West Africa Farmer Innovation Fair Demonstrates Farmer-Led Research
In May 2015, Burkina Faso hosted the West Africa Farmer Innovation Fair (Foire de l’Innovation Paysanne en Afrique de l’Ouest FIPAO) in Ouagadougou, showcasing over 50 farmer innovations from eight countries in the Sahel region: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ghana, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo. The fair was an initiative of the Prolinnova/PROFEIS network that promotes local innovation processes in agriculture and natural resource management.
Organisation and attendance
The network is hosted by the Sustainable Economic Development & Gender unit of KIT Royal Tropical Institute whose advisors engaged in coordinating the project, fund raising, and supporting the organisers in the Sahel to organise the policy-related activities that took place at the fair. FIPAO was also supported by Agri-ProFocus Netherlands, CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), McKnight Foundation’s Collaborative Crop Research Program (CCRP) Community of Practice (CoP) in West Africa, Misereor from Germany and SDC (Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation).
The FIPAO has drawn attention to family farming, farmer innovation and the role of small-scale farmers in agricultural research and development in order to facilitate interaction, linkages and learning among value chain actors, CSOs and NGOs research institutions. The fair was also attended by government officials, including the Prime Minister, the Minister of Scientific Research and Innovation and the Minister of Agriculture, Water Resources, Sanitation and Food Security.
The event, as well as the preceding workshop, facilitated a platform to exchange experiences and innovations among (inter)national rural development actors, providing an opportunity to showcase the know-how of the local innovators. This exchange allowed lessons to be drawn to better meet the needs of farmers in improving their livelihood sustainability. Research and farmer innovation are recognized to be complementary in achieving rural development, however research by and with small-scale farmers should gain more importance. By putting farmers in the centre of research.
“This is the first time I travelled outside of Senegal and this is thanks to my innovation. I could get to meet other innovators and know other people. I will continue to work on improving my innovation and others so that I can take part in other fairs”Fatou Seye from Senegal.
Research, innovation and collaboration
The FIPAO presented innovations on plant and animal production techniques, natural resource management, processing of agro-silvo-pastoral products, conservation and storage, agricultural mechanisation, and institutional innovations. During the event, videos were demonstrated presenting farmer-led innovations that address the effects of climate change, panel discussions were held, and the top 5 innovators were awarded for the originality, relevance and viability of their innovations.
Preceding the fair, a workshop on farmer-led research brought together 35 participants from research institutions, universities, farmer organisations and development organisations from West Africa (Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Senegal), Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and United States. The workshop focused on promoting agricultural research by and with small-scale farmers, by sharing experiences on issues of co-developing innovations, introduction of external innovations, the relevance of multi-stakeholder platforms for innovation, and autonomous farmer-led innovation. The workshop resulted in a collective statement ‘The Ouagadougou Declaration’, challenging participants and other stakeholders to further promote collaborative research with farmers.
For more information on the fair, visit the website (in French only).