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PROmoting Local INNOVAtion in ecologically oriented agriculture and NRM
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 fisherfolk) to adjust to change – to develop their own site-appropriate 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 December 1999, when Southern and Northern NGOs – supported by GFAR, the NGO Committee (NGOC) of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) and the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs – met in Rambouillet, France, to consider how participatory approaches to ARD based on local initiatives could be scaled up. At this meeting, ETC, a Netherlands-based NGO, was asked to facilitate the launching of a Prolinnova programme built up from country level. NGOs in Africa and Asia facilitated multi-stakeholder design of Country Platforms (CPs) which, in turn, designed international activities to reinforce their own activities. The Prolinnova partners are developing country-specific ways to:
- document local innovations and experiments by resource-poor farmers and communities;
- strengthen partnerships between farmers, development agents, research scientists and other actors to refine local innovations and to encourage others to try them out;
- create wider 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 and education; and
- integrate local innovation and PID approaches into formal agricultural research, development and education institutions.
Prolinnova seeks to:
Participatory design of the GPP
In 2003, key stakeholder organisations 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 these approaches. Since 2004, DGIS (Netherlands Directorate General for International Cooperation) partly funds these CPs to realise their plans and supports similar processes in Cambodia, Nepal, Niger, South Africa, Sudan and Tanzania.
In 2006 a francophone programme PROFEIS was launched to expand the activities in the West African Sahel (to include also Burkina Faso, Mali and Senegal) and an Andes programme was launched in Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru. In 2007–12, CPs in Cameroon, India, Kenya, Mozambique and Nigeria 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 programme coordination, networking, capacity building, coaching, web-based knowledge management, publishing and advocacy. The IST is made up of IIRR in the Philippines, ETC Foundation in the Netherlands, and the coordinators of the FAIR (Farmer Access to Innovation Resources), PROFEIS and HAPID sub-programmes.
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 Prolinnova–Ethiopia, coordinated by AgriService Ethiopia (ASE). Local farmers explained how their innovations and PID activities helped them meet food-security needs. The NGO and government participants shared their experiences in building farmer-extension-research-education partnerships to promote local innovation and planned joint international activities.
In June 2005, the CP coordinators met in Uganda to learn from good practice in enhancing multi-stakeholder partnerships and to harmonise their PM&E activities. Environmental Alert, the NGO coordinating Prolinnova–Uganda, hosted the meeting. It was held prior to the FARA (Forum on Agricultural Research in Africa) General Assembly so that Prolinnova partners could also attend the FARA pre-plenary meeting of NGOs to set up a consortium on ARD in sub-Saharan Africa.
The 2006 IPW was hosted by Prolinnova–Cambodia, coordinated by CEDAC. Participants updated each other on progress and discussed PM&E, information-sharing strategies, LISF implementation, process documentation and resource mobilisation. The 2007 IPW was hosted in Senegal by PROFEIS, a regional network of CPs in francophone West Africa coordinated by IED–Afrique (Innovation, Environnement et Dévéloppement en Afrique). The 2008 one was hosted by Prolinnova–Ghana North, together with a writeshop on piloting Local Innovation Support Funds (LISFs). The 2009 IPW was hosted by LI-BIRD in Nepal, immediately after the Innovation Asia-Pacific Symposium, which was co-organised by Prolinnova. The IPW was hosted by ETC Netherlands in 2010, by Prolinnova–Tanzania in 2011 and by ADAF-Gallè in Mali in 2012. Prolinnova–Kenya will be host in 2013.
Capacity building is central to the CPs' joint plan of action. IIRR gave international training in PID facilitation in the Philippines (2004), Uganda (2006), Ethiopia (2007) and Kenya (2009). The participants then trained research and extension staff in their own countries.
On request of the CPs, Participatory Ecological Land Use Management (PELUM)–Tanzania gave international training in policy dialogue in August 2006, which was followed up by mini-workshops in experiences in policy dialogue and curriculum change during the 2007 IPW. 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. This was followed up by a reflection on incorporating gender issues into Prolinnova activities, facilitated by experts from the International Livestock Centre for Africa, Rockefeller Foundation and IIRR during the 2011 IPW in Tanzania.
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 compare and learn from the M&E experiences was held in Ethiopia in mid-2010.
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 experiences was held in Ethiopia in 2010. With support from CIRAD (France), the CPs developed a participatory impact assessment guideline in 2010.
South–South mentoring and cross-visits between CPs enhance mutual learning and strengthen capacities to build partnerships in ARD.
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, Prolinnova, PELUM–Uganda 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). In 2008–11 Prolinnova–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. In 2008–10, partners in Ethiopia, Nepal and Niger studied how farmers / pastoralists innovate to adapt to climate change. In 2012 a regional initiative on this topic (LINEX-CCA) 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 CPs in eastern Africa - CLIC-SR (Combining Local Innovative Capacities with Scientific Research) - is 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.
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 Prolinnova–Uganda. At the 2005 European Forum on ARD in Switzerland, LI-BIRD 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.
In June 2007, Prolinnova–SA presented the GPP at FARA’s Fourth General Assembly, held in Johannesburg, at an event organised by the UK-funded Research Into Use (RIU) on “Overcoming Challenges in Scaling Out Agricultural Research Successes”. Small-scale farmers showcased their innovations during the Africa Agricultural Science Week. RIU funded preparation of farmers’ posters, brochures and a video documenting local innovation and the farmers’ participation in the FARA events. Prolinnova partners from Mali, Niger and the IST joined FARA’s 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.net) is 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 in Kampala on agricultural innovation systems, co-funded by Rockefeller and Ford Foundations and the World Bank. The Ugandan CP and IIRR–Uganda arranged visits to local farmer innovators. In 2009, it co-organised with CIAT-Asia 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 LISFs were presented at the World Bank’s Agricultural Innovation Systems workshop in Washington, to Coady Institute (Canada) and to McKnight Foundation’s 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 update November 2013 (PDF file; size : 364 KB)
French Prolinnova information December 2009 (PDF file; size : 222 KB)
Prolinnova poster May 2012 (PDF File; size : 979 KB)