Agriculture needs better innovation, not technology
Andy Hall and Susanna Thorp
16 September 2009 | EN | FR
The Fodder Innovation Project takes an innovation systems approach to fodder scarcity
Pilot projects in India and Nigeria point to possible benefits of a new approach to agricultural innovation, say Andy Hall and Susanna Thorp.
We live in an era of unprecedented technological advancement. So why does technical change in agriculture continue to be slow and patchy?
One possible explanation is that the importance of farmers' capacity to access and use information for innovation has been overshadowed by the conventional view that change is driven ...view middle of the document...
Practical collaboration on concrete activities is essential.
In India, for example, the Foundation for Ecological Security (FES), FIP's partner in Rajasthan, began by consulting livestock-related players on how they could work together. But real collaboration only started when representatives of veterinary services and dairies from both the public and private sectors were invited to cattle health 'camps' in villages in which FES was working.
Another Indian example of the way that developments can proceed in unexpected directions is provided by a pilot project in Puducherry. This started by experimenting with small-scale fodder enterprises. But it soon discovered that milk prices were a more important bottleneck than fodder scarcity, as they were too low to make it worthwhile buying fodder. The work has now shifted to tackling milk pricing directly.
In Nigeria, FIP has led to a new and, for Nigeria, novel partnership on research into the surveillance of livestock disease between an NGO the Justice and Peace Commission (JDPC) and the Nigerian Veterinary Research Institute. Another FIP partner in Nigeria established links that helped ensure the rapid reporting of an outbreak of animal disease, and in implementing a vaccination programme to prevent its spread.
Even dealing with fodder scarcity doesn't necessarily mean starting with fodder itself, or with fodder technology. In Kano, Nigeria, for example, FIP has been helping farmers create co-operatives and access credit, both of which are providing them with incentives to invest in fodder seed and production.
A flexible approach
There is clearly no one way to facilitate change in agricultural practices. Each situation is unique, and the key is not to work with a fixed set of players, but to be able to respond flexibly to challenges and opportunities as they emerge.
In each of the locations in which FIP is carrying out its work, government organisations, research institutes, and private...