Strengthening Farmer-Led Research Networks in the Sahel


In the Sahel, a region sensitive to environmental degradation and climate change, farmer-led research networks (FaReNe) are strengthened and supported to take the lead in joint experimentation by farmers, researchers and other actors in agricultural innovation processes. The project is an initiative of the Prolinnova network that promotes local innovation processes in agriculture and natural resource management, hosted by the Sustainable Economic Development & Gender unit of KIT Royal Tropical Institute.

KIT advisors, members of the Prolinnova International Secretariat, provide training/ mentoring in Participatory Innovation Development (PID) and the settlement of Local Innovation Support Funds (LISF), manage the project and assures the communication flow among Burkina Faso and Mali, the two participating countries, assist on the knowledge sharing and policy-related activities.

Local knowledge for innovation

The innovations look for higher productivity and increased food and nutrition security, without having a negative impact on the environment. By building on local knowledge and innovation, farmers in the project develop new and better ways of doing things using their own resources and initiative. May it be out of curiosity, or responding and adapting to changes in socio-economic and environmental conditions, brought about by demographic trends, higher-level policies, disasters, climate change and other external influences.

The three-year (2015-2017) project aims to identify and analyze local innovations and its processes, and improve and distribute outcomes through PID and LISFs. To reach this aim, farmer-led research networks will be established and strengthened to take the lead in research activities, distribution of lessons learned, and PID/LISF management. Also, the project stresses the importance of supporting disseminations of findings and policy-dialogue.

The project was launched after a year-long inception phase, identifying innovative farmers and local innovations for the joint experimentation. Like in Mali, where 17 farmer innovations on organisational management, environmental protection and natural resource management were identified. During this phase, research was also initiated on farmer-led networks.

Participatory Innovation Development and the Local Innovation Support Fund

Participatory Innovation Development is an approach to agricultural research and development that is based on farmers’ motivations and ideas about how to face a local challenge or respond to opportunities to improve livelihoods. Farmers in the project are trained on PID and made aware of the importance of establishing a partnership between farmers, development agencies and researchers, and of the inclusion of ‘soft’ socio-institutional and cultural aspects in innovations, such as gender roles.

The project also pilots the Local Innovation Support Funds (LISFs) to allocate and channel resources to farmers for farmer-led experimentation and innovation. Through direct access to funding to farmers in eastern Africa and Asian countries, the LISF approach has proven to be successful already.