Towards Integrated Agricultural Research for Development through innovation platforms in Lake Kivu
Agricultural productivity has stagnated due to reasons including inadequate returns from investment in agricultural research and development efforts. Although agricultural research has generated several kinds of technology with high potential, the impact of the technology on farmers’ productivity, livelihood quality of life has not matched its potential.
The gap between knowledge and action is glaring. One of the root causes is the way research is being conducted mainly missing the input of non research sector.
Integrated Agricultural Research for Development (IAR4D) presents an opportunity of addressing the problem capitalizing on bringing on board a whole range of stakeholders within an innovation system framework to catalyze transformation of agricultural research in SSA. IAR4D concept deviates from the traditional linear configuration of agricultural research development by encouraging the engagement of multi actors along a commodity or thematic value chain for the promotion of the process of innovation in the agricultural system. In IAR4D, innovation evolves through the interaction among players, utilization of feedback, analysis and incorporation of lessons learnt between processes. This framework creates a network that considers technical, social and institutional constraints in a environment that facilitates learning.
Twelve (12) innovation platforms in three countries (4 per country) with diverse biophysical, socio-economic and political conditions have been facilitated to be established and functional . One of the major issues when working with a large group of partners with diverse backgrounds, experiences and skills is to develop a common understanding of basic concept and approach for implementation. Hence, a training module covering the concept and practical aspects of IAR4D to strengthen the capacity of all participating institutions to undertake the planned research was developed and used train partners. Training was later extended to all participating stakeholders in the Innovation Platforms (IPs).
During the initial stages of implementation much of the focus was on establishing multi-institutional and multi-stakeholder alliances and partnerships. After several rounds of pre-operative consultations, broad guidelines and methodology to form and operate Innovation Platform (IPs) were developed and 12 innovation platforms were formed. All the IPs, through extensive discussion, debate and consultation have identified the major developmental challenges that agriculture in their location is facing with, institutions with a possible role in addressing the challenges, and potential solutions. They have also developed an action plan with well defined roles and responsibilities. The issues identified vary from location to location. Some of the issues identified include low and declining soil fertility, poor seed systems, certification of organic products, unstructured markets and limited access to new as well as existing market opportunities, poor implementation of policies, low/limited access to knowledge and exposure to new technologies. The project team facilitated the IP discussions around these topics and identified potential solutions with active participation of all stakeholders. The project team is closely working with partners in implementing the action plans and in providing the required technical backstopping through training, value chain analysis , and identifying new opportunities among others.