Against the Grain and to the Roots- maize and cassava innovation platforms in West and Central Africa draws out learning from experiences across 6 countries – The Gambia, Sierra Leone, Mali, Burkina Faso, Republic of Congo, and Cameroon – in using innovation platforms for agricultural development within the Dissemination of New Agricultural Technologies in Africa (DONATA) initiative.
Innovation platforms are one of the most promising new approaches to agricultural and rural development to emerge in recent years. An innovation platform is a group of individuals and representatives of organizations who come together to identify, diagnose and solve common problems. The book looks at key processes for innovation platforms: getting started, facilitating stakeholder interaction and sustainability. Rhiannon Pyburn KIT advisor and one of the authors: “We worked with national agricultural research institutes to collect and systematize experiences and bringing in some relevant concepts to make sense of what was happening in practice. There is lots to learn from the book that will be useful in other contexts where people are using innovation platforms for agricultural development or for improving the functioning of agricultural value chains.”.
New thinking and interactive
The book takes up three specific challenges: influencing policy, gender equity and inclusion, and knowledge and information sharing. It brings in the concepts of resilience, emergent properties, structure and agency to guide recommendations as to how innovation platforms can be used more broadly in African agricultural development. An innovation in this book about innovation is that it is multi-media. Through links to 30 short films, throughout the book you can hear directly from the farmers, policy-makers, processors, marketers, transporters, researchers, extension workers and others involved in the innovation platforms as to their experiences, aspirations and challenges. The book is a co-production with the West and Central African Council for Agricultural Research and Development (WECARD/CORAF).
Bringing a group of diverse but interdependent stakeholders together to build and stimulate the cassava and maize sectors both goes “against the grain” and “to the roots” of agricultural development in West and Central Africa. It requires new thinking and new organizational constellations, alongside an appreciation and inclusion of long-standing actors in these food crop systems. These actors include men and women farmers, primary processors, transporters, traders, researchers, extension workers, policymakers and input suppliers, to name just a few.