E-mail conference on “Ensuring the full participation of family farmers in agricultural innovation systems

4 June to 1 July 2012. FAO hosted a moderated e-mail conference  on “Ensuring the full participation of family farmers in agricultural innovation systems: Key issues and case studies”.

The UN General Assembly has declared 2014 to be the International Year of Family Farming and has invited FAO to facilitate implementation of the International Year, in collaboration with its partners. Among its initiatives for the International Year, FAO is planning to publish a major study on family farming and Agricultural innovation systems (AIS) in 2014 in the State of Food and Agriculture series, which is FAO’s major annual flagship publication.

Agricultural innovation systems are systems of individuals, organizations and enterprises that bring new products, processes and forms of organization into social and economic use to achieve food security, economic development and sustainable natural resource management. AIS include a multitude of potential actors, such as producer organizations, research organizations, extension and advisory services, universities and educational bodies, governments and civil society organizations, co-coordinating bodies, individual farmers and farm laborers, and the private sector (including traders, processors, supermarkets etc.).

The e-mail conference is open to everyone, is free and will be moderated.

The Background Document to this FAO e-mail conference is available here.

Meeting the needs of smallholder farming families also provides the central theme of the GCARD RoadMap, which sets out the systematic changes required to transform and strengthen innovation systems to better meet the needs of resource-poor smallholders around the world.  Results from the FAO e-mail consultation will help inform discussion in The Second Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD 2): “Foresight and partnership for innovation and impact on small-holder livelihoods” on practical actions underway and that are required to implement these systematic changes. The GCARD 2 will be organized in Punta del Este, Uruguay, 29 October – 1 November 2012, more information is available on the GFAR website.  The Pre-Registrationfor the GCARD 2012 Conference is now open.

Outcomes from the email consultation and the GCARD Conference will inform preparation of the major FAO study in 2014, as well as help to build cooperation around key forward-looking agendas and facilitate planning of joint actions among all AIS stakeholders to deliver large scale development outcomes.

PAEPARD contribution:
Moderated conference on agricultural innovation systems a selection of the most significant contributions, relevant for PAEPARD.

·         In order to identify a pool of brokers on the African continent we launched a call for agricultural innovation facilitators (AIF) 1 year ago. We were at that time not aware that ASARECA was in the process of the creation of a pool of well-skilled platform facilitators for innovation platforms under their Farmer Empowerment for Innovation in Smallholder Agriculture (FEISA) project.

o   203 applicants submitted their CV to PAEPARD.

o   The screening of the CVs was based on the geographical origin (country) and the profile of the applicant (research, farmer organisation (FO), private sector, nongovernmental organisation (NGO), ministry, consultant or other).

o   Not surprisingly 160 were male applicants and 43 female.

o   86 applicants had a [agricultural) research profile, 36 applicants worked for an ngo,  21 for a farmer organization, 17 consultants, 16 from a Ministry, 14 private, 6 extensionists, 4 other.

o   But the career path revealed that the  basic training of the majority of all profiles originated in agricultural research.

o   A past training (in Montpellier or in Wageningen) with the International Centre for development oriented Research in Agriculture (ICRA) was a strong reference for the selection.

We are currently performing an evaluation of the brokers’ facilitation in 10 ARD consortia from the consortium’s coordinator perspective and the AIFs’ perspective. And we realize that a technically sound agronomist with facilitation training is a rare gem. In the agricultural research community, we only managed to identify few good experts in group dynamics, adult training, moderation, knowledge management, etc.

We also realized that because (so far) the dominant PAEPARD partnership model has been the AIF (broker) functioning in a project context, this had some important limitations in terms of innovation. The stress is too much on project innovation instead of system wide innovation by involving several societal actors, including farmers, supply and processing industry, civic advocacy organization, and policy makers. The reason why we opted first for the project partnership model is obvious: we wanted to link the brokering to something tangible: the submission of a research proposal to a funding opportunity, as a milestone of the consortium facilitation (a process of minimum one year).

The requirement for the facilitator to be able to play an independent role within the consortium was essential. Preferably, the facilitator should not be a member of the lead institution (the applicant), to ensure a balance of influence on the consortium. The AIF needed nevertheless to be a person [all] the consortium members felt comfortable with. We wanted the choice of an AIF to be done through a consultation between the consortium and the PAEPARD-trained AIF.  But in one case the AIF with an ngo profile found it difficult to impose her authority towards the researchers involved in the consortium, and in another case AIFs with a research profile failed in their facilitation – not having “the spirit and training for facilitation and brokerage”.

Conclusion: testing theoretical concepts into practice, but also to translate practical dilemmas into systemic lessons is a major challenge. [Platform for African – European Partnership in ARD]

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