Bulletin 374 – Farmers’ organizations and agricultural innovation


B. Wennink, W. Heemskerk

Since the 1990s Sub-Saharan African countries have embarked on major
agricultural sector reforms, which led to changing and innovative roles for the public and private sectors as well as civil society organizations. Farmers’ organizations (FOs) now increasingly voice the needs of their members in various fora on policy-making and orienting service provision. They are solicited by the private sector to enhance chain development, including those for new markets, and they play a role in local development planning. FOs are now, more than ever, actively involved in agricultural development, which requires institutional, organizational and technological innovation in order to be successful. Providing user-oriented research, extension, and training services is therefore a prerequisite for technological innovation. Institutionalizing participatory methods, decentralizing services, creating multi-actor platforms and multi-stakeholder driven funding mechanisms all enhance demand-driven agricultural services. The private-sector and/or public-private arrangements currently play an increasing role in research and extension. FOs are thus evolving in an environment where stakeholders’ interests diverge and/or converge. However, the effective use of new technologies to become innovations is often defined by conditions other than simple access to knowledge and information; it often requires appropriate, innovative institutional and organizational settings. The agricultural innovation systems concept therefore considers links between actors, interactive learning processes, and the policy and institutional contexts that govern the system in order to better understand the generation, dissemination and application of knowledge. The agricultural innovation systems concept also emphasizes the need for all stakeholders to work together towards innovation for development