Drawing from experiences and lessons learned from past agricultural projects, researchers from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and HarvestPlus have proffered some solutions on how to scale out agricultural innovations and create impact at the farm level.
This comes at a time when interest in agriculture is back and science-driven agriculture is on top of the agenda of several national governments and is being seen as part of the solutions to development constraints in sub-Saharan Africa.
The researchers recommended that for agricultural innovations to create impact at scale, researchers must adopt the use of innovation platforms—working with multi-stakeholder groups—to effectively catalyze engagement with partners and ensure participation of important actors.
At a meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa to mark the 15th anniversary of the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), the team of scientists also identified the application of innovative communication and dissemination approaches such as the use of champions and novel information and communication tools (ICT) in outscaling innovations among target beneficiaries.
According to them other measures that could ensure dissemination of knowledge and catalyze technology adoption include:
- Encouragement of counterpart support/funding (not necessarily cash) by partners to get buy-in and to sustain interest and continuity.
- Development of an exit strategy at the beginning of the project for continuity and sustainability at the end of the project.
- Understanding what the beneficiary audience really wants and needs: that is, agricultural innovations should be grounded on audiences’ requirements and based on local knowledge and contexts for them to work.
Dr Alfred Dixon, Head of the Partnership Coordination Office at IITA and Project Leader of the Cassava Weed Management Project, said the strategies shared came at an opportune time when donors and policy makers are looking for methodologies to tackle hunger and poverty and ensure sustainability and impact of projects and programs.
According to him, researchers must do things differently to achieve positive results and impact at the farm level.
“It is no longer business as usual. Our research must benefit the poor farmers and this should be at scale,” he emphasized.
Paul Ilona, Country Manager for HarvestPlus in Nigeria reechoed the need for advocacy through engagement with policymakers and the development of an enabling environment for policy formulation.
He stressed that such approaches influence and facilitate the adoption of agricultural innovations.
The event drew lessons from presentations made on the IITA Business Incubation Platform (BIP) with focuses on aflasafe and Nodumax; Cassava commercialization in Africa; Maize revolution in West Africa; Support for Agricultural Research and Development in Strategic Crops (SARD-SC) in Africa; Dissemination of vitamin A cassava and maize; and Yam for Income and Improvement in Food Security in West Africa (YIIFSWA) model.