Building social capital for agricultural innovation: experiences with farmer groups in Sub-Saharan Africa

Building social capital for agricultural innovation: experiences with farmer groups in Sub-Saharan Africa

The role of sub-Saharan farmer organisations in innovation processes

This report focuses on the role of farmer organisations and their importance to innovation processes. Using case studies, the book describes experiences of managing the involvement of community-based farmer groups in agricultural research and development. The target audience are those involved in demand-driven agricultural innovation processes. Policymakers, practitioners and farmer organisations are encouraged to use this bulletin as a tool for strengthening the role of farmer groups in the Agricultural Knowledge and Information System.

The authors argue that a major challenge for formal farmer organisations remains in effectively using existing social capital for innovation as a means to involve the rural and peri-urban poor. Social capital at the micro-level represents an important building block for agricultural development through local innovation. Further observations include:

  • in addition to being essential players in the formulation of District-level Agricultural Development Plans (DADPs), and the steering of research and extension agendas, the Ward and District Fora are gradually becoming involved in the contracting of these services
  • the only way to strengthen the leverage of farmers over the agendas of agricultural service providers is effective empowerment of farmer groups into strong multi-tiered farmer organisations
  • the strengthening of structural forms of social capital at different levels range from legislation and regulation at national level, through formal representation of farmer organisations at meso level, to the establishment of farmer networks and platforms at more local levels. This process requires careful inventories of existing social capital already involved in innovation development, and efforts to link the existing social capital to national farmer networks and organisations
  • a governance change at all levels and with all stakeholders will have to take place, which requires a change of mindset
  • traditional and other cultural barriers must be overcome before all farmers have a real voice in steering agricultural innovation and development towards their most urgent needs.
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