Systematic Review – innovation grants to smallholder farmers

Systematic Review – innovation grants to smallholder farmers

May 2013. Grants for agricultural innovation are common but grant funds specifically targeted to smallholder farmers remain relatively rare. Nevertheless, they are receiving increasing recognition as a promising venue for agricultural innovation. They stimulate smallholders to experiment with improved practices, to become pro-active and to engage with research and extension providers. 

The systematic review covered three modalities of disbursing these grants to smallholder farmers and their organisations: 
  1. vouchers, 
  2. competitive grants 
  3. and farmer-led innovation support funds. 

The synthesis covers, among others, innovation grant systems in Malawi (Agricultural Input Subsidy Programme), Latin America (several Challenge Funds for Farmer Groups), Uganda (National Agricultural Advisory Services ), and Colombia (Local Agricultural Research Committees – CIAL).

The review team used a systematic search in electronic data-bases to capture studies from different disciplines and geographical areas, published till January 2012. The synthesis was based on 20 impact studies and makes reference to another 42 largely qualitative studies. These additional studies provide information about the functioning and effectiveness of the innovation grant system but do not contain a structured assessment of impact.

All studies present evidence of the positive changes due to these investments in agricultural innovation. Some of the impact studies show mixed impacts on natural resources, especially due to land clearing of tree species or increased cultivation without soil conservation. The negative outcomes reported in these studies are however always accompanied by a positive outcome in another area, such as an increase in yields or income. Unfortunately none of the studies had a research design that generated comparative information about the impact of alternative policies.

Most studies focus on field-level impacts and use household survey data to support their inferences. However, in most cases, the grant is often only one of the many contributing factors to smallholder innovation along with access to markets, supporting infrastructure, access to credit, and/or starting levels of social and human capital. This complexity is especially relevant for business development grants and innovation support funds, where the grants feed into existing innovation processes. Their impact on household wellbeing often lies beyond the project period. 

The review points to an important and transversal outcome area of innovation grant systems: the creation of human and social capital to sustain creative thinking and innovative practices. Indicators used to measure this are knowledge on agricultural practices, changes in agricultural practices and capabilities of farmer groups. Measurement of human and social capital with common indicators would help to establish longitudinal data-sets, to be used for benchmarking and comparing different support policies or development interventions to facilitate innovation in smallholder agriculture.

This research was funded by the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID). The research was commissioned as part of a joint call for systematic reviews with the Department for International Development (DFID) and the International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie).

Comments are welcome and can be posted on the innovation grants web-site

Ton G, de Grip K, Klerkx L, Rau M-L, Douma, M, Friis-Hansen E, Triomphe B, Waters-Bayer A, Wongtschowski M (2013) Effectiveness of innovation grants to smallholder agricultural producers: an explorative systematic review. EPPI-Centre, Social Science Research Unit, Institute of Education, University of London.

Download the Policy Brief

Ton G, de Grip K, Klerkx L, Rau, M-L, Douma M (2013) 
“Are innovation grants to smallholders effctive in facilitating agricultural innovation?'”
Systematic Review Policy Brief: kowing what works and why. Austarlian Government – Australian Aid

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Contact us
If you are interested or have any questions, send us a message.
I am very interested
Send Message