Susan H. Bragdon Chelsea Smith
The Quaker UN Office, Geneva and New York
December 2015. This policy brief consolidates lessons learned from an in-depth literature review on small-scale farmer (SSF) innovation systems and a two-day expert consultation on the same topic that QUNO hosted in May 2015.
The key message here is that small-scale farmer innovation systems are unique relative to more ‘formal’ agricultural innovation systems. For this reason, the types of policies that are put in place to encourage innovation in agriculture require a fundamental reconsideration.
Small-scale farmer innovation in practice:
1. Technical and institutional innovation.
2. The application of local (traditional) knowledge to changing circumstances.
3. The maintenance, use and development of agrobiodiversity and farm management practices.
4. Adaptation to environmental and socio-economic stresses.
5. The adaptation of ‘modern’ technologies to suit specific local needs
Synergy can be created between the small-scale farmer and ‘formal’ agricultural innovation systems when farmers’ active roles in innovation are recognized and ‘scientific’ and local knowledge systems are bridged. National innovation strategies that reflect the realities of small-scale farmer innovation systems may be more effective in nurturing innovation in agriculture than conventional strategies that focus on encouraging private sector investment.