Knowledge for Development

Commissioned articles 2016

The ethics of innovation in agriculture: Inclusivity and Reflexivity

Innovation has become a buzzword in the realm of international development over the past decade. Major funders such as the United State Agency for International Development (USAID) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) support ‘innovation labs’, where resources and expertise are focused on asking new research questions that build on past successes and failures. Non-governmental organisations around the world facilitate and emphasise local innovations to meet local needs, in an effort to generate new ideas that are appropriate and relevant to specific places. These and other approaches to innovation in international development are influenced by the private enterprise model of start-up firms in the information technology sector, where innovation is seen to be a collaborative process that is constantly working to adapt and improve existing things, systems and ideas. As Fabian and Fabricant highlight, however, the orientation toward creative destruction in technology innovation, where change is constant and “failing quickly” yields further innovation, does not reflect the ethical and practical realities of research and programming in international development, where human well-being is at stake.


An Innovation Platform Approach for Up-scaling Banana Xanthomonas Wilt (Xanthomonas campestris p.v. musacearum) Control Technologies in Western Kenya

The Innovation Platform (InP) has become an attractive approach for supporting agricultural development. An InP is generally established to foster interaction amongst a wide range of stakeholders including producers, researchers, development practitioners and policy-makers, around a shared interest. The stakeholders interact to jointly identify problems and opportunities, seek and apply solutions and learn to stimulate continuous innovation. However, establishment and management are complicated given the multiplicity of actors with diverse objectives and expectations. This article describes how an InP in western Kenya contributed to increased control of banana Xanthomonas wilt (BXW). Several demonstrations were set up to show farmers how the control technologies worked.  After couple of months, they told their neighbours about it and this helped in the scaling up of the programme. To enhance access to knowledge and information on BXW control best practices and technologies, additional InPs were formed and used to reach over 6,000 banana farmers.


Transitioning from public to private sector agricultural extension: drivers, challenges and implications for policy, practice and research

Agricultural extension systems everywhere are experiencing unprecedented changes and transformations, accompanied with tremendous challenges for all involved. Historically conceived as a public service targeting farming populations with agricultural information and technologies, the private sector and civil society are increasingly playing a role. There are new clients (including the diverse actors in entire agricultural value chains located in urban areas versus the traditional focus on rural farmers; large-scale commercial farmers as opposed to subsistence small-scale farmers, youth, women); and new messages. Despite the problems with public-sector extension systems, private-sector provision will not resolve all of them. Evidence supports pluralistic systems with both public and private actors performing different roles and targeting different extension needs in a coordinated manner. The transition to private sector provision needs careful planning.


Education and Training in Food Science and Technology to Enhance Food Security in Developing Nations

The population of Sub-Saharan Africa has been growing at an average annual rate of 2.7% in 2013, compared to 0.7% in 2013 for the USA. In 2014, the populations of Nigeria and Niger grew at annual rates of 2.8% and 3.9%, respectively. At the same time, the economies of many African nations have been growing at an annualized rate approaching 4% and urbanization and life expectancy have also been increasing. These trends have created new pressures, especially for achieving food security, fuelling the need for a more productive, diversified and competitive agri-food sector.


Financing Agricultural Research for Development (ARD)

Pouring millions of dollars in a research system does not necessarily guarantee good research and useful outputs and development. First and foremost, we need qualified, competent and motivated researchers, with necessary incentives to ensure focus on the research instead of other things. In Tanzania, for example, the number of PhD holders was lower in 2011 compared with 2008. This decline, gives cause for concern, especially given the importance of the agricultural sector and the value of research in addressing present and future challenges.


Agro-processing – a Kenyan Perspective: Enhancing food security and farmers’ livelihoods

Kenya is considered food-insecure, with a general deficit in production, particularly of staple foods; maize, wheat, beans, rice and sugar, and this is supplemented by imported food commodities. Postharvest losses, especially of perishable produce are high, while poor postharvest handling of cereal maize and related products compromises food safety because of aflatoxin contamination putting farm families, livestock and consumers at risk, further exacerbating the food insecurity situation.Kenya’s Agriculture Sector Development Strategy (ASDS) contributed to a restructuring of the agricultural sector and encompasses cross-cutting issues of climate change, youth and gender engagement as well as industrialisation and finance. However, the sector continues to be negatively impacted by several binding constraints.


Food security and nutrition in the post-2015 agenda: From MDG 1 to SDG 2 - some new policy challenges and opportunities

Millennium Development Goal No. 1 (MDG1), agreed by the international community in 1990, stated that both the proportion of people in extreme poverty and the proportion who suffer from hunger should be halved between 1990 and 2015 (MDG targets 1.A and 1.C, respectively). The global agenda for sustainable development features instead a stand-alone goal that goes beyond chronic hunger and brings in the very important concept of nutrition. Moreover, the second Sustainable Development Goal (SDG2) combines food security and nutrition with sustainable and climate-resilient agriculture, and calls for a special focus on small-scale food producers (notably women farmers), recognising their major role in food systems globally. This is a novel approach compared to the MDG agenda.


Tuna, coastal fisheries, beche-de-mer and aquaculture development in the Western and Central Pacific: current issues and future needs

This article gives a personal overview of the current status of tuna, coastal fisheries, beche-de-mer (BDM) and aquaculture in the Western and Central Pacific. It highlights issues associated with the sustainable management of resources at a scientific and at a policy level. Recommendations are made for a fisheries/tuna research centre, more effective management of coastal fisheries, and better planning for aquaculture development.


Bio-economy and green growth: Integrating farmers’ knowledge for a public goods-oriented approach

The bio-economy and green growth have been on the international policy agenda for several years. Two main views prevail concerning the ‘bio-economy’ – an industrial perspective, and the other a public goods perspective – each promoting different futures for agricultural systems and farmers’ roles; some address both perspectives.


The ethics of animal production and sustainability

Over the last 50 years, the ethical values around animal production have steadily changed, mainly through widespread adoption of industrial and intensive practices. Industrialisation and pro-productionism have taken precedence over agrarian values and farming methods emphasising material prosperity. This has displaced the ethos of independent, community farmers and pastoralists as stewards of the land and farm animals.  Food safety, quality control, animal welfare and traceability practices are overarching norms and have become sites of political and economic contest, as producers and multinational agribusinesses seek to maximise product quality and economic profitability.


Intellectual property rights in plant breeding and the impact on agricultural innovation

In plant breeding, two types of intellectual property rights (IPRs) play a major role; plant breeders’ rights (PBRs), developed between 1900 and 1950; and patent rights, which emerged with the rise of modern biotechnology. This paper examines the impact of both systems on breeders, farmers and agricultural innovation.


Enhancing private sector engagement in agricultural research and development in eastern Africa

A survey of private sector firms in eastern Africa revealed that 65% of them did not allocate any budgets for research. Over 50% of the firms indicated that they responded to calls for collaborative research whenever they were advertised. Of the firms interviewed, 97% indicated that they knew research institutions that could address some of their business challenges. The three priority suggestions by private firms on how to improve uptake and commercialization of improved technologies were: involvement of end users in the research process; establishment of frameworks for regular interactions between researchers and industry players; and awareness creation and training for end users.


Can we end hunger in the post-2015 frame with food as a commodity?

Global hunger statistics, portraying a world that is progressing remarkably, serve to justify the dominant economic ideology (productivism, neoliberalism and privatization of resources). This text provides a careful examination of those data (undernourishment and chronic malnutrition), revealing caveats and biased interpretations. The world is not doing so well under the market-driven industrial food system and the MDG1 on hunger was clearly not achieved. The supply/demand rules will never get rid of hunger, as preached by the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals, since the market does not have incentives to provide food to those who do not have money to pay for such essential resource. We need a paradigm shift and social contract whereby food is considered a commons and nutrition a public good. The food commons are about equity, cooperation, resilience and direct democracy from local to global. This text provides normative and practical elements to navigate to transition towards sustainability that is actually happen in many rural customary societies and urban civic collective actions for food. We all have to re-claim our role as food citizens and not just as food customers.


CTA Top 20 Innovations that Benefit Smallholder Farmers

Over the years, CTA has contributed to building ACP capacity to understand innovation processes, strengthen the agricultural innovation system and embed innovation thinking in agricultural and rural development strategies. The CTA Top 20 Innovations project set out to prove that innovation is taking place in ACP agriculture and in the process has demonstrated that smallholder farmers are beneficiaries as well as partners in agricultural innovation. The CTA Top 20 Innovations that were selected from among the 251 submissions that had been received from 49 countries showcase the ingenuity of numerous stakeholders who are innovating and by their collective efforts are making a difference in the livelihoods of ACP smallholder farmers and their families.


Is the innovation systems approach the answer to inclusive development?

A new CTA publication Innovation systems: Towards effective strategies in support of smallholder farmers jointly produced with Wageningen University and Research / Convergence of Sciences: Strengthening Innovation Systems (WUR/CoS-SIS) details the latest knowledge on and lessons learned in applying the innovation systems (IS) approach to agricultural and rural development (ARD) in developing countries.