The project will strengthen national and regional capacities to contribute to and facilitate innovation processes for rural development in Eastern and Southern Africa.
Agricultural research for development (AR4D) contributes to poverty reduction through innovative application of new and existing knowledge and practices, thus creating new knowledge for development and social transformation. Supporting the process of innovation is widely considered to be an effective pathway for stimulating development. Indeed, improved productivity, profitability and sustainability of rural agro-ecosystems all require innovation. Innovation is a change process and can be dominantly technical, organisational or institutional; most often, successful innovation combines all these elements. Market innovation, stakeholder organisation and interaction and technical innovation do occur separately, but usually, to be successful and sustainable, a combination is required.
Research can significantly contribute to, and may even be a major catalyst of, this process of innovation. However, to effectively play this role, specific knowledge, skills and attitudes are required of AR4D professionals.
This project will equip mid-career and young professionals in the field of agricultural research and development with the essential competencies, knowledge, attitude and skills to contribute to and facilitate rural innovation processes through a combination of theory and learning-by-doing.
Throughout implementation the project will ensure the participation of all stakeholders, including university lecturers, postgraduate students, university administrators, private sector, agricultural extension, civil society and farmers organizations. This involvement will allow them to articulate their demands and will empower them to take part in decision making.
Project activities consist of:
- Enhancing partnerships for effective networking and institutional change management.
- Assessing stakeholder demands and expertise for the innovation systems approach.
- Developing and running a graduate course on innovation systems.
- Establishing and implementing a part-time mid-career professional training course on the facilitation of agricultural innovation processes.
- Strengthening the innovation capacity of university graduates for AR4D.
- Conducting action research into innovation dynamics.
- Building cross-disciplinary networks of expertise on the role of agricultural research in facilitating rural innovation.
- Sharing lessons learned on the mid-career professional training course and innovation curricula.
- Developing communication products.
The mid-career training course for agricultural professionals is composed of four intensive training blocks of 2-4 weeks, followed by a period of 1-2 months in which participants work on their case studies. The participants are expected to facilitate a multi-stakeholder innovation process.
Students attending the graduate course will follow four weeks of training using case studies from the mid-career training course. The course will however have to fit within the respective curricula of the participating universities.