Strengthening Farmer-led Research Networks in the Sahel

The Sahel is an environmentally sensitive region and climate change is likely to worsen the situation. Farmers therefore need to adapt their agricultural methods and practices to the changing climatic conditions and their effects. Agro-ecological intensification leads to higher productivity and improved food and nutrition security without having negative environmental impacts. Formal ARD gives little attention to farmers’ own innovation and focuses on experimentation led by scientists. A new initiative under the umbrella of the Prolinnova community of practice seeks to strengthen and support farmer-led research networks in which smallholders take the lead in joint experimentation by farmers and formal researchers for agro-ecological intensification, building on local knowledge and innovation.

McKnight Foundation (USA) has provided funds for this project to strengthen farmer-led research networks for agroecological intensification in Burkina Faso and Mali – called FaReNe for short. Its objectives are: 

  1. To identify and analyse existing local innovation and innovations and to improve and spread them through Participatory Innovation Development (PID) and Local Innovation Support Funds (LISFs);
  2. To create / strengthen farmer-led research networks for taking the lead in PID, LISF management and related innovation activities;
  3. To gain deeper insights into the praxis of farmer-led research networks and spread and share lessons widely. 

The project started on 1 November 2013 and will be implemented in two phases: a one-year inception phase followed by a three-year implementation phase. The inception phase involves building the relevant partnerships for the project, initiating or strengthening farmer-led research networks, clarifying central concepts and approaches among all partners through capacity building linked to initial pilot activities and jointly designing the implementation phase. 

In the implementation phase, a core activity will be the strengthening of farmer-led research networks. They will engage in joint experimentation in which farmer innovators work with formal researchers and other actors in agricultural innovation processes to improve and spread promising local innovations in agro-ecological intensification and to scale up the joint innovation processes. The project will pilot the use of Local Innovation Support Funds, successfully used by organisations in a/o East Africa, to channel resources to farmers for farmer-led experimentation and innovation. Supportive dissemination and policy-dialogue activities will outscale findings, and upscale and mainstream farmer-led approaches into formal ARD. Learning and reflection on the joint innovation processes and the praxis of farmer-led networks are integrated into all stages of the project.

In Burkina Faso, the project operates in the Passoré and Gnagna Provinces in the Northernand Mouhoun Regions, working with World Neighbors Burkina Faso, the Centre National de Recherche Scientifique et Technologie (CNRST) and three NGOs. In Mali, the operational areas are the regions of Ségou and Mopti, working with ADAF-Gallè, the Institute d’Economie Rurale (IER) and the farmer organisation AOPP. 

The project is being carried out as part of the West African Community of Practice within the Collaborative Crop Research Program (CCRP) of McKnight Foundation (see http://ccrp.org/west-africa).