About Prolinnova

PROmoting Local INNOVAtion in ecologically oriented agriculture and NRM 

VISION:   A world where women and men farmers play decisive roles in agricultural research and development for sustainable livelihoods

In several countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Pacific, diverse organisations have joined forces to promote local innovation in agriculture and natural resource management (NRM). After analysing their own experiences in agricultural research and development (ARD), they have formed Country/Regional Platforms (CPs/RPs), designed their own programme and agreed on joint international activities for mutual learning and policy dialogue. This Global Partnership Programme (GPP) is a Community of Practice that is built from the bottom up, in the spirit of the Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR).

Prolinnova is an NGO-initiated multistakeholder programme to promote local innovation in ecologically oriented agriculture and natural resource management (NRM). The focus is on recognising the dynamics of indigenous knowledge (IK) and enhancing capacities of farmers (including forest dwellers, pastoralists and fisherfolkappropriate systems and institutions of resource management so as to gain food security, sustain their livelihoods and safeguard the environment. The essence of sustainability lies in the capacity to adapt.

The programme builds on and scales up farmer-led approaches to development that start with finding out how farmers do informal experiments to develop and test new ideas for better use of natural resources. Understanding the rationale behind local innovation transforms how research and extension agents view local people. This experience stimulates interest on both sides to enter into joint action.

How it all started

Prolinnova was conceived in 1999, when Southern and Northern NGOs – supported by GFAR, the NGO Committee (CGIAR) & the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs – met in France to explore how participatory approaches to ARD based on local initiatives could be scaled up. Participants asked ETC, a Dutch NGO, to help build up a GPP from country level. NGOs in Asia and Africa Asia facilitated multistakeholder design of country platforms (CPs) that agreed to:

•     document local innovation and experimentation by smallholder farmers and communities;

•     strengthen links between farmers, development agents, scientists and other actors to refine local innovations and encourage others to try them out;

•     create awareness of and skills in participatory innovation development (PID) through a variety of learning mechanisms;

•     develop and expand mechanisms that give farmers more influence over formal research & extension;

•     institutionalise PID approaches in research, development and education.

Prolinnova seeks to:

  • demonstrate the effectiveness of user-led innovation for sustainable development
  • build strong farmer-extension-researcher partnerships
  • enhance capacities of farmers, researchers and extension agents in participatory approaches
  • pilot decentralised funding mechanisms to promote local innovation
  • stimulate national and regional policy dialogue to favour local innovation
  • set up platforms for reflection, analysis and learning about promoting local innovation
  • integrate participatory approaches to farmer-led innovation and experimentation into research,
    extension and education institutions.

Participatory design of the GPP

Starting in 2003, organisations engaged in ARD in Ethiopia, Ghana and Uganda – supported by IFAD (International Fund for Agricultural Development) – collected in-country experiences in recognising local innovation and promoting PID. They held workshops to analyse their experiences and developed plans to scale up PID. From 2004, DGIS (Dutch Directorate General for International Cooperation) partly funded the three CPs to realise their plans and supported similar processes in Cambodia, Nepal, Niger, South Africa, Sudan and Tanzania.

In 2006, a francophone network PROFEIS expanded in West Africa to include Burkina Faso, Mali and Senegal. An Andes group started in Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru. In 2007–13, CPs in Cameroon, India, Kenya, Mozambique and Nigeria and the Philippines joined Prolinnova.

The activities of the CPs/RPs differ according to their experience and self-identified strengths and weaknesses in recognising the dynamics of IK, engaging in PID and scaling it up. However, common elements include:

  • developing inventories and databases of local innovations, innovators and organisations working together with them
  • bringing farmers, development agents and formal researchers together to plan and implement participatory experiments, starting from jointly prioritised local innovations
  • creating national and subnational multistakeholder platforms to share information about local innovations and to learn jointly about PID and its institutionalisation
  • building capacity to identify and document local innovation and engage in PID, through training workshops for farmers and scientists
  • participatory monitoring and evaluation (PM&E) of joint activities, outcomes and impacts
  • creating awareness (through innovator fairs, mass media etc) and engaging in policy dialogue with decision-makers in agricultural research, extension and education to create enabling institutional and policy environments for PID.

At annual meetings since 2004, the country-level partners define the international networking, learning and other support mechanisms needed to support their work. Thus, the participatory planning at international level mirrors the approach taken at national and grassroots level: the partners develop and own a programme based on their self-defined needs and interests.

Structure of the decentralised programme

In each country or region, a local NGO convenes the major ARD stakeholders. It serves as secretariat for a National Steering Committee (NSC) made up of people from government research, extension and education, other NGOs and farmer groups. The NSC defines the CP/RP activities, ranging from farmer-led research to policy advocacy. It gives the CP/RP strategic guidance, helps mobilise resources and is the apex structure for accountability. A smaller core team is responsible for day-to-day implementation of programme activities.

The International Support Team (IST) supports country-level activities through overall programmeprogrammes.

The Prolinnova Oversight Group (POG) serves as governance mechanism to ensure accountability of the GPP to the CPs, their constituencies and donors. The POG is made up of four people from CPs, one from the IST and three independent persons, elected by the CPs and the IST to serve two-year terms.

Participatory learning and mentoring

In March 2004, CP partners first met in Ethiopia for an international partners workshop (IPW) hosted by Ethiopia, coordinated by AgriService Ethiopia (ASE). Local farmers explained how their innovations and PIDeducation partnerships to promote local innovation and planned joint international activities.

In 2005, the IPW was hosted by Environmental Alert / Prolinnova–Uganda prior to the FARA (Forum on Agricultural Research in Africa) General Assembly, so that Prolinnova partners could join the pre-plenary meeting to set up an NGO ARD consortium in Africa.

Since then, IPW hosts have been:
- 2006 CEDAC, Prolinnova–Cambodia;
- 2007 IED–Afrique, PROFEIS, Senegal;
- 2008 ACDEP, Prolinnova–North Ghana;
- 2009 LI-BIRD, Prolinnova–Nepal;
- 2010 ETC Netherlands (Prolinnova Secretariat);
- 2011 PELUM–Tz, Prolinnova–Tanzania;
- 2012 ADAF-Gallè, PROFEIS–Mali;
- 2013 KARI & World Neighbors, Prolinnova–Kenya.

Capacity strengthening is central to Prolinnova. IIRR gave international training in PID facilitation in the Philippines (2004), Uganda (2006), Ethiopia (2007) and Kenya (2009). The participants trained research and extension staff in their own countries. With Nuffic funds, ETC gave similar training in Kenya in 2013 and will also do so in Uganda in early 2014.

In 2006, PELUM–Tz gave an international course on policy dialogue. A mini-workshop on this was held at the 2007 IPW in Senegal. Further training in policy dialogue was given in 2009 in The Netherlands.

A writeshop on gender issues in PID, based on the principle of learning through joint documentation by CP partners, was held in 2008 in Uganda; plus sessions on gender during several IPWs.

Similar writeshops on piloting Local Innovation Support Funds (LISFs) were held in 2008 in Ghana and 2012 in Mali, prior to publishing documentation.

An M&E framework with guidelines for the global and local Prolinnova tracking of results was developed in 2006. An international workshop to learn from the M&E experienceswas held in Ethiopia in 2010. With support from CIRAD (France), the CPs developed a participatory impact assessment guideline in 2010.

South–South mentoring & crossvisits between CPs enhance mutual learning and strengthen capacities to build partnerships in ARD. African consultants in 2012 facilitated self-assessment of experiences and lessons learnt in multistakeholder partnership in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.

Multi-country thematic initiatives

CPs with common interests in specific themes have joined forces in their own initiatives:

  • Local Innovation Support Funds (LISFs). Action research was done in eight countries (Cambodia, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nepal, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda) to develop mechanisms to channel ARD funds to farmer innovators, so they can further develop and promote their innovations and accelerate local innovation processes. After start-up support from DURAS (Promoting Sustainable Development in Agricultural Research Systems), co-funding is provided by Rockefeller Foundation through the Farmer Access to Innovation Resources (FAIR) initiative. The CPs are developing ways to integrate LISFs into existing institutions in their countries. Additional funds are being sought so that LISFs can be scaled up.
  • Farmer-Led Documentation (FLD). Insight and COMPAS (Comparing & Supporting Endogenous Development) piloted participatory video in Ghana, where local innovators made films to share with other farmers and influence policy. In 2006, ProlinnovaUganda and Novib held an international FLD workshop in Uganda. FLD has been piloted in Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Niger, South Africa and Sudan.
  • HIV/AIDS and PID (HAPID). SA coordinated action research in Mozambique and South Africa to explore implications of HIV/AIDS for PID and possibilities of using the approach in work with communities confronted with HIV/AIDS.
  • PID and climate change. 10, partners in Ethiopia, Nepal and Niger studied how farmers / pastoralistsCCA) started in Cambodia, India and Nepal with Misereor support. Prolinnova is partnering with the Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) research programme to explore tools of social learning for climate change.
  • Community resilience. A new initiative of the CPsis aimed at strengthening community resilience to change, more broadly than climate change, and is supported by Rockefeller Foundation.
  • Integration into education. To reinforce current activities in several CPs to integrate PID approaches into agricultural education and training, these CPs exchanged course designs and materials in 2009 at a workshop in Uganda, and jointly planned activities.

Policy dialogue

Often with GFAR support, Prolinnova takes part in various international ARD fora. At the 2003 GFAR meeting in Kenya, ASE told how the CP in Ethiopia was set up. At the 2004 GFAR meeting in Mexico, Environmental Alert presented Uganda. At the 2005 European Forum on ARDBIRD and Farmer Support Group presented their partnership experience in Nepal and South Africa. At the 2005 GFAR meeting in Morocco, Prolinnova progress was reported by POG Chair, Betty del Rosario, and at the 2006 meeting in USA by Laurens van Veldhuizen of the IST. CEDAC presented Asian Prolinnova experiences to APAARI (Asia Pacific Association of Agricultural Research Institutions) in late 2006, and LI-BIRD to APAARI in late 2007. 

SA presented the GPP at FARAparticipation in the FARA events. Prolinnovas 5th General Assembly in Ouagadougou in July 2010.

Several Prolinnova partners joined the Farmer First Revisited conference in 2007 at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) in the UK (www.farmer-first.org). Prolinnova was strongly featured in the ISDA (Innovation for Sustainable Development in Agriculture & Food) symposium in June 2010 in Montpellier, France.

POG Co-Chair Scott Killough attended the first global meeting of the Global Forum on Rural Advisory Services (GFRAS) in Chile in late 2010, Ann Waters-Bayer of the Prolinnova International Secretariat attended the second GFRAS meeting in 2011 in Nairobi and Marise Espineli, POG member, attended the third one in 2012 in the Philippines..

ETC Foundation, host of the Prolinnova International Secretariat, has been active for several years in the Steering Committee of EFARD (European Forum on Agricultural Research for Development). 

Wider sharing and learning

Working with existing electronic networks and databases that serve groups with similar interests, Prolinnova shares concepts and experiences in participatory innovation. To bridge the digital divide, printed matter is also disseminated and linkage sought with other media, e.g. radio. Information about Prolinnova activities is spread through inputs to magazines (e.g. Appropriate Technology, Ground Up, LEISA Magazine/Farming Matters) and electronic newsletters.

The Prolinnova website (www.prolinnova.netis the main tool for wider sharing. The CPs asked IIRR to manage the website, so they can focus on action on the ground, but they increasingly take their own initiative in filling the CP webpages. The Prolinnova e-list (yahoogroups) serves as a platform to discuss developments in ARD that build on local innovation.

In November 2006 Prolinnova collaborated with the international research centres CIAT, IFPRI and ILRI to organise the Innovation Africa Symposium funded by Rockefeller and Ford Foundations and the World Bank. The Ugandan CPAsia and ICIMOD the Innovation Asia-Pacific Symposium in Nepal. It is preparing another international workshop on Agricultural Innovation Systems in Africa, together with JOLISAA and CCAFS, to be held in May 2013 in Kenya.

In early 2012, experiences with LISFss Collaborative Crop Research Program Leadership Team.

Prolinnova is part of the EU-funded research project “JOint Learning in Innovation Systems in African Agriculture” (JOLISAA), coordinated by CIRAD (France) with partners in Benin, Kenya and South Africa. It collaborates with the EU-funded project INSARD (Integrating Smallholders in ARD) and is linked with the UNEP-funded project Stimulating Community Initiatives in Sustainable Land Management (SCI-SLM) in Ghana, Morocco, South Africa and Uganda.

Sources of programme support

After inception funding from IFAD, DGIS was the main donor until 2011. GFAR, CTA (Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation), the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Rockefeller and Ford Foundations, ActionAid, EED (Church Development Service), Misereor, Research Into Use (DFID) and World Bank have supported specific activities or CPs.

The partners in the IST and CPs cover over one third of total costs themselves. Funds are still sought for national multistakeholder platforms, new thematic initiatives and international networking.

Prolinnova publications and Working Papers

Contact us

Prolinnova update July 2014 (PDF file; size : 327 KB) 

French Prolinnova information December 2009 (PDF file; size : 222 KB)

Prolinnova poster May 2012 (PDF File; size : 979 KB)