Knowledge for Development

Innovation systems

Innovation and technical change are drivers of economic development. Innovation depends on access to information and knowledge and requires continuous learning. It takes place within an institutional, social, political and economic context. The agricultural context in the ACP region is rapidly changing in a world in which scientific and technological advances, for example ICTs and bio- and nanotechnology, influence the agricultural landscape and rural environment. Farmers, policymakers and scientists have to respond adequately to these rapid changes; while preserving the natural resource base for future agricultural production. The IAASTD report 2009, also places emphasis on the importance of knowledge, science and technology for sustainable development.

A WCS (World Conservation Society ) marine project to reduce by-catch in Kenya and Curacao through a low-cost, low-tech fish trap design has won top honour in a contest sponsored by Rare, in partnership with National Geographic.The contest, ‘Solution Search: Turning the Tide for Coastal Fisheries’, promotes fish traps with rectangular gaps that permit small, juvenile fish to escape. The wining project entitled ‘Bycatch Escape Gaps for Fish Traps’, reduces by-catch by 80 percent. It offers coastal fishers a low-cost, low-tech means of maintaining sustainable fisheries in coastal East Africa, the Caribbean, and other regions using traditional fish traps. Solutions submitted for the contest included the implementation of no-take zones, introduction of innovative fishing gear and the development of alternative livelihoods.(WCS via Mongabay, 11/01/2011) 28/02/2012
Cabbage farmers in the Sigatoka Valley, in Suma, Fiji, have seen their incomes increase by 20–30% since adopting integrated pest management (IPM) farming techniques. The farmers are part of an IMP project promoting effective and environmentally friendly approach to pest management that relies on a combination of common-sense practices. The project, which started in 2006 in both Fiji and Samoa will conclude in 2012. The project will extend to other vegetables and be replicated in Tonga, Solomon Islands and Kiribati, as well as Fiji and Samoa. (SPC, 10/01/2012) 28/02/2012

Innovation Systems in Agriculture and Rural Development

by Tesfaye Beshah, Post Doctoral Fellow, International Livestock Research Institute
Much has been written on innovation systems (IS), especially in industrialized economies, and recently in developing countries contexts (Muchie et al., 2003; Hall 2005; Spielman et al., 2006; World Bank 2007). However, with few exceptions (e.g., Hall 2005; Hall et al., 2007; World Bank 2007), literature on IS does not adequately explain how system thinking enhances innovation or how IS can be initiated and facilitated. Another gap is the fact that “innovation” itself is promoted rather than its embeddedness within a system that in turn operates within certain institutional and policy contexts. Even though there is consensus on the importance of innovation for economic development, the systemic mechanism through which it can be enhanced is not given equal attention. These and other grey areas limit the promotion of the concept of IS, and in a worst case raises suspicion on its value addition for research and development. 30/06/2009
The overall focus of the project is on improving the livelihoods of the rural poor through increasing their options to feed livestock. Initial project activities showed that the issue of addressing fodder scarcity was much more complex than simply providing technologies such as improved germplasm. Accordingly the project changed its learning approach from technology to a partnership mode for alliance building and finally towards a facilitated multiple-actor and institutional perspective. Current project activities experiment with ways of building capacity required to innovate in order to address issues of fodder scarcity in equitable and sustainable ways. Project locations are in Nigeria and India. 30/06/2009

Promoting Agricultural Innovation Systems Approach: The Way Forward

by Riikka Rajalahti, Sr. Agricultural Specialist, Innovation Systems, Agriculture and Rural Development Department, the World Bank
Investments in knowledge systems have featured consistently in most strategies to promote sustainable agricultural development at the national level. The World Bank alone has invested more than 2.5 billion USD into agricultural R&D and advisory services over the past 20 years. Many of these investments have resulted in very high returns and pro-poor growth. We have also been fairly successful in strengthening research systems and increasing available knowledge but they have not necessarily resulted in greater use of knowledge and innovation (Rajalahti et al. 2005). Farmer productivity is still often constrained by lack of appropriate technology or access to technology, inputs, services and credit, and by farmers’ inability to bear risks. In addition, farmers’ information and skills gap constrains the adoption of available technologies and management practices or reduces their technical efficiency when adopted (WDR 2008). To address these challenges, we have gradually shifted from strengthening research systems and knowledge transfer towards building innovation capacity, enhancing use of knowledge and creating social and economic change. 30/06/2009