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JOint Learning about Innovation Systems in African Agriculture

Final Report Summary - JOLISAA (JOint Learning about Innovation Systems in African Agriculture)

Executive Summary:
Within the context of the European-funded JOLISAA FP7 project (JOint Learning in Innovation Systems in African Agriculture), multi-stakeholder agricultural innovation experiences focused on smallholders were assessed in Benin, Kenya, and South Africa using an common analytical framework and guidelines inspired by the Innovation System perspective. Fifty-six cases were characterized broadly through review of grey literature and interviews with resource persons. Of these, 13 were further assessed through semi-structured interviews, focus-group discussions and multi-stakeholder workshops.
The cases cover a wide diversity of experiences in terms of types, domains, scales, timelines, initiators of innovation and stakeholders involved. Findings indicate that innovation triggers and drivers were multiple. For external stakeholders, likelihood of offering a technological fix to an existing problem and availability of funding were key triggers. For local people, access to input and output markets was a powerful trigger and driver. Market types and dynamics varied greatly. Developing functional value chains and accessing (often erratic) markets proved challenging especially for poorer and weakly organized farmers. Over long periods, many determinants of innovation change dynamically and often unpredictably during the process, including motivations of key stakeholders, triggers, drivers and stakeholder arrangements. The direction of innovation evolves, usually moving from a technology entry point to more organizational or institutional innovation. A recurring challenge for making interventions is whether and how these build on local initiatives and knowledge before engaging in innovation development. Another challenge lies in sustaining innovation processes that have been externally initiated and conducted within a protected environment, once the project stops.
The conclusion is that innovation has to be seen as a continuously evolving bundle of innovations of various kinds, rather than as a pre-planned and usually narrowly defined intervention. Consequently, open-ended, flexible approaches to innovation development are needed with the potential to engage meaningfully over a long time with local stakeholders, so that they take full charge of the innovation process and direction.
JOLISAA members are now in the process of sharing the above insights and recommendation with the international community involved with supporting and funding innovation. Several initiatives are also underway post JOLISAA in Benin, Kenya and South Africa which involved key people who took part in JOLISAA and learned about innovation concepts framework and approaches with the aim to further assess and support innovation in many ways.

Project Context and Objectives:
Background and justification
The related concepts of “Innovation” and “Innovation Systems” are becoming increasingly common in discourse on agricultural and rural development. They emerged in response to the limitations of linear or top-down models of knowledge and technology transfer, and in recognition that participatory approaches at farm and community level – while providing interesting opportunities – were not always sufficient to improve smallholders’ livelihoods in a lasting way and on a large scale. Stimulating innovation and improving the efficiency of innovation processes and systems is increasingly recognised as a policy priority. However, largely because of the complexity of multistakeholder processes of knowledge generation and use in smallholder farming, there is little understanding of what policies and approaches work effectively under what conditions, and how to implement them in concrete terms.
In Africa, much attention is paid to innovation practice. Numerous projects and initiatives, usually implemented with external donor support, promote participatory development of different types of agricultural innovations at different scales. Most of this work is, however, not based on an explicit conceptual basis, nor are such experiences systematically documented (not to mention assessed) in a truly participatory manner. Moreover, cross-analyses of cases within a country or across countries are rarely made because of differing underlying analytical frameworks and approaches used in each case study. Thus, learning about such experiences remains fragmented, mostly local and anecdotal, and has limited capacity to inform and influence policy formulation and institutional frameworks.

Project objectives and approach
JOLISAA operated from February 2010 to July 2013. Its overall goal was to assess how smallholders’ innovativeness, knowledge, capacities and other resources can be tapped into, strengthened and linked effectively to those of other stakeholders – public or private, local or global – to contribute to reducing rural poverty and improving food security in Africa. To this aim, JOLISAA had six specific objectives:
1. Incorporate the concepts and approaches related to Innovation Systems and local knowledge into a framework and an operational approach well-suited to assessing systematically and collectively experiences about agricultural innovation across Africa;
2. Assess in a comparative and collaborative manner a series of carefully selected past and ongoing cases of agricultural innovation involving multiple stakeholder and knowledge sources;
3. Strengthen the capacities of members of existing innovation platforms in three African countries to assess, learn collectively from and facilitate multistakeholder innovation approaches building on diverse knowledge sources;
4. Improve local, national and international exchange, learning and networking among diverse stakeholders and constituencies about innovation experiences and approaches;
5. Identify, synthesise and validate collectively the corresponding results, lessons and challenges;
6. Propose to the EC and other interested national and international bodies an itemised, collectively validated agenda for future research, practice and policy related to multistakeholder innovation approaches and local knowledge in Africa.

To achieve the above objectives, lessons learnt about past and on-going experiences with agricultural/rural innovation involving multiple stakeholders in Eastern, Southern and West Africa were synthesized by combining joint case-study assessment with capacity-strengthening and networking at various scales. Lessons were sought in terms of the practices, the underlying concepts, methodologies and narratives, and in terms of the context, i.e. support structures and institutions (e.g. research, extension and education institutes) and mechanisms (e.g. coordination, platforms, policies) that are required as part of the enabling environment for such approaches. Case studies developed in an iterative way by scientists and practitioners according to a common analytical framework tackled diverse innovation types and scales: from natural resource management to production and agribusiness, from local initiatives to national and regional ones. Joint iterative capacity-building and learning among project partners and with local/national stakeholders was at the heart of the project’s operation: it was fostered by engaging diverse stakeholders, including researchers, practitioners and policymakers.
The corresponding activities were conducted through five interlinked thematic Work Packages (WPs) (Figure 1). In WP1, an analytic framework and an operational approach were developed based on an innovation-system perspective and carefully adapted to the context and experiences of the three regions in Africa. WP2 involved joint assessment and learning from a series of case studies in Kenya, South Africa and Benin. In WP3, the capacity of members of existing multi-stakeholder innovation platforms to assess their experiences and to facilitate innovation were strengthened, in close interaction with case-study development. In WP4, lessons were shared and discussed within existing national innovation platforms across Africa and with European/international institutions. WP5 compiled and shared the project outputs and delivered them in formats suitable for a range of audiences, from academia to policymakers.

Figure 1: Global interactions among thematic Work Packages in the JOLISAA project

Project outputs
Joint learning and strengthened capacities among project partners and case-study holders were key outputs of the project: they enabled JOLISAA members to assess and engage more effectively in multi-stakeholder innovation processes and systems. Reports, publications and training materials about individual selected case studies are another major output: they provide a better understanding of the nature, performance and impact of innovation systems and of the multi-stakeholder processes of knowledge creation, transfer, hybridisation and use that sustain innovation, as well as reports and publications presenting a cross-analysis of such cases. The project also produced policy briefs to contribute to more informed decision-making by formal African agricultural research and development (ARD) actors and their partners about how to strengthen Agricultural Innovation Systems (AIS) and local/traditional knowledge. Finally, the project delivered relevant, pragmatic and collectively validated recommendations to the EC and to African decision-makers for future research, practice and policy related to AIS and local/traditional knowledge. All the above materials are actively being shared and disseminated at various scales – national, regional, African, global – both through the project website and during relevant national and international events.

Project Results:
Literature review on innovation systems and related concepts
Under WP1 task 1.1 JOLISAA partners explored how the different models of innovation can be useful to understand rural innovation in Africa involving smallholders who still depend largely on agricultural production. The review included typical innovation-based theories like strategic niche management, co-evolution, multi-stakeholder platforms and brokerage, and how these were applied in EU-supported programs on European agricultural innovation. It also considered learning- and action-based approaches and its relevance for rural innovation in African context. Finally, it reflected on more conventional theories in social sciences like social and actor network analysis, boundary work, and bottom-up approaches to integrate farmer knowledge and participation into innovation processes. The different schools of thought on innovation systems included in the review are presented in table 1 below.

Table 1. Schools of thought on innovation systems
(Source: Almekinders et al., 2012)

The review did not yield clear patterns that characterize successful innovations. There are analytical models primarily used by scientists; for their part, learning-and action-oriented models cater more to the need of practitioners. The most informative studies consist of in-depth case studies that reconstruct innovation cases and try to identify critical moments/events/factors in the course of the process.
This led to the conclusion that, to draw lessons for JOLISAA, what was needed was to analyse our series of innovation case studies with our own set of questions, rather than looking at the different hypothesis put forward by the tradition/innovation thinking approach in which they were positioned and analysed. One of the reasons is that conditions in African smallholder agricultural production and rural development are different in many ways from other fields in which the concept of innovation is applied.

• Making sense of the messy nature of innovation / innovation bundles
During the project, our initial working definition of innovation had to be revised in terms of time frame and scope. At the start of JOLISAA, innovation was supposed to be made understandable by analyzing available reports and describing it using a fairly simple set of criteria about its nature, its beginning and end, etc. As the inventory progressed, we instead discovered that innovation was more like a messy entanglement of intertwined elemental innovations with no clear starting or end point, and hence difficult to characterize in simple ways. The nature of what the innovations we were describing was all about was often redefined iteratively as new aspects of the process were uncovered. This gave rise to coining (using) the concept of “innovation bundle”, where one innovation induces the need for another so that continuous “strings” of innovation chain up; with in some case a visible and speedy up- and out-scaling.
Analytical framework and operational guidelines for assessing innovation experiences

Step 1: Inventory
The inventory was implemented in three countries – Benin, Kenya and South Africa – and focused on agricultural innovation experiences. Three main inclusion criteria were used when seeking cases to be considered for the inventory: (1) smallholder and other resource-poor rural stakeholders actively involved; (2) at least three different categories of stakeholders actively involved (e.g. farmers, researchers and market operators), (3) experience at least three years old and past the initial stages of innovation (Barras, 1986; World Bank, 2006, Geels and Shot, 2007). JOLISAA was interested in cases related to any type and domain of agricultural innovation (production, processing, marketing, natural resource management, etc.) and to any scale at which innovation took place (from local to international).

The inventory guidelines process
JOLISAA had three main learning purposes for documenting and analyzing innovation cases in its 3 target countries: 1) exploring a wide diversity of innovation processes; 2) understand the ways innovations unfold over time; and 3) understand how people learn within these processes of change. A common strategy and approach was developed to achieve these objectives. This approach focused on typology of innovations, geographic scale, triggers and initiative in the process, and the key activities stakeholder undertook during the process.
The initial analytical framework produced early on during the project (Almekinders et al, 2010b, 2010c) was met with quite some skepticism about its appropriateness as a tool for understanding innovation cases. The primary critiques were that it would not adequately capture the richness and complexity inherent in most of the cases because it was too static and too stiff (as illustrated by the proposed Excel template which for each main variable identified, offered a few pre-determined classes to choose from to characterize a given case). As a result of this criticism, the inventory analysis and the light case assessment that had been programmed were eventually collapsed into one process and product, under the leadership of WP2. As JOLISAA adapted its goals and tools, the initial analytical framework formed the foundation for the eventual inventory guidelines that was used to systematically examine about 100 cases. Doing so was partly due to the recognition that gathering information about the cases was more time consuming and less straightforward that had been initially anticipated. This also meant that the number of cases which could be assessed for the inventory was significantly reduced (from hundreds of anticipated cases to less than 60 actually documented). Most of the variables outlined in the initial analytical framework were kept as part and parcel of the inventory guidelines, but enhanced space was given for qualitative description of particularities of the cases.
The final analytical framework & guidelines
A common analytical framework and associated guidelines were eventually developed iteratively among project partners over a 10-month period to characterize the cases identified (Triomphe et al., 2010). The conceptual approach draws flexibly on the IS concept and perspective (Hall et al., 2003; Edquist, 2005; Spielman, 2006, 2009; World Bank, 2006; Pant and Hambly-Odame, 2009; Röling, 2009) and on the actor-network theory (Akrich et al., 1988, 2006; Latour, 2005, Biggs, 2007). It focuses on some key dimensions of innovation processes (Table 1). Several indicators aim at describing the actual nature and domain of innovations developed, the stakeholders involved, their roles and interactions, and innovation triggers and drivers. Efforts were also made to go beyond a static view of innovation by including synthetic indicators about innovation phases and dynamics (Nelson and Winter, 2002; Malerba, 2007). More operational criteria were also included in the inventory about the availability, accessibility and quality of existing documentation about the various cases, an issue which eventually emerged as a significant challenge (see later). Other strategic dimensions such as characterizing in detail the enabling environment (World Bank, 2006) or the governance of the innovation process were, however, beyond the reach of this inventory, mostly as a result of resource limitations. For each included dimension and indicator, JOLISAA members based in the countries filled in a spreadsheet template consisting of a series of semi-quantitative variables for describing major dimensions of each innovation case (Table 1). They also developed a short freely flowing yet structured text narrative, allowing them to provide concise explanations about key qualitative aspects of these dimensions, as well as to present the local innovation context (Table 1). Filling in the spreadsheets and developing the narratives involved an iterative, time-consuming process of data retrieval, interviews with key informants, occasional field visits and peer reviews of drafts .

Table 1: Main categories and variables used in the inventory framework
Theme / Dimension / Variable What JOLISAA
wanted to know about it Included in spreadsheet? Included in
text narrative?
Local innovation context General agro-environmental and socioeconomic information No Yes
Innovation: type, nature, domain What was the diversity of innovations addressed? Yes Description
Stakeholders’ roles & interactions Who have been leading or active stakeholders? What type of coordination took place among stakeholders? Basics Table and description
Role of local knowledge What role has local knowledge played? No Yes
Innovation triggers & drivers What have been the key triggers and drivers of the innovation process? Key categories only In some detail
Innovation dynamics What have been the key phases the innovation process went through from t0 to the present? No Main phases from t0 until today
Scale at which innovation is taking place Did the innovation process take place mainly at local, regional or national scale, or at several scales? Basics In some detail
Results and “impact” obtained What have been the effects so far, positive or negative, intended or not, in the different dimensions? Basics List of results / effects of different kinds

Identifying & documenting cases
Two different routes were followed to seek cases (Triomphe et al., 2010). The first one was institutional, by targeting resource persons linked to specific institutions (universities, research institutes and networks which were part of the national agricultural innovation landscape), or to specific innovation cases already known by JOLISAA national teams. The second one was geographical, by focusing on a given region, area or farming systems within each country. Selection of cases was purposeful.
Based on these 2 main routes, four different methods or combinations of methods were used to identify cases, each country adopting its own blend of them:
1) List cases already known to the JOLISAA national team, because they have been directly associated with them in one way or another (SA, B, K);
2) Send a questionnaire electronically to relevant resource persons and networks (SA), which worked to a certain extent but presented a number of challenges, including the ability of the questionnaire’s recipients to understand what was required and the creation of false expectatins;
3) Convene or take advantage of national meetings involving relevant resource persons / institutions (SA, B): this was mostly done during the national workshops N-X1
4) Visit specific areas where concrete signs of an (emerging) innovation may be observed (B), which was the role devoted in Benin to young graduates in charge of specific cases.
Two additional methods could have been quite useful, but were not used for lack of time and discipline…
5) Search available local or national literature databases, congress abstracts and proceedings, University and Research institution libraries, etc.
6) Identify cases through international networking and global bibliographic searches (not done).

Step 2: Collaborative case assessment (CCA)
The CCA process in a nutshell
Over a period of close to 10 months, an internal JOLISAA taskforce developed the approach and its associated operational guidelines to collaborative case assessment (CCA) (Triomphe et al, 2012). The general objective of the collaborative case assessment (CCA) was to assess and understand how selected innovation processes unfolded. The focus was specifically on the multi-stakeholder dynamics and the role of, and extent to which, local knowledge contributed to the success. Ultimately, the aim was to identify and validate the lessons and recommendations coming out of these cases.
In developing and then applying these guidelines, the JOLISAA international team faced several challenges, e.g. in gaining a common understanding and making consistent use of key innovation-related concepts, in building the capacities of its members to use assessment methods and tools properly, in accessing relevant information, in involving sufficiently local stakeholders in the collaborative assessment and in learning jointly (Triomphe et al, 2013b).

Overall approach to CCA
Several criteria were used to select an “appropriate” approach for CCA. They included:
1. Participatory by design
2. Compatible with JOLISAA’s narrow resource base (human, financial)
3. Compatible with a short time frame (a few months available for field work after N-Xtra)
4. Well-suited to tackle the array of research questions identified (see above)
5. Inductive of “concrete”, “monitorable” joint learning
Applying these 5 criteria led to two main implications for CCA:
1. The CCA approach had to be based on robust, cost-efficient methods and tools that CCA teams had a fair chance of applying successfully on their own. Conversely, it had to avoid as much as possible too fancy, poorly referenced, poorly-known and hard-to-learn and to-apply, too specialized and costly methods and tools.
2. CCA approach had to propose a mix of methods and tools, including those appropriate for use over short time periods (e.g. a few days at a time at most), and those appropriate for use for more prolonged field work.

Figure 1 summarizes the CCA overall approach eventually developed through several iterations. CCA at the level of one case starts with an all-important CCA planning meeting attended by all (or most) CCA team members. During planning, case-specific research questions were properly formulated, specific methods and tools to be used were chosen and some capacity-building was conducted about them in some cases (e.g. South Africa, Kenya). Finally, roles and responsibilities of the various CCA team members were clarified and a realistic, detailed work plan and budget produced that guided the CCA team throughout the CCA process.
The heart of CCA field work consisted of at least one and ideally two successive iterations of CCA activities: a complete iteration consisted typically of a planning phase, followed by a series of semi-structured interviews and focus group discussions with selected representatives of key stakeholders and other resource persons knowledgeable about the innovation case under study, and an analysis of the corresponding results. It culminated in a well-prepared multi-stakeholder workshop to discuss findings and elicit stakeholders’ views on specific issues. If a second iteration could be conducted (it was rarely the case), it then focused on unearthing further evidence, based on results and information gaps identified obtained during the first iteration. Planning and analysis were supposed to be recurrent activities throughout the CCA process.

Figure 1: Overall Collaborative Case Assessment approach

Within this overall framework, the following generic methods and tools seemed coherent with the CCA objectives and research questions.
• Bibliographic review & consolidation related to the case and its context:
• Semi-structured individual or group interviews with resource persons and key informants
• Focus group discussions with specific stakeholder groups
• Multi-stakeholder workshops, the aim of which was to review and validate evidence and story lines, confront perceptions and interpretations, identifying further assessment needs and a way forward for the innovation process.
• Stakeholder & network mapping
• Direct observations

Research questions
Within the general objective of assessing and understanding how innovation processes unfold with a focus on the multi-stakeholder aspects and the role of local knowledge, the CCA framework and guidelines focused on three types of questions:
1. Four generic research questions: they applied to each and every CCA case and addressed the main dimensions of the innovation process a given case has witnessed,
a. Stakeholders: Who have been the stakeholders involved in the innovation process, at what moment(s) and with what role? Who among them has been especially active, who has been more passive or maybe even left out and why? What has influenced the participation and actual contribution of the various stakeholders?
b. Innovations as outcome: What types of innovations (technical, organizational, institutional, etc.) have been developed, at what stages and how have they emerged in the course of the innovation process? What effects have they had for and on the various stakeholders?
c. Knowledge: What knowledge, skills or other contributions have different stakeholders made during the innovation process, when and with what results?
d. Enabling environment: What were the key opportunities and barriers, the key triggers and drivers which have influenced the innovation process and outcome, at what scale did they manifest themselves, what consequences did they have?
2. Thematic research questions: they applied to a sub-sample of CCA cases and addressed specific themes or issues of special relevance to JOLISAA,
a. Market / Value Chain: What influence has “the market” had on the innovation process / outcome during its various phases (in terms of prices, set of actors, demand, constraints, dynamics, etc.)?
b. Scale: What factors and conditions have allowed or prevented the innovation process to extend beyond its initial scale or scope (scale up or out)?
c. ARD actors: What specific role(s) have donors, formal research and other ARD institutions played in supporting the innovation process, what concrete contributions have they made, what resistance if any have they opposed?
d. Projects: To what extent has the innovation process been embedded in or determined by the existence and operation of externally supported projects or intervention? To what degree has this influence been positive?
Local research questions: they applied to individual CCA cases and addressed issues or concerns of particular relevance to local stakeholders. Local questions were obviously not formulated in a generic manner, since this could only be done by and with local stakeholders of each CCA case, as the result of a negotiation based on the above-mentioned criteria for identifying “good” questions.
Such common research questions were supposed to be at the very heart of developing a meaningful cross-analysis of results among cases and countries. For each research question, sub-questions (or question trees), and actual interview questions allowing to tackle them in practice were developed during the planning stages at the beginning of the CCA process for each CCA case.

Selecting cases
CCA case selection was the result of a process in which inventory cases were assessed against a set of criteria at two levels: individually and as a collection of cases at the country level (Table 1).
Appendix 2 provides details about how scoring of inventory cases was actually done in the 3 countries. Table 2 for its part shows the resulting 13 cases selected for Collaborative Case assessment in the 3 countries.
Table 1: Criteria used to select CCA cases
Level Individual case Collection of case
1 Inventory criteria are truly met (genuine innovation process, multiple active stakeholders, substantial input by smallholder farmers Diversity of aspects and dimensions tackled among the cases
2 Rich content Potential to unearth relevant and complementary lessons for strengthening farmers’ innovative capacity
3 Significant dynamics in recent years
4 Local case stakeholders willing to engage actively in the CCA
S Strategic interest within the national context

Table 2: List of CCA cases selected in Benin, Kenya and South Africa
Country # of cases Case short titles
Kenya 6 • Management of Prosopis
• Domestication and marketing of Aloe Vera,
• Solar milk cooling
• Large-scale commercialization of lime,
• Mango processing
• Gaddam sorghum commercialization
South Africa 3 • In-field rainwater harvesting,
• Developing a fertilizer bulk buying system,
• Enhancing farmers’ capacities for soil fertility management
Benin 4 • Community-based fish farming
• Development of soybean use
• Integrated soil fertility management
• Rice parboiling

Among them, CCA cases selected in each country illustrate a significant and “typical” diversity of innovation situations, which reflects the existing diversity of situations on the ground in each country, as perceived through the inventory. They also seemed to have the potential to contribute to illustrate and support key policy messages JOLISAA wanted to transmit to policy- and decision-makers. They furthermore contributed to in-country joint learning and to generating useful, original and “rich” knowledge on multi-stakeholder innovation processes and the role of local knowledge in general, allowing us to answer our set of research questions about such processes (see above.

Step 3: Cross-analysis
Based on individual inventory and CCA reports, JOLISAA proceeded with a cross-analysis of its results at 2 levels: country and global.
At both levels, main topics and issues identified in the analytical framework were addressed, such as innovation types, stakeholders and their roles, the unfolding of the innovation process.
At the national level, the cross-analysis was mostly done for the third national workshop, as a way of synthesizing results.
At the global level, a cross-analysis workshop was organized to identify main issues and to split up the work by topics. Small thematic groups were formed which used the existing reports as a basis for extracting the available evidence

Inventory and CCA report development
Report development was a highly iterative and participatory process. It involved the following steps
• Drafting of an initial report for each innovation case by students or young professionals (case of Benin),
• editing and completion of the draft report by national team members,
• Review of the completed draft by 2-3 EU-based team members assigned to specific cases
• Production of a v2 of the report by national teams with help from students or young professionals
• Production of the final report
Main results of the assessment of innovation experiences

Key inventory results
More than a hundred potential cases were initially identified (Table 2), out of which about half did not meet the JOLISAA inclusion criteria. Either there were too few stakeholders, or the experiences were still incipient, or it was impossible to pinpoint the actual innovation angle within what amounted to a development intervention, or resource persons were not accessible. The inventory eventually documented 57 cases (Table 2), some apparently rather successful ones, some with much more ambiguous results and effects. The inventory has a partly self-applied bias against “unsuccessful” cases, as stakeholders of such cases are typically rather reluctant to share them openly. It also has a rather involuntary bias against weakly documented or weakly visible cases, usually as a result of formal research and development (R&D) institutions not having been stakeholders. The variability in the number of documented cases in each country reflected a number of interlinked factors: the initial familiarity of each national team with innovation cases and resource persons; the relative ease with which they were able to link up with appropriate resource persons, networks and institutions; the actual routes followed for case identification; and the willingness of case holders to share information about their experiences.
Table 2: Key characteristics of the national inventories of innovation experiences implemented by JOLISAA teams in Benin, Kenya and South Africa
Key characteristics of the inventory Benin Kenya South Africa
Number of cases in the inventory (*) > 40  28 28  18 39  11
Approach used for documenting cases Literature review + interviews +
field visits Interviews +
field visits +
lit. review E-mail questionnaire
+ interviews + literature review
Who documented the cases? Young graduates
+ national team KARI on-site researchers
+ national team National team
+ case-specific resource persons
Main domains of innovation Agriculture, fisheries, processing, access to markets Agriculture, livestock, processing,
access to markets Agriculture, processing & marketing
Main types of innovation Technical, organizational and institutional,
usually linked with each other
Main / lead stakeholders
(in decreasing order of frequency) 1. Research / R&D projects; 2. Farmers, CBOs & Fos(+); 3. Private entrepreneurs 1. Research; 2. R&D projects; 3. Extension / Farmers 1. Farmers, researchers, 2. NGOs, 3. Extension
Timeline of innovation cases Several decades
to a few years A few years
to a decade or more Typically
a few years
Main scale(s) at which innovation takes place Local, regional, national, international Local, regional, national Mostly local
Notes: (*) X  Y: number of cases identified  number of cases actually documented
(+) CBO = community-based organization; FO = farmer organization

Who actually documented the cases also varied: the teams in Benin and Kenya documented more cases as they were able to mobilize resource persons external to the national teams. The Benin team opted to rely on closely supervised young graduates to sift through existing documentation, interview resource persons and conduct some field visits. The Kenya team opted to rely on KARI site researchers based in five regional research centers across the country. The South Africa team, for its part, opted to contact resource persons with an electronic questionnaire followed by telephone interviews.
Whatever the differences in approaches and number of cases, a broad diversity of cases was unearthed in each country (Tables 2 and 3). Documented cases touched on many different domains of innovation, related to crop or animal (including fish) production, but also to natural resource management, produce processing and marketing. The related innovation processes had developed at scales ranging from local to national. Diverse stakeholders, including farmers, NGOs, research or private sector, played an active role. However, truly farmer-led cases were few, probably because they were less visible and also less frequently documented.
Table 3: Diversity of innovation experiences in the inventories of Benin, Kenya and South Africa
Theme of inventory cases Benin Kenya S. Africa
Restoring & managing soil fertility X X X
Increasing moisture capture and managing water to boost crop productivity X
Participatory plant breeding X X
New post-harvest conservation or processing techniques X X
Protecting natural resources (water, wild species, forest) by developing new ways of producing and new sources of income X X
Multi-stakeholder platforms & committees for managing natural resources (fisheries, irrigation water, etc.) X X
Contract farming (certified seed production, linking farmers to agro-industry) X X
New value chains (organic cotton / cotton made in Africa / organic pineapple/ dried mangos, soybean production and transformation, ginger drink, etc.) X X X

A qualitative comparison of inventory cases based on their main features was carried out and yielded the following understanding.
A number of trends detected confirm observations made elsewhere. For one, the emergence of market-driven innovation has been reported in many recent surveys of innovation in Africa (e.g. Adekunle et al., 2012) and is indeed reflected in many inventory cases across the three countries. Market-driven innovation may take place through the emergence of new value-chain arrangements, or the taking into account by producers of consumer or industry demands or standards. There is also the more traditional yet still critical issue of linking to markets for accessing inputs. Most of the market-related cases combine elements of technical innovation with organizational or institutional ones. While linking to the market is increasingly considered vital for improving smallholders’ livelihoods, accessing markets for products, inputs or capital is not straightforward for them, as it implies tangible risks and requires collective action, which itself usually requires significant support from other stakeholders, usually public ARD institutions (when they have developed the corresponding skills and vision) or often international NGOs and externally-funded projects.
Cases exhibit a wide diversity of stakeholders involved in innovation, a well-reported observation by many authors, especially in the wake of IS approaches (e.g. Hounkounnou et al., 2012). The typical stakeholders involved in a given case include a mix of individual farmers-innovators (those who actually engage in innovation), one or several community-based or farmer organizations, formal research, extension services, NGOs, private entrepreneurs, government, etc. Externally funded R&D projects and the constellation of stakeholders they mobilize also appear as major stakeholders in their own right in many inventory cases.
Depending on the specific case and also on the phase of innovation (from its emergence to its relative maturity), the lead and active stakeholders varied. For instance, researchers, an NGO or an R&D project might have been very active in initial stages (conducting diagnosis and on-farm experimentation, providing capacity-building, etc.), while farmers and their organizations or business stakeholders became more active in subsequent phases. Interestingly, while usually present and active, researchers did not necessarily play a leading role or initiate innovation in many of the inventory cases, as ideas and initiatives came from different sources, including the farmers themselves. Hardly any decision- and policy-makers and only a few private-sector actors appeared among the active stakeholders. This may reflect the relative scarcity of specific pro-innovation public policies in the countries under study, as well as a relative weakness of the inventory framework with reference to such dimensions. It may also reflect the limited connections of national R&D actors with what are still mostly, in their view, non-conventional partners.
The inventory also shows that interactions among stakeholders take different forms: in some cases, interactions remained rather informal while, in others, they took place under the umbrella of an R&D project. They could also take the form of a multi-stakeholder platform, especially when a common resource (e.g. a mangrove, an irrigation scheme, a forest) needed to be managed (Hounkounou et al., 2012) or when such a platform was organized under the umbrella of a project. In many inventory cases, one of the actors (typically a research institute or an NGO) played the role of intermediary or innovation broker (Klerkx and Leeuwis, 2008) to facilitate interactions among stakeholders.
Innovation triggers were fairly diverse among inventory cases. Most cases presented a mix of triggers of various kinds. Degradation of natural resources (e.g. declining soil fertility, a dwindling supply of irrigation water, a disappearing forest, increasing frequency of drought) was among the most common triggers mentioned. Other common triggers included seizing a local or global market opportunity or, frequently, introducing a new technology or practice (such as a new breed of livestock, a new way of parboiling rice, a fertility-improving input). Changes in policy were, however, rarely mentioned.

Other characteristics emerging from the cross-analysis of inventory cases are perhaps more original. In many of them, the relevant innovation timeframe for understanding the innovation process easily spanned more than ten years, sometimes even several decades. There is obviously an element of choice in deciding what constitutes a legitimate starting point for characterizing a given innovation process. More importantly, JOLISAA teams wanted to reflect the actual dynamics that many innovation processes often go through (Nelson and Winter, 2002; World Bank, 2006). Furthermore, a longer timeframe allows capturing the fact that innovation processes commonly took place at an uneven pace over time and space, sometimes going very briskly, sometimes becoming almost dormant, under the influence of varying and constantly changing triggers and drivers related to the overall enabling environment. In Kenya, for instance, the initial introduction of the Prosopis sp. as a way to restore degraded lands was considered to be a success by its promoters until farmers perceived it as an obnoxious invasive species which had to be eradicated. Faced with this challenge, a new innovation iteration took place which eventually yielded viable strategies and options for managing and using Prosopis by using its pods for forage, by burning it to produce high-quality charcoal and by producing good-quality honey from Prosopis stands. The frequent occurrence of such a changing innovation landscape over time puts into question the ability of the many existing assessments based on shorter timelines (typically a few years) to reflect, not to mention predict, the actual fate of what should perhaps be called initial innovations, to differentiate them from more mature innovations.
As suggested by the IS framework, many concrete innovations resulting from a given innovation process exhibited several interwoven dimensions: technical (e.g. a new variety, a new technology), organizational (farmers acting collectively to acquire inputs or sell their produce) and institutional (new coordination mechanisms, new companies). These various dimensions did not usually materialize from the start: building on a specific entry point (typically around a new technology), other dimensions emerged along the way as the innovation process unfolded, which exhibited strong relationships with the initial innovation, and vice versa. This was especially true when considering a long timeline. New dimensions may result from new stakeholders coming on board, or simply from stakeholders starting to change their practices and, in so doing, transforming or taking advantage in different ways of the environment in which they operate.
The evolution of soybean growing and processing in Benin offers a striking example of such a situation. Soybean was first introduced in the 1970s as a protein-rich food for infants, and farm families were shown how to grow it and to use it in traditional cooking recipes. Silent development of several soybean-based products and food chains followed, which were valued by low income consumers in search of alternative protein sources to substitute for costly cow milk cheese, beef and fish. After a long latency period, soybean production increased markedly in central Benin as the cotton value chain underwent a prolonged crisis. This prompted oil-processing factories to develop contractual arrangements with farmers and their organizations to replace cotton seed with soybean. In recent years, as an alternative to the powerful industrial soybean oil value chain, farmers’ organizations have supported producer-led soybean food chains based on small-scale soybean cheese and oil-processing equipment, coupled with the development of poultry husbandry using the soybean residues.
Many inventory cases document highly visible and well-known innovations that have a strong link with externally funded projects. This is hardly surprising, as the inventory teams were generally better acquainted with exogenous interventions than with endogenous initiatives. This in turn may be related to the abundance of “projects” intended to spur innovation in developing countries: as national public funding for innovation is scarce, public institutions and NGOs depend on external support to implement innovation-related activities, while smallholders are usually too poor to pursue innovation at a significant scale on their own. Yet the relationship between innovation and projects seems ambivalent at best. On the one hand, projects contribute to creating innovation dynamics embedded in a temporarily favorable (and artificial) enabling environment, shielding the process from the usual inhibiting factors. They are able to do so because of the leverage they exert on human and financial resources, the opportunities they create for linking stakeholders one to another and the intensity of innovation-related activities they activate and support. This usually allows a minimum critical mass or threshold to be reached and initial bottlenecks to be overcome, hence increasing the probability of the innovation to achieve a niche status (Geels and Shot, 2007). On the other hand, projects often artificially trigger and support activities and short-term uses of technologies and other innovations which may not be sustainable, at times not even desirable, on their own. The national inventories in Benin, Kenya and south Africa exhibt many examples of fast apparent adoption under project stimuli (in the form of access to inputs, to credit, buy back of products, or also technical advisory service), followed by rapid decline in adoption once the project is over. Moreover, projects frequently trigger opportunistic behaviors from a variety of stakeholders and tend to induce a culture of aid-dependency. At the same time, projects tend to overlook more endogenous, local, low-cost and potentially more sustainable innovation pathways and outcomes, partly because they rarely take the time to identify and assess such alternatives to externally-driven interventions. Analyzing the conditions under which projects could indeed give way to sustainable innovation and development dynamics is, however, beyond the scope of the JOLISAA inventory.

Key CCA results
What follows are the main results coming out of the cross-analysis of the 13 CCA cases.
1. Invisible or negatively perceived innovation processes “under the radar”
The aloe innovation process in semi-arid Baringo County, Kenya (Mulindo et al 2013a) shows how difficult it is for public R&D institutions and individuals to take local innovation into account, even when this has strong pre-existing dynamics (Figure 1). Well before the advent of any formal interventions, traders from outside the region led the development of a local aloe supply chain for the export market: local aloe harvesters sold aloe sap to boilers who then supplied traders working with aloe exporters. A series of technical and organizational innovations were developed in this informal value chain (Mulindo et al. 2013a), sometimes as the result of (unintentional) interactions with the activities and proposals of the formal aloe project (see below).
The trigger for the public R&D intervention on aloe (through an EU-funded project) was a perception that wild aloe, an internationally recognized endangered species, was being overexploited, which led to a presidential decree banning its exploitation and sale. An alternative was eventually designed to try and establish a certified, sustainable value chain. Aloe was to be cultivated instead of simply harvested in the wild, a factory for processing aloe sap was to be set up through a public-private partnership, and the processed sap would be exported legally so that the value added would eventually support aloe conservation and provide a sustainable source of livelihood to poor aloe farmers.

Figure 1: Two parallel value chains for processing aloe: formal and informal

When this project was designed, no attention was given to the existing local processing and marketing system: indeed, the public R&D actors deliberately ignored this system as they perceived it as having a negative impact on aloe sustainability. Also, it relied on actors (the sap traders, women) with a low social status and capital. Thus, interests of the local stakeholders were not considered in project design and operation. As a consequence, the actual implementation of this apparently well-thought-through concept went through many delays, challenges and conflicts among stakeholders, which prevented it from reaching the stated objectives.
Other JOLISAA cases illustrate the same trend of no or limited attention to local innovation, even when it has been well established for a long time or when it exhibits a very dynamic and successful adaptation to a rapidly changing environment; this is particularly true for the innovation related to fishponds in floodplains of southern Benin (Floquet et al 2013c).
2. Closely linked technological, organizational and institutional innovation
The Prosopis case in Baringo (Mulindo et al 2013b) illustrates how technical innovation induces a sequence of organizational and institutional innovation (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Sequencing of technical, organizational and institutional innovation
in the Prosopis case in Kenya

Prosopis had been introduced as the miracle plant that would save arid lands in Kenya from desertification and poverty. What could be called a simple and isolated technical innovation, however, became an invasive species and was rapidly perceived as a noxious weed by local communities, who called for its eradication. As an alternative, a number of public R&D stakeholders set up an organizational innovation in the form of Farmer Field Schools (FFSs), where community members were exposed to a set of technical innovations for managing the tree to keep it under control, including how to produce charcoal from Prosopis. Charcoal making and trade were, however, considered illegal. Therefore, charcoal-making rules had to be changed, thus introducing an institutional innovation to allow controlled and traceable charcoal production and trade based on Prosopis. This change made it possible for some of the FFS groups to specialize in charcoal production and trade as a way of controlling Prosopis, thus raising their income and leading to a positive perception of charcoal burning, which had previously been regarded as an activity with low social status. Other benefits consisted of producing high-quality honey from Prosopis stands and using Prosopis pods as a new source of feed for local livestock. Recently, prospects for using Prosopis biomass to generate electricity locally have emerged.
While the Prosopis case is certainly not an example of local innovation, nor can it be seen as a unambiguous “success story”, it illustrates well that a sequence of technological, organizational and institutional innovations, including the vital linkage with the charcoal market, allowed the process to take root and offered improved opportunities for local communities. This stands in sharp contrast to the conventional (and still commonplace) R&D interventions that focus on purely technological change and never manage to land properly in the local landscape.
3. Diverse value chains and markets for resilience and inclusiveness
Innovation studies and interventions commonly focus on modern formal value chains, especially those giving access to lucrative export markets or based on large-scale processing units. But there are other possibilities of working with value chains: the soybean case in Benin (Floquet et al 2013a) shows how diversification of processing and marketing options for a commodity offers flexibility, adaptability and profit to smallholder producers, small-scale processors and poor rural and urban consumers (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Emergence of a diversified set of value chains in the soybean case in Benin

Soy was introduced in the 1980s for improving infant nutrition via protein-rich baby formula and was cultivated, if at all, only on small plots for consumption: It has now become a major crop on more than 100,000 ha. Two main groups of stakeholders are behind this phenomenon:
i. Thousands of very small-scale female processors of food with very rich knowledge of local cuisine gradually developed a range of food products out of the introduced soybean and information about how to toast it. They used soy as an inexpensive substitute for food products traditionally made with cow cheese, locustbean, meat etc. With the help of some NGOs, several value chains emerged around soy-based food products targeting local and then urban consumers eager to find cheaper alternatives to meat- and fish-based products, especially in recent years of acute crisis linked to higher food prices. Small-scale processing allows for gradual upgrading and asset acquisition by these female-operated micro-enterprises, which can go from having no equipment to renting milling services, and from renting services to owning equipment.
ii. Industrial oil factories started looking for soybean when their supply of cottonseed was dwindling: such massive demand sped up the introduction of soy into smallholder farming systems. Development projects also funded the emergence of medium-scale value chains for animal feeds, semi-industrial oil and baby food by supporting intermediate enterprises that would link soy producers and processors.

The emergence of an industry-led value chain brings challenges. For one, since it competes with cheap oil imports from global markets, it puts a downward pressure on the price at which it buys soybean. Above all, it is a source of insecurity for smallholders because the demand for soybean by oil factories varies from one year to the next, depending on relative prices of soybean and cottonseed. Soybean producer organizations (POs) find it difficult to develop contractual arrangements with an industry ready at any time to source its supply elsewhere. In response, some POs are seeking alternative markets, such as poultry keepers and small-scale feed industries. The dynamics of these emerging value chains and arrangements are still very strong with respect to cooperation of stakeholders involved in the soybean value chain, contractual arrangements, and improvements in soybean production techniques.
For smallholder farmers, the existence of parallel value chains seems to be an asset: they may opt to diversify their production systems, do not depend on only one large-scale purchaser and have the opportunity to adjust gradually to an increase in quality and quantity requirements of the purchasers (consumers). It is also an asset for many poorer consumers, who can access some high-quality food at affordable prices. Thus, not betting exclusively on one formal value chain (as so many project interventions do) may help to increase resilience and inclusiveness, for the benefit of many resource-poor stakeholders, be they farmers, processors or consumers.

4. Unpredictable outcomes of innovation processes
As one innovation induces another, bundles of interlinked innovations unfold. Over time, innovation processes evolve to a complexity that could hardly have been predicted or planned.
In the soy case in Benin, the initial project only wanted to convince mothers to integrate soy into infant food to reduce infant mortality rates. It neither envisioned nor anticipated that this would become the starting point for the emergence over a 30-year period of the many small-scale value chains discussed above, or give impetus to growing soy on smallholder farms or to oil factories sourcing soybean as an alternative to cottonseed (Figure 3). Similar observations could be made on other cases documented by JOLISAA such as the Prosopis or aloe cases in Kenya mentioned earlier.
Such long timelines and unplanned innovation trajectories typically escape the attention and capacity of externally driven interventions, which tend to focus on early stages of innovation and usually have no mechanisms or resources to deal with unplanned or later changes beyond project frames. These also go undocumented by people assessing the effects of the interventions. Taking a long-term view is essential for the eventual success of innovation: long timeframes allow innovation to take root, to diversify out of a usually narrow initial focus and to have measurable impact.

Towards a synthesized policy and research agenda on agricultural innovation in Africa
As a key outcome of JOLISAA, policy messages and recommendations were developed in several iterations, involving JOLISAA team members or the desk officer in the European Commission (EC), and eventually international resource persons in the JILAC and in the AISA workshop. They were eventually synthesized in the form of a 6-page policy brief which is about to be published in English and French. This brief focuses on five policy recommendations:
1. Build on innovation “in the social wild”
2. Combine local and external knowledge and ideas to enhance innovative capacity (1 + 1 = 3)
3. Encourage access to diverse value chains to lower the innovation risks
4. Support unpredictable innovation processes
5. Address the multiple dimensions of innovation

1. Build on innovation “in the social wild”
With little or no support from public research and development (R&D) institutions, many smallholders are actively innovating individually and collectively to solve problems, improve their farming and income, and grasp opportunities.
African smallholder agriculture is dynamic. Farmers respond in many innovative ways to the rapid changes and global challenges they face, including market competition, increasing and conflicting demands on use and management of land and water, and increasing unpredictability of weather and markets. JOLISAA and others have documented numerous ongoing innovation processes which show the capacity of smallholder farmers to grasp opportunities, to create or access markets, to increase their resilience to risks and shocks, to manage natural resources in a responsible and sustainable way and to reshape urban-rural linkages.
Yet many such initiatives take place “under the radar” or are ignored by state, non-state, private-sector and even national farmer organisations trying to develop and spread agricultural technologies (Case 1). Local innovation fitting the wide variety of contexts of African agriculture needs to be better recognised, valued and encouraged. Doing this will allow to tap systematically the potential of African smallholders to work together with formal agricultural R&D actors in designing and spreading more productive, more profitable and more sustainable farming and food practices and systems.
Formal R&D actors provide important elements, such as new knowledge and technologies, external inputs and other stimuli for innovation, but the farmers and other stakeholders such as private business in the “real world” are better placed to identify key constraints and opportunities. They are also the ones who decide if and how to use and adapt the inputs from R&D to their own context, so that innovation takes root and succeeds.
External interventions can play an important role in initiating and supporting innovation, but should avoid creating artificial “enabling” conditions and incentives (including market outlets) that don’t fit with local realities and are short-lived and unsustainable. Such interventions may easily undermine the existing innovation dynamics and can seldom drive innovation over the longer term, unless change also takes place in the policy and institutional environment.
Under such conditions, interventions should start with a thorough joint assessment with local actors of ongoing innovation processes in the area, looking for initiatives that should be supported, rather than ignoring or trying to bypass them. Such assessment will yield a picture of local dynamics, so that intervention strategies for “surfing the wave of what is happening” – building on local initiatives – can be devised.

Case 1: Aloe processing: innovation “under the radar”
Processing and marketing of aloe products in Baringo, Kenya, exemplifies innovation “in the social wild” – initially ignored by a project designed to introduce a new value chain involving a processing unit set up through public-private partnership. Somali traders had already developed an aloe supply chain for export: local harvesters of wild aloe sold sap to local boilers who then supplied the traders who worked with exporters who knew how to access international markets. Several technical and organisational innovations also took place: traders trained boilers to produce better-quality gum; a barter system developed through which poor women farmers could exchange the aloe sap they harvested for food in local stores. This value chain was not without challenges, including issues of sustainability of aloe harvest. But intervening from outside to create a certified aloe value chain through a donor-funded project and completely ignoring or bypassing the local dynamics misfired. Low levels of training, market challenges and conflict among stakeholders taking part in this externally driven intervention all played a role in preventing it from taking off and actually offering a sustainable alternative to the locally designed aloe chain (Belmin et al 2013).

Photo: Woman inspecting her aloe plot in Baringo (Photo: Bernard Triomphe)

2. Combine local and external knowledge & ideas to enhance innovative capacity (1 + 1 = 3)
Linking multiple sources of knowledge enhances the capacity of all stakeholders to innovate, to adapt to changing conditions and to grasp opportunities. Such synergies benefit all involved.
Although the innovation processes “in the social wild” are dynamic, they can be strengthened, speeded up and made more sustainable through appropriate inputs of knowledge of different types and sources that respond to farmers’ demands, needs and actual possibilities. Combining local and external knowledge and resources is necessary to meet the challenges faced by today’s and tomorrow’s agriculture. It is not, however, a simple matter of parachuting in (or transferring) “scientific” technologies from elsewhere (see Message 1 and aloe case). Combining the knowledge and ideas of smallholders, small and medium-sized entrepreneurs and local government with external knowledge and ideas leads to an improved capacity and potential of all involved to address ongoing or emerging challenges and opportunities and, in doing so, contribute to improving food security, productivity, incomes and livelihoods. Communication and sharing has to be enhanced at different levels, using a range of approaches and methods, e.g. consortia, innovation platforms, fairs etc.

Case 2: Enhancing endogenous innovation in aquaculture
Farmers in southern Benin practising both cropping and fish farming have dug ponds (hwedos) in river floodplains to trap fish as the floodwater recedes. After giving a few months for the fish to grow, the farmers gradually harvest the ponds. This finely tuned system, well adapted to the local natural environment, depends mainly on labour inputs and very low levels of external inputs.
In recent years, the farmers have intensified the system through better drainage and irrigation to be able to grow off-season vegetables on the hwedo banks to supply fast-growing neighbouring urban markets. Farmers now rely on both fish and vegetables for securing their income and adapting to environmental and market fluctuations. Scientific knowledge can contribute to improving these local systems in different ways: e.g. by introducing new fingerlings into the hwedos, advising farmers about vegetable plant diseases and helping farmers develop labour-saving technologies for maintaining the fishponds and raised vegetable beds (Floquet et al 2013b).
↑ Maintaining canal to keep hwedo productive (Photo: Anne Floquet)

3. Encourage access to diverse value chains to lower the innovation risks
Markets and value chains, whether local or distant, can trigger and sustain dynamic innovation processes that benefit smallholders and consumers alike. But they imply significant risks for resource-poor farmers and small-scale processors. Having access to diverse value chains is critical for local resilience to erratic and dysfunctional markets.
When market opportunities emerge or new value chains are possible, farmers and processors respond eagerly if they have access to the resources and services to do so. Evolving consumer demand in terms of quantity and quality of products may also drive farmers and other actors in the food system to develop new practices and relationships. But focusing on linking the smallholders to only one product, buyer or market exposes them to significant risks of market dysfunction and other challenges: price falls, collapse in demand, competition, inability to meet changing quality standards etc. In contrast, promoting diverse formal and informal value chains linking efficiently farmers and small-scale processors to local, national or international demand allows them to access the different markets in a flexible and gradual way and be more resilient to market fluctuations and challenges.
Policymakers can encourage such diversification and make it an asset for the local and national economy by ensuring that appropriate market services exist and operate well, such as decentralised infrastructure; relevant and timely information; good credit facilities and opportunities for individuals, farmer organisations and trade associations; relevant standards and regulations; and appropriate training. For their part, formal R&D actors should focus their contribution on:
i) optimising the performance and functioning of the diverse markets; and ii) facilitating flexible engagement of smallholders with both formal and informal value chains through negotiation and suitable arrangements.
Case 3: Diverse value chains for flexible low-risk innovation
Soybean was introduced into Benin in the 1980s to make protein-rich baby food. It has now become a major crop grown on over 100,000 ha. Thousands of women processing food at micro-scale and with rich knowledge of local cuisine developed a range of affordable food products with soybean, responding to the needs of poor rural and urban consumers. With the help of NGOs, gradual upgrading and upscaling is taking place with introduction of relevant technology and asset acquisition by women, who went from having no equipment of their own to renting milling services to owning equipment, as well as with the emergence of intermediate enterprises offering processing services and logistics.
At the same time, industrial oil factories started buying up soybean massively when cottonseed supply dropped. This led to rapid expansion of soybean in smallholder farms. Local value chains for feeds, artisanal oil-making and baby food are also emerging.
Relying on these diverse value chains allows smallholders and small-scale processors to avoid dependency on only one type of market and to respond to demand from a range of users. Novel arrangements along these various value chains are taking place that make them more efficient and also give a greater say to small-scale soybean producers and processors (Floquet et al 2013a).

Photo: Soy cheese in fried pieces on market (Photo: Anne Floquet)

4. Support unpredictable innovation processes
Innovation cannot be planned from the outset, as it evolves in unpredictable and often unexpected ways over long periods of time and specific to a changing context. In supporting innovation, formal R&D actors should make use of highly flexible, open-ended and iterative approaches adapted to local conditions.
Innovation does not happen in a linear way. JOLISAA studies show that innovation pathways took new and unexpected directions over many years or even decades as they unfolded within and mostly outside the framework of external interventions.
Any attempt to foster innovation processes through public intervention should recognise such unexpected deviations and act accordingly. This will require putting less emphasis on rigid pre-planned prescriptions about what to do and to be open to adjust priorities, approaches and modalities of support along the way in an iterative and flexible manner, reflecting the changing dynamics and opportunities.
In an externally driven project, space needs to be given for a process-oriented approach rather than seeking outcomes narrowly defined at the outset. Intervention can start with assuming a realistic path and designing mechanisms toward a desired outcome (such as increased productivity or emergence of a new value chain). However, all the people involved need to reflect frequently whether the assumed path is indeed being followed, what are the real drivers of change and what other initiatives and dynamics may be emerging that would benefit from support. Project activities then need to be adjusted accordingly. Wider institutional support needs to accommodate these dynamically unfolding processes, always keeping in sight the overall aim of improving the livelihoods of smallholders and other local stakeholders and benefiting the rural and urban poor consumers. Research approaches and funding should be fitting for such flexible innovation processes.

Innovation takes unexpected paths over time
In Benin, the initial intention for introducing soybean was to convince mothers to integrate it into baby food to reduce infant mortality rates. But over three decades, the innovation process went well beyond this starting point and led to the unexpected emergence of a multitude of small- or large-scale value chains for soybean which are tightly integrated into the local food and agro-industrial systems (Floquet et al 2013a).
In South Africa, water-harvesting techniques introduced for large-scale grain production were later adapted by some farmers for intensive vegetable production (Letty et al 2013).
In Kenya, scientists and extension services started working with farmers to grow and sell gadam sorghum to a large-scale commercial brewery as a substitute for imported barley. But the smallholders, after facing challenges with marketing of their sorghum, started using it as a substitute for maize in local food products and thus became more food-secure in the dryland environment (Kavoi et al 2013).

5. Address the multiple dimensions of innovation
Beyond new technologies, innovation has important social and organisational dimensions that are closely intertwined and cannot be addressed in isolation from each other, if innovation is to be successful.
Technologies are often seen as central to innovation and transferable from one context to another. But in practice, technologies are shaped by people using them within their social, economic and institutional context. Social and institutional change (new ways for farmers to organise themselves and access markets, new services, new approaches to supporting innovation, new rules and policies) is always needed so that new technologies can be fully integrated into local practice. Similarly, social or institutional change may come first and lead to technological innovation: e.g. helping farmers supply a new market may convey consumer demand for better or different products, which then requires farmers to change their production, processing and marketing practices. Encouraging formation and strengthening the capacities of structures representing farmers (e.g. umbrella farmer associations, farmer fora) can make farmer groups better able to negotiate fair contracts or to provide technical advice or credit to their members.
Taking a holistic view of innovation by supporting its multiple dimensions gives a better chance of achieving outcomes more relevant for smallholder farmers and other local actors. Beside generating and transferring technology, support should hence go to enabling and accompanying organisational and institutional changes that make innovation possible and successful and may drive large-scale spread and adaptation of technology.
R&D actors need relevant resources and skills to be able to take part in and support innovation processes that encompass these different dimensions. Governments and R&D funders need to invest in long-term cross-sectoral budgets to provide such necessary support.

Case 4: Closely intertwined aspects of innovation
In the 1980s, FAO introduced Prosopis juliflora as a “miracle tree” that would halt desertification in Kenya’s arid lands. However, prosopis was so successful that it invaded the natural pastures, and local herders demanded its eradication. Some development agencies introduced an organisational innovation – Farmer Field Schools – to find ways to control prosopis by cutting it, using the pods as feed and making charcoal. However, charcoal burning and trading was banned at the time, as a way to protect trees in arid areas. Therefore, the law had to be changed: this institutional innovation allowed controlled and traceable Prosopis charcoal burning and trade. In turn, selling charcoal became a source of income for poor households and self-organised groups.
Innovation is still unfolding today: some local people have started producing high-quality honey from prosopis stands and seek to sell it at a premium price. Also prospects for using prosopis biomass to generate electricity recently emerged; this may lead to partnerships between farmers and energy producers. Thus, technical innovation intertwined with organisational and institutional innovation – especially making the vital link to the charcoal market – allowed the innovation process to take root and offered multiple opportunities for local people (Mulindo et al 2013).
Photo: Making charcoal from prosopis (Photo: Ann Waters-Bayer)

Some promising paths in innovating innovation
The five recommendations outlined above are not brand new. Indeed, over recent years, the World Bank (2012) and the International Assessment of Agricultural Science, Knowledge and Technology for Development (IAASTD) have endorsed similar and complementary recommendations. However, government and other R&D actors still need to “walk the talk” – to take action on these recommendations to support agricultural innovation by and with smallholder farmers and other local stakeholders as a key ingredient for more equitable and sustainable development, better food security and a vibrant smallholder family-farming sector. Farmer organisations also have to be pro-active in monitoring innovation processes and raising issues that need attention from formal R&D. The 100 or so international participants in the AISA workshop in Kenya in May 2013 identified additional concrete suggestions on how to take action on these recommendations.
• Convince governments and donors to change the way they fund interventions.
A fundamental change must be made in the way projects are operated and funded. R&D actors should lobby actively for such change. Donors should develop specific guidelines under their portfolio of grant schemes for process-oriented proposals, designed in phases with periodic evaluation and re-approval, with budgets that explicitly accommodate the cost of a participatory, inclusive process, e.g. initial negotiation, joint reflection and M&E that can respond quickly to locally emerging needs and demands. Donors should acknowledge that change requires support well beyond the typical 3–4 year project timespan up to 10 years or more. This time is needed to deal with the numerous interlinked technical, organisational and institutional aspects of innovation that are critical for attaining widespread and lasting benefits for smallholders and other local actors.
• Support innovation platforms and other multi-actor alliances at different levels.
R&D institutions should provide support for creating, strengthening and working in alliances and innovation platforms adapted to the specific context and objectives and operating at all appropriate levels, from local to national. Such alliances and platforms should involve, in a flexible and dynamic manner, not only formal R&D actors but other relevant stakeholders, e.g. farmers and their organisations, entrepreneurs, government staff and NGOs. Providing “smart” and decentralised financial support to local alliances of stakeholders to strengthen their innovation capacity and initiatives is also critical, e.g. farmer-managed funds for local experimentation (Waters-Bayer et al 2011).
• Develop innovation brokerage capacity.
In a vibrant innovation process, all stakeholders express their needs and demands, formulate goals and visions, contribute their skills, and share their knowledge, resources and responsibilities with each other. Trained “brokers” can facilitate such interactions at key stages in the process. They can encourage joint reflection about constraints and opportunities and help clarify the roles of all involved. At different stages, different actors may play this role: NGO staff, agricultural advisors, farmer leaders, entrepreneurs, researchers etc. Sometimes, external facilitation may be best to mediate conflicts. Investment in building capacities for brokering is needed.
• Strengthen pivotal role of agricultural advisors.
Agricultural advisors are in a key position to be brokers of innovation processes and to provide a host of other support services to innovation initiatives of smallholders and local enterprises. However, they need to have an explicit mandate for playing such roles, while their capacities to do so need to be strengthened. Renewed investment in rural advisory services is needed, and institutional support for advisors to be able to play a brokerage role in innovation processes has to be firmly integrated at all levels in the advisory services.
• Integrate innovation system approach in education and training.
Agricultural innovation system (AIS) approaches are key to understanding and supporting innovation. Universities, colleges and vocational schools play a key role in training future and current researchers, rural advisors, farmer leaders and local government staff through initial and continuing education on AIS concepts and approaches. To be able to build capacities in AIS, educational and training institutions need to interact closely “on the ground” with farmers and rural communities, entrepreneurs, researchers, rural advisors and government staff. Here, students and teachers will be exposed to existing innovation dynamics in smallholder farming, learn how to see and analyse the processes, contribute to documenting and understanding how agricultural innovation happens, and acquire the skills necessary for supporting it.

Why institutionalising participatory approaches is critical …
Some years ago, a programme in Limpopo Province, South Africa, developed a Participatory Extension Approach (PEA). It aimed to make rural advisors capable of building farmers’ capacities and supporting them to solve their own problems. To implement PEA and scale it out and up, a series of iterative training and practice sessions were held for advisors and their managers. Joint experimentation on green manure was a priority of some smallholders to solve soil fertility problems. Building on such experiences, smallholders seeking profitable activities started experimenting on their own with growing green maize, using organic matter to manage scarce water in the dry season. However, because the PEA had been discontinued for lack of support at higher levels in the Provincial Government, the rural advisors no longer had the mandate to respond to this promising local initiative. An approach such as PEA needs to be firmly institutionalised if it is to have a broad and lasting impact (Rootman et al 2013).
Conclusions and perspectives
Through their work over the past three years, the partners in JOLISAA have shown that support to strengthen the innovation capacities of smallholder farmers and other local stakeholders may take several forms, depending on the local and national context and the objectives pursued. Many governments, donors, research and advisory services, educational institutions and private enterprises need to change the way they perceive smallholders and the way they design interventions, if innovation in its intricate diversity and long-term character is to take place and thrive for the benefit of smallholders, rural and urban consumers, and national economies. This policy brief has highlighted key areas for change, and provided specific suggestions about how things might be done better. Let’s act on these recommendations to achieve a dynamic, innovative and productive smallholder family-farming sector.

Potential Impact:
Towards impacts

As the words “Joint Learning” in the project title already highlighted, all activities within the individual WPs were geared towards optimising knowledge generation by building on existing initiatives, networks and available knowledge about agricultural innovation and local knowledge. Through its emphasis on innovation systems and approaches on diverse themes and scales, the JOLISAA project contributes indirectly to supporting sustainable agriculture and rural development and to meet the EU’s commitment towards the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Attaining such goals is critical for Africa, but also for Europe, as its close neighbour and partner. Around two-thirds of the African population depends on agriculture for their livelihood. The fate of agriculture, therefore, directly affects economic growth, social improvement and trade in Africa. Africa's population growth rates are still high, while its natural resource base is increasingly becoming degraded. This puts pressure on the rural population, leading to migration to the cities, where problems of unemployment and urban poverty are growing. Taking an holistic and critical approach to agricultural development, as JOLISAA did by using an innovation systems perspective, and recognizing and recommending resource-poor smallholder farmers to be taken as main sources of innovation and initiatives, has the potential to open up more sustainable pathways for agricultural and rural development, by taking into account its various dimensions: economic, environmental and social.
More specifically, a major aim of JOLISAA was to devise an integrated framework and approach for joint assessment of agricultural innovation systems and the role of L/TK, and for wide sharing of the lessons via networking/ dialogue among major innovation players at local, national and international level. At the beginning and again at the end of the project, the assessment framework was shared and discussed with a wide range of researchers and practitioners for critical reflection and fine-tuning. The work was conducted in close collaboration by the European and African consortium partners and with different stakeholders active on the ground in Africa. Linking to ongoing programmes and innovation platforms allowed the project to make optimal use of existing resources, strengthen networking opportunities and provide an entry point for broad-based mutual knowledge generation.
The participatory assessment methodology with an inbuilt capacity-strengthening process had a strong component of learning and mutual knowledge generation at national and sub-national level. Being part of these assessment processes built up and strengthened key stakeholders’ capacity to mobilise different types of knowledge and skills so that they may contribute more effectively from now on to overall knowledge generation and innovation. This capacity-strengthening component of the JOLISAA project fitted well into the First Action Plan (2008–10), Priority Action 2 that aims to “support S&T capacity building in Africa and implement Africa’s Science and Technology Consolidated Plan of Action (CPA)” and to the Strategic European Framework for International Science and Technology Cooperation (2008). JOLISAA also contributed to the AKIS working group of the EU-SCAR, and to the Community of Practice on IS coordinated by the World Bank. JOLISAA results and approach is also being used to provide content for several H2020 proposals, one of them being the IntensAfrica initiative headed by WUR? CIRAD and FARA.
As a result of the project, project partners, network partners and stakeholders within the three target countries have by now an improved understanding of the underlying concepts of innovation systems involving local knowledge and the support structures and mechanisms required to make them work. Insights about the participation of small-scale farmers and other vulnerable stakeholder groups in such processes, and the benefits they receive from it were particularly stressed. Within the time frame of JOLISAA, such understanding was already appropriated by the participating institutions and networks and hence it can now be better taken into account in their ongoing and future initiatives than was the case before JOLISAA. Beyond these directly involved institutions, many other institutions in Africa, Europe and internationally are benefitting, directly or through critical reflection and adaption, from the framework and approach devised in JOLISAA, and are in a position to use the lessons learnt across cases and across countries.
Insights into how smallholder innovativeness, food security and livelihoods can be enhanced by ARD policies may help to translate the thinking around MDG 1 (eradicating extreme poverty and hunger) into concrete action, by revealing what changes are required in ARD structure and functioning in order to attain this goal (such as the use of open-ended approaches to innovation, or the need to build on local innovation dynamics). Based on JOLISAA results, Conventional ARD actors (such as research and extension agencies) and funding agencies need to understand what possibilities they have to design and orchestrate multistakeholder innovation processes, and under which conditions these processes are most likely to be successful.
Understanding and building on the role and dynamics of local knowledge in agricultural innovation processes is also quite useful to address the strong and diverse current and future impacts of climate and environmental changes on African smallholders. These will require locally adapted solutions and the participatory development of pro-poor and sustainable practices of ecosystem management (MDG 7). Post-project, the JOLISAA team members will continue to create awareness of these important links and render ARD actors better capable of capitalising on them.

Within African smallholder agriculture, women farmers are responsible mainly for growing and processing food crops and are, in many countries, also responsible for marketing both crop and livestock products: However, women are often invisible actors in agricultural innovation processes. The important and potential role of women in innovation systems and processes and particularly as bearers of traditional/local knowledge was made highly visible in several case studies (such as soybean and rice parboiling in Benin, aloe, gadam and solar milk cooling in Kenya. This contributes to providing guidelines for ARD actors in identifying ways to support women farmers/entrepreneurs, e.g. through improved access to information and other agricultural inputs and credit, to markets and to raise women’s self-esteem and confidence by giving recognition to their creativity and achievements. This contributes to attaining MDG 3 (promoting gender equality and empowering women).
The project also seeked to answer questions as to “which constellations of stakeholders, arrangements and policy instruments are most effective in supporting agricultural innovation processes aimed at addressing the needs and demands of the rural poor”. While it is clear from JOLISAA results that no blue prints can be given as such arrangements are necessarily contingent on specific local, national and historical context, circumstances and stakeholders, JOLISAA findings contribute to attaining MDG 8 (developing global partnerships for development) and to supporting the Joint Africa–EU Strategy and the Strategic European Framework for International Science and Technology Cooperation. Lessons were learnt and some best practices identified on how to facilitate multistakeholder platforms and to form effective partnerships that include agricultural research, extension, funding agencies, farmers, CSOs, NGOs and the private sector to develop participatory, pro-poor strategies for rural development. The JOLISAA project recognized the potential and benefits of global partnerships, and did its best to build on and strengthen existing networks at international, national and sub-national level, such as the World bank and CGIAR AIS networks at the international level, and the PROLINNOVA network in Kenya. Both types of networks benefitted directly from JOLISAA input and have become stronger and more vibrant as a result. While it takes time, having stronger active networks in place can eventually lead to improved communication between ARD actors interested in agricultural innovation and L/TK. Furthermore, improved networking to which JOLISAA contributed among major institutions of research, development and education in Europe and Africa concerned with agricultural innovation and L/TK is likely to promote further national, regional and international cooperation between actors that have a strong commitment to enhancing food security in sub-Saharan Africa. The networks and partnerships thus strengthened will be better able to generate new knowledge and initiate innovative forms of collaboration in ARD, also beyond the three focal countries (Benin, Kenya and South Africa) selected for this project. The networks and partnerships at sub-national level to which JOLISAA contributed are of predominant importance for supporting learning about agricultural innovation processes that build on local knowledge. As these networks will include ARD and government actors from within the country, also at national level, they will create opportunities for influencing decision-makers about national policies and budget allocations related to ARD and academic research.
A vibrant global network bringing together existing networks –frequently isolated from each other – is crucial to ensure that the lessons and experiences from Benin, Kenya and South Africa are indeed shared and taken into account internationally. This global network, including international (CGIAR institutes and programs, World Bank) European and African researchers and practitioners and regional ARD fora (e.g. FARA, ASARECA, CORAF, and SACCAR) is an important mechanism to put the national and sub-national experiences into a wider/comparative perspective and for wider dissemination. FARA’s eventual active involvement in JOLISAA-led activities (such as the international AISA workshop) as an umbrella organisation of ARD actors – particularly research institutions – in Africa will help strengthen the activities of the regional networks of ASARECA, CORAF and to a lesser extent SACCAR. Two of the consortium partners (ICRA and CIRAD) are also active members of PAEPARD, which offers further opportunities for knowledge sharing and building on ongoing initiatives (see already JOLISAA short videos posted by PAEPARD on Youtube).
Partners in the consortium were and still are among the driving forces behind a series of international symposia that bring together theorists and practitioners in Agricultural Innovation Systems (AIS). The first event – the Innovation Africa Symposium – was held in November 2006 in Uganda. The second – the Innovation-Asia-Pacific Symposium – was held in May 2009 in Nepal. A major World bank-organized event took place in May 2012 in Washington about promoting Agricultural Innovation Systems framework and investment. A fourth event took place in July 2010 in Montpellier, the ISDA (Innovation systems and Development) Symposium. Finally, at the end of JOLISAA itself, an international workshop was co-organized in May 2013 in Kenya: the AISA (Agricultural Innovation Systems in Africa) workshop which involved about 100 researchers and practitioners involved in innovation work across Africa. JOLISAA was a major driving force and content presenter during this event.
The intensive treatment of AIS issues and the linkages with diverse ARD stakeholders in preparing and implementing these events enriched the activities conducted within the framework of JOLISAA. In turn, JOLISAA enriched the international meetings on AISA in which it took part.

“Globalisation is accelerating, and this has an impact on the way we produce, share and use knowledge. Major global challenges such as climate change, poverty, infectious disease, threats to energy, food and water supply, security of the citizen, networks security and the digital divide highlight the need for effective global S&T cooperation to promote sustainable development”

In the context of globalisation, and despite the tough economic and budgetary constraints, European countries undoubtedly still have an interest in contributing to the development of global and local solutions aiming at agricultural and environmental sustainability, food security and safety, poverty alleviation and economic and social viability. Indeed, many European countries continue to invest significantly in a bilateral mode in African agricultural development and related projects, in particular through EC bilateral Science and Technology agreements. However, cross-fertilisation is still limited in terms of approaches and lessons learnt, resulting in duplication of efforts and lack of efficiency of the individual countries’ actions. Developing an interconnected initiative, JOLISAA mobilised substantial European and African capacity to develop cross-analyses among African countries. This allowed the identification of fundamental underlying processes, factor interactions and impacts that may jointly benefit Europe and African countries. Identification of knowledge gaps can enable progress in research and strengthen innovation and expertise in support of agricultural viability as well as Europe–Africa solidarity in addressing global challenges whose solution require a capacity to design or strengthen efficient innovation systems, such as climate change, biodiversity, building healthier relationship between Science, Technology and Civil Society, participatory democracy and good public governance, etc.
Skills in IS analysis and integrated assessment of agricultural development and the role of L/TK are weakly represented in many African research organisations at present. JOLISAA, by bringing expertise acquired on IS concepts and practices in Europe and elsewhere played a role in raising awareness of the need for such holistic approaches, as well as demonstrating how they can be useful. The sharing of knowledge and experiences between the African and European partners also contributes to enhance the scientific excellence of the African, European and international partners, and future publications of JOLISAA results will provide concrete proof of this.
The JOLISAA project is furthermore in line with the goal of building a European Knowledge-Based Bio-Economy (KBBE), since it brought together researchers, practitioners, policymakers, the private sector and other stakeholders from EU and African countries around a common objective of advancing the knowledge base that facilitates new international cooperation and exploit new and emerging research opportunities. It also contributes to one of the goals of the European Research Area (ERA) , which is to develop strong links with partners around the world so that Europe benefits from the worldwide progress of knowledge, contributes to global development and takes a leading role in international initiatives to solve global issues.
While all the above shows that JOLISAA had clearly a positive effect (rather than impact per se), ensuring impact is never automatic, even when a project is carefully designed, planned and implemented. Below is an analysis of the initial assumptions and external factors that interfered with the achievement of impact.

A retrospective look at key assumptions affecting JOLISAA activities and outputs

Internal factors
- The international and national research and development programmes are willing to collaborate and share experiences and (to some extent) resources.
o This happened only to a certain extent. Mistrust and jealousy among partners is more common than we anticipated, and sharing of resources is limited except for co-sponsoring visible events such as the AISA workshop
- All network partners are keen to participate and open for mutual knowledge generation and sharing for the common good.
o Much information was not shared openly at the national level for a host of reasons (fear of exposure of weaknesses and problems, intention to pmublish results outside of JOLISAA, mistrust in JOLISAA’s true objectives, etc.), and when sharing occurred, it usually also involved compensating financially the knowledge holders for their time and information. Again this was not anticipated, and the strong limitations of the JOLISAA budget available for such arrangements made some knowledge sharing impossible.
- International, regional and national ARD fora and policymakers are open to identify and discuss lessons on multistakeholder innovation processes and willing to reflect on current agricultural innovation systems in their respective countries – and in the countries they are supporting – in the light of these lessons.
o Assumption mostly held true
- National governments are supportive to developing and strengthening smallholder agriculture and enhancing food security.
o Assumption mostly held true, but the true test is coming now as JOLISAA produced recommendations which have the potential to affect the way governments operate.
- Farmers’ rights are respected by all project partners and national network members.
o Assumption mostly held true. For some JOLISAA team members, this however represented an (as yet continuing) learning curve.
- Local knowledge will be given proper recognition so that it can continue to be used for the benefit of smallholders.
o Assumption mostly held true, and the end result of JOLSIAA clearly shows the importance JOLSIAA gva to local knowledge and initiatives

- Tension and conflict within and between consortium partners was an unforeseen internal factors yet it affected “significantly” the achievements of several partners, especially in South Africa and to a lesser extent in Kenya and Benin, due to internal dynamics within the corresponding teams. Conflicts about project operation and overall vision / direction also affected the overall achievements of JOLISAA, and particularly in the area of capacity-building, which was eventually much more limited than expected. Key reasons behind these tensions and conflicts include limited investments in JOLISAA activities (both in quantitative and qualitative terms) by several team members as well as budget limitations.

External factors:
- Political stability within the focal countries allows for in-depth case studies and strengthening networks.
o No problems during the life time of JOLISAA
- No major natural or man-made disasters within the countries
o No problems during the life time of JOLISAA
- International and regional networks such as FARA, PAEPARD, ASARECA, SACCAR and CORAF continue to operate with the support of funding agencies, international agricultural research bodies and national governments.
o No problems during the life time of JOLISAA. However, JOLSIAA was not really able to connect well to the FARA-linked networks.

Spreading excellence, exploiting results, disseminating knowledge

Networking for joint learning and sharing of lessons was a crucial and integral component of the project. The objectife of JOLISAA was to link and strengthen existing networks through connecting research players and other key actors to ensure that concepts and practice of innovation systems, multistakeholder platforms and local knowledge were taken on board.

Networking activities by the project emphasised joint learning and dissemination of lessons learnt and were closely linked to practical multistakeholder innovation processes on the ground (the ones studied as part of the collaborative case assessment). Learning involved all project partners: those involved in the assessment of case studies and members of the national and international teams and networks. Links were also made to a wider pool of resource persons and experts of different institutions worldwide, who participated in the JOLISAA International Learning and Advisory Committee (JILAC).
The project had a significant component for strengthening capacities in developing a better understanding of innovation systems and knowledge management. The people that were trained were based in different types of organisations, including research institutions, universities, NGOs, and government services. Some of them will indeed be sharing their knowledge and skills within their respective institutions post-JOLISAA: this is particularly the case in Kenya and Benin. Three of the project consortium members were universities with a strong record in teaching subjects related to agricultural and rural development. Experiences and knowledge generated through the project also complement other ongoing international programmes such as Convergence of Sciences (led by WUR) and contribute to updating university curricula and other capacity-strengthening initiatives implemented by some of the project partners at national, European and international level.

Outreach and International learning platform

• Good communication within the team and with resource persons. Two Yahoogroups were set up: one for internal communication within the JOLISAA team, and one for communication with the JILAC. Via both e-lists, in addition to JOLISAA-focused communication, more general information related to agricultural innovation systems (AIS) was shared, such as research calls, interesting papers and upcoming events. Both e-lists were used also for information sharing from other members and were thus good international networking tools. They provided a low-cost way of managing the project as well as jointly planning and developing outputs, such as co-authored papers. Also email and Skype were very valuable for this purpose, and supported the functioning of the team. However, the face-to-face meetings – including the joint field trips – provided the opportunities for the most intensive collaboration in planning, analysis, reflection and joint learning. The international e-list will be maintained as a Yahoogroup to allow further discussion and information sharing among this now expanded community of theory and practice.

• Inventory of key actors in AIS. An inventory of key resource persons, institutions and initiatives related to AIS and local innovation in Africa was made early on. It proved useful as a basis for selecting the JOLISAA International Learning and Advisory Circle (JILAC) and later for selecting invitees to the Agricultural Innovation Systems in Africa (AISA) international workshop, as well as for identifying publications, cases and other information useful for the JOLISAA research. During the ensuing electronic discussions (EDs, see below), several members of the JILAC showed a high level of interest and commitment to become engaged with and to provide support to JOLISAA. The EDs provided a relatively low-cost means (in terms of time and funds) to be able to draw on the perspectives, experience and insights of a wide group of resource persons external to JOLISAA.

• Sharing of information through the JOLISAA website. Even thought it was not updated as frequently as it should have been, it served as a “window to the world” about the project, bringing information about the objectives, partners and activities of the project; news about past and upcoming activities; and project outputs. Over the period October 2010 to October 2013, 3152 visits were made to the website by 1982 “unique” visitors mainly based in France (25%) Netherlands (11%), Kenya (10%), Germany (7%), USA (6%), South Africa (5%), Belgium (3%) and 2% each from Italy, the UK and Benin. These statistics are typical for the rather modestly visited webpage of a research project. Post-project, JOLISAA will ensure it shares all its public final products and reports through developing a revamped, product-oriented version of the JOLISAA website which will be finalized by May 2014. This information will remain on the JOLISAA website for at least another 3 years as a repository of all JOLISAA documents, and linked with strategic isntitutional websites such as FARA, PAEPARD or PROLINNOVA, among others.
• Several electronic newsletters were produced both at the national level by the teams in Benin, Kenya and South Africa, and at the global level . These newsletters were posted on the Web and disseminated electronically as PDF files. They brought JOLISAA highlights in a readable style for non-scientific stakeholders in the partnership and for other interested readers.
• Strengthening research and development networks. Numerous international and national events attended by JOLISAA team members were useful in making others aware of the project, its approach and findings. These events included, among others: the ISDA (Innovation and Sustainable Development in Agriculture and Food) conference in France and the first Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD1) in France in 2010; the AFAAS (African Forum for Agricultural Advisory Services) and GFRAS (Global Forum on Rural Advisory Services) annual meetings and CTA international conference on “Innovations in Extension and Advisory Services” in Kenya in 2011; the World Bank workshop on “Investing in and Strengthening Agricultural Innovation Systems” in the USA, the Tropentag conference on “International Research on Food Security, Natural Resource Management and Rural Development” in Germany and GCARD2 in Uruguay in 2012; the CTA-COS-SIS expert consultation on AIS, the CGIAR workshop on “Re-Imagining Agricultural Research in Development” in Malaysia and the AISA workshop in Kenya in 2013, the 25th Congress of the European Society of Rural Sociology, among others. For this purpose, the team members could take advantage of the wider networks in which they were already involved and – in the process of sharing about JOLISAA at conferences and workshops – could expand these networks. The international events also provided opportunities to learn about other initiatives that had not been discovered during the original Web search for the inventory of key actors in AIS-related work.

Three major activities particularly contributed to strengthening links between different people and institutions involved in research and development in smallholder: the two e-discussions (ED1 and ED2) and the AISA workshop.
a) ED1: The responses of the JILAC to the questions posed stimulated the JOLISAA team to consider, among other things: i) whether to retain a differentiation between technology-centred and marketed-centred innovation in the JOLISAA characterisation of cases; ii) whether it is appropriate to differentiate between “planned” and unplanned” innovation or whether these terms refer primarily to the initiation of an innovation process; and iii) whether a (successful) innovation process is possible without being rooted in local knowledge. ED1 provided useful input for developing a consensus among the JOLISAA consortium partners on the key concepts of JOLISAA, which were summarised in a short paper. It contributed to clarifying some issues for the inventory and analysis of innovation cases. It also provided valuable inputs about questions that should be explored to understand better the role of local knowledge in innovation systems – and to mobilise this knowledge. These questions were incorporated into JOLISAA’s guidelines for analysing innovation cases.
The insights from ED1 supported the discussions during the national JOLISAA meetings in Benin, Kenya and South Africa held in late 2010 and early 2011 and fed into the design and implementation of JOLISAA work in these three countries. Overall, the insights and lessons generated during ED1 not only contributed to improving the next steps of inventorising, selecting and documenting cases of innovation in smallholder agriculture in the three countries, but also laid a good basis for developing recommendations for research, policy and practice to improve and sustain ongoing and future agricultural innovation processes.

b) ED2: As part of the preparations for the AISA workshop, ED2 gave an opportunity to refine and target policy messages by drawing on the broad range of expertise, experiences and examples of not only the JOLISAA project but also other projects and organisations, such as Convergence of Sciences: Strengthening Innovation Systems (CoS–SIS), PROLINNOVA (PROmoting Local INNOVAtion in ecologically oriented agriculture and natural resource management), World Bank, International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and AusAID.
ED2 was very valuable for JOLISAA in preparing for the G3 meeting, which included a session focused on policy recommendations. The ED2 participants made clear that it is not just a matter of formulating recommendations but also discussing how the messages are to be used so as to bring about change in ARD institutions, funding etc. They also stressed that, after engaging in policy dialogue, it will be important to monitor policy changes actually made, whether and how they are implemented, and what impacts they have.
The suggestions from ED2 helped to sharpen the formulation and targeting of the messages so that they would be more effective in influencing policymakers. The ED2 participants pointed out what still needed to be included in policy messages about innovation in smallholder/family farming systems, e.g. indications as to how such new policies could be implemented. They also suggested how policy dialogue could be stimulated. They proposed combinations of policy messages to make them less numerous and more comprehensive. The learning during ED2 fed into the syntheses made by JOLISAA team members in the final months of the project in the form of papers, articles and a policy brief. The policy messages are not repeated in this report, as they are succinctly presented in the policy brief.
Two electronic discussions (EDs) were organized among the JILAC and JOLISAA partners. ED1 focused on questions related to innovation domains, process drivers and the roles for local knowledge in innovation processes. Ideas and suggestions from ED1 helped in finalising the guidelines for the innovation inventory and analysing the innovation cases, and fed into the JOLISAA paper on key concepts related to AIS and local innovation. For its part, ED2 (which also include future participants to the upcoming AISA workshop) focused on policy messages coming out of the JOLISAA work. ED2 helped the JOLISAA team prioritise and target policy messages and to improve their formulation.

c) AISA workshop: The discussions during ED2 and the G3 meeting fed into the AISA workshop in late May 2013, which was designed to work toward a final session on policy implications and policy-dialogue messages and strategy. The interactive process facilitated during the workshop by Ewen Le Borgne and Peter Ballantyne from ILRI enabled intensive sharing and networking during plenary sessions, parallel world cafés, open-space sessions, small-group work, the poster market and informal discussions during the coffee breaks and social sessions in the evenings. Several members of the JILAC were very active participants in the workshop, e.g. by taking on the role of “hot issue owners” during development of the “Living Keynote” and in reviewing the contributed abstracts and papers. The joint reflection and learning that took place during this event, especially in working together in small groups and producing joint outputs, served to intensify the contacts between these people engaged in AIS work and thus strengthened and expanded the communities of theory and practice in AIS in Africa. It is highly likely that further collaboration between these people and institutions in AIS-related research and development activities will follow the JOLISAA project, thus contributing to the networking goals of WP4.

In-country networking and learning in Benin, Kenya and South Africa

At national level, the JOLISAA coordinators in Benin, Kenya and South Africa were responsible for facilitating networking and learning. The major mechanisms for this were the national workshops (NX1, NXtra and NX3), including the capacity-building activities (as part of WP3), and the collaboration with other actors in identifying, describing and assessing cases of agricultural innovation in smallholder farming (as part of WP2). The national teams also established or strengthened links with relevant networks, such as the PROLINNOVA networks in Kenya and South Africa and PNISA (Plateforme Nationale d’Innovation dans le Secteur Agricole) in Benin. These networks included members from universities, agricultural research institutions, extension services, the private sector, FOs and NGOs.
Another mechanism for sharing information with these networks was the dissemination of national newsletters, which summarised the key events and outcomes in each of the three African countries. By July 2013 (end of project), four national newsletters had been compiled and uploaded on the JOLISAA website: one from Benin (a double issue dated August 2012), one from Kenya (2011) and two from South Africa (2011 and 2012).
Details of the networking activities and results obtained at national level in the three countries are outlined in an separate document.

List of Websites:

JOLISAA website:

Relevant contact details (resource persons knowledgeable about the overall key project results:
- Bernard Triomphe, CIRAD UMR Innovation, France:
- Ann Waters-Bayer, ETC – PROLINNOVA secretariat, Netherland:
- Geoffrey Kamau, KARI headquarters, Kenya:
- Anne Floquet, UAC-FSA, Benin:
- Brigid Letty, INR, South Africa:

(See complete names and contact details of all JOLISAA partners’ on JOLISAA website)