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Multi-stakeholder innovation processes in African smallholder farming: key lessons and policy recommendations from Benin, Kenya and South Africa

Triomphe B., Floquet A., Waters-Bayer A., Kamau G., Van Den Berg J., Letty B., Mongbo R., Stevens J.B., Crane T., Almekinders C., Sellamna N.E., Vodouhé S.D., Oudwater N.. 2014. In : Triomphe Bernard (ed.), Waters-Bayer Ann (ed.), Klerkx Laurens (ed.), Cullen Beth (ed.), Kamau Geoffrey (ed.), Le Borgne Ewen (ed.). Proceedings of the International Workshop on Agricultural Innovation Systems in Africa (AISA), 29-31 May 2013, Nairobi, Kenya. s.l. : s.n., p. 44-55. International Workshop on Agricultural Innovation Systems in Africa, 2013-05-29/2013-05-31, Nairobi (Kenya).

Within the context of the European-funded JOLISAA FP7 project (JOint Learning in Innovation Systems in African Agriculture), several agricultural innovation experiences focused on smallholders were assessed in Benin, Kenya and South Africa. Fifty-six cases were characterised through review of grey literature and interviews with resource persons according to a common analytical framework inspired by the innovation systems perspective. Of these, 13 were assessed in greater depth through semistructured interviews, focus-group discussions and multistakeholder workshops. The cases cover a wide diversity of experiences in terms of types, domains, scales, timelines, initiators of innovation and stakeholders involved. Findings indicate that innovation triggers and drivers were multiple. For external stakeholders, likelihood of offering a technological fix to an existing problem and availability of funding were key triggers. For local people, access to input and output markets was a powerful trigger and driver. Market types and dynamics varied greatly. Developing functional value chains and accessing (often erratic) markets proved challenging especially for poorer and weakly organised farmers. Over long periods, many determinants of innovation change dynamically and often unpredictably during the process, including motivations of key stakeholders, triggers, drivers and stakeholder arrangements. The direction of innovation evolves, usually moving from a technology entry point to more organisational or institutional innovation. A recurring challenge for making interventions is whether and how these build on local initiatives and knowledge before engaging in innovation development. Another challenge lies in sustaining innovation processes that have been externally initiated and conducted within a protected environment, once the project stops. The conclusion is that innovation has to be seen as a continuously evolving bundle of innovations of various kinds, rather than as a pre-planned and usually narrowly defined intervention. Consequently, open-ended, flexible approaches to innovation development are needed with the potential to engage meaningfully over a long time with local stakeholders, so that they take full charge of the innovation process and direction. (Résumé d'auteur)

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