. In these programmes, a farmer was considered an innovator if he or she tried out something that was new in the village without having been asked to do so by outsiders. This means that farmers who tested new crop varieties or other technologies on their fields at the request of researchers were not innovators. It also implied that an innovation in one region may have been a common practice elsewhere. The two programmes identified about 1000 farmer innovators and concluded that innovation is a fairly common phenomenon in regions where there is high population pressure on available natural resources. This is not surprising as farmers have to adapt to changes in rainfall, soils, demographics and markets, for example, in order to survive. Farmers with their 'backs against the wall' have no choice: innovate to improve their livelihoods, continue to live in poverty or leave the land and settle elsewhere.


Demanding innovation in technology for economic development

There is a clamour of increasing intensity among today's young generation in Africa, and probably in all ACP regions, about the lack of discernible industrial and economic development in their countries. Professor Chetsanga argues in this contribution that science, technology and innovation renaissance are to create national environments that will promote economic prosperity, food security, good governance, health and general welfare of the citizenry. In his paper, he focuses on the challenges that need to be addressed in the African region to develop a culture of innovation and spur on industrialization.


Farmers as Innovators in Building Indigenous Knowledge Systems

Valuing the Involvement of Civil Society in Enhancing the S&T Dialogue The innovations developed by some farmers involved in sweet potato farming, goat production, layer poultry production and dry land vegetable and fruit farming were ascertained and documented based on close and long-time association of the author and his colleagues with the farmers or visits, for the purpose, with a member of the Champion Farmer Selection Sub-committee of the Organising Committee of the Denbigh Agricultural and Industrial Show. Discussions with the farmers showed that the innovations introduced were based on indigenous knowledge, desire for greater efficiency, accumulated acquired knowledge or desire to improvise and/or improve upon adopted technology. The innovation of the sweet potato farmers in partnership with CARDI was the design of a pheromone trap for the sweet potato weevil from recyclable 2- and 4-litre plastic bottles. Mr Alexander Archer, a goat farmer, uses a solar-powered electric fence mechanism and movable shelters constructed of iron mesh and aluminium sheeting or heavy-duty plastic to ration segments of the range, in rotation, for his extensively managed breeding herd. Another innovation of his is a uniquely designed hay/forage rack that ensures very minimum feed wastage. In St Mary, Jamaica, Mr Hansel Williams, a layer poultry farmer, has designed and constructed his own conventional nest boxes, as well as a trade-mark brood management system. The innovative traditional dry land farming using Guinea grass ( Panicum maximum) mulch and spot watering with water stored in barrels is practised by the farmers of south StElizabeth. This special water management system has been enhanced further with water harvesting (using concrete catchment) and storage (Mr Errol Davidson) or by marriage with the modern technology of drip irrigation (Mr Denny Millington).