West Africa Farmer Innovation Fair and workshop on farmer-led research (May 2015)

On 12–16 May 2015, Burkina Faso hosted a West African workshop on approaches to research by and with smallholder farmers and a West African Farmer Innovation Fair – Foire de l’Innovation Paysanne en Afrique de l’Ouest (FIPAO) – in Ouagadougou.

This was an initiative of the Prolinnova/PROFEIS network in collaboration with AgriProFocus (APF) Netherlands, CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), McKnight Foundation’s Collaborative Crop Research Program (CCRP) Community of Practice (CoP) in West Africa, Misereor, Germany and SDC (Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation). The event raised great interest from the Burkina Faso authorities and involved several prominent policymakers, including the Prime Minister, the Minister of Scientific Research and Innovation and the Minister of Agriculture, Water Resources, Sanitation and Food Security.

Workshop on farmer-led research

The workshop on farmer-led research preceding the fair brought together 35 participants from development organisations, farmer organisations, universities and research institutes from nine countries, including five in West Africa (Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Senegal) and four in the Global North (Belgium, Germany, Netherlands and United States). All motivated by the desire to promote agricultural research by and with small-scale farmers, participants focused on issues of technology supply and demand in African agriculture and intellectual property rights related to farmers’ innovations. They also shared experiences related to processes of introducing external innovations, co-developing innovations, innovation emerging from multistakeholder platforms and autonomous innovation by farmers. The mutual exchange of key ideas allowed lessons to be drawn for meeting the needs of farmers to improve their livelihoods sustainably. The workshop culminated in a collective statement called “The Ouagadougou Declaration”, challenging all stakeholders to further promote collaborative research with farmers: French and English version.  Find the complete report of the workshop (in French, Executive Summary in English) at http://fipao.faso-dev.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/Rapport-Atelier-FIPAO-July-2015-final-2.pdf

West African Farmer Innovation Fair

The showcasing of farmer innovations took place on 15 and 16 May 2015 in a pavilion at the site of the International Crafts Fair of Ouagadougou (SIAO). The farmer innovators came from eight countries in the Sahel region: Burkina Faso, (northern) Cameroon, (northern) Benin, Ghana, Mali, Niger, Senegal and (northern). Over 50 diverse innovations were presented to the public on plant and animal production techniques, natural resource management, processing of agro-silvo-pastoral products, conservation and storage, agricultural mechanisation, communication and other institutional innovations.

At the end of the FIPAO, the organising committee gave prizes to the top five innovators and gave special mentions to encourage three additional innovators. These awards provide recognition for the originality, relevance and viability (technical, environmental and economic) of their innovations.

Side events at the fair

Alongside the exhibition, several other events were held on the fairground. These included panel discussions on access to training for rural development workers, the importance of journalists and communicators in disseminating innovations, networking between and with innovators, strategies for ecological intensification, and protection of farmer innovators’ intellectual property rights. In addition to these panels, three videos (from Mali, Burkina Faso and Senegal) presenting innovations developed by small-scale farmers to help address the effects of climate change – films that were products of collaboration between CTA, PROLINNOVA/PROFEIS and the FIPAO organising committee– were shown to the public in plenary. Over 120 people attended these film screenings, which were followed by discussions. More details of this event can be found in French here as well as a brief in English here.

Lessons from the fair and workshop

By the end of the FIPAO, it was recognised that formal research and farmer innovation are complementary in that they are both genuinely seeking to help farmers solve their problems and thus attain rural development. To achieve this complementarity, it is important to revisit the formal agricultural research system and to promote research by and with small-scale farmers. By putting such farmers as partners in the centre of research, their innovations will emerge from what is normally “below the radar” of formal research and will be more greatly valued. The various participants appreciated the relevance of the event as an enriching platform for direct face-to-face exchange between different actors in rural development and from different countries: processors, producers, artisans, researchers, support organisations, development programmes etc. By putting the spotlight on farmers’ innovations, the FIPAO was an opportunity to raise the status of the innovators and their know-how, as the woman innovator Fatou Seye of Senegal states: "This is the first time I travelled outside of Senegal and this is thanks to my innovation. I could get to meet other innovators and know other people. I will continue to work on improving my innovation and on others so that I can take part in other fairs".

The FIPAO has helped draw attention to farmer innovation and the role of small-scale farmers in agricultural research and development in order to facilitate interaction, linkages and learning among all the relevant actors. Hence, it has helped promote family farming through giving more value to farmer innovators.

Coverage of FIPAO

For more information on FIPAO, check the website (http://fipao.faso-dev.net/) and Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/fipao), co-moderated together with an association of Burkinabe journalists. Several newspapers and television stations in Burkina Faso published articles and reports on the FIPAO.

In the September issue of the journal Appropriate Technology, an article was written about the fair covering various innovations exhibited at the fair. In the December issue of the journal AGRIDAPE, an article was written for the edition on “Women and Agroecology”.

A video of FIPAO was also produced, which you may like to view here.

For the brochure "Some guidelines for organising a Farmer Innovation Fair", please click here.

These two infographics present some key information about participation in the CTA side event and the general overview of the FIPAO.

Countries involved

Burkina Faso, Mali, Senegal, Niger, (north) Benin, (north) Togo and (north) Cameroon

Dates and venue of events 


Workshop: 12–14 May 2015 / Fair: 15–16 May 2015.
Venue: Palais de la jeunesse et de la culture Jean-Pierre Guingané, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso

Partners and donors

Agri-ProFocus Netherlands
CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS)
McKnight Foundation’s Collaborative Crop Research Program (CCRP) Community of Practice (CoP) in West Africa
Misereor, Germany
SDC (Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation)

International Secretariat

Prolinnova International Secretariat
c/o ETC Foundation, Leusden, Netherlands
(since July 2015: c/o Royal Tropical Institute (KIT), Amsterdam, Netherlands)

Contact persons at international level

Prolinnova/ETC Foundation:

Gabriela Quiroga Gilardoni (g.quiroga@kit.nl)

Ingrid Flink (i.flink@kit.nl)

Contact persons at regional level

INADES-Formation/Burkina: Konaté Arsène arsene.konate@inadesfo.net

Réseau MARP: Ouédraogo Mathieu (patemathieu@yahoo.fr )

Focal points at national level

Benin: Marcel Djihoun (mdjihoun@snvworld.org)

Burkina Faso: Benoit Ouédraogo (benoit.ouedraogo@gmail.com)

Cameroon: Jean Bosco Etoa (etoa_ngbwa@hotmail.com) / Alain Beko’o Abondo (alain.abondo@yahoo.com)

Mali: Bourama Diakité (diakitbourama@yahoo.fr)

Niger: Oumarou Hamidou (oumarou.ibrahim@oxfamnovib.ne)

Togo: Sélome Houetognon (selome30@yahoo.fr)

Senegal: Djibril Thiam (thiamdjibril@yahoo.fr)