Support for rural innovation

In August 2009 Maria Fernández and Ricardo Ramírez, with coaching from Daniel Buckles, facilitated a week-long workshop in Calabar, Nigeria. The focus was the design of agricultural projects to help communities adapt to climate change. The training event used Social Analysis Systems as a methodology for participatory inquiry.

The East African Seminar Project (1998-2000) was commissioned by the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA).  The process of bringing together of relevant stakeholders in Kenya Tanzania and Uganda was designed to address the challenges of decentralizing and privatizing agricultural support services in Eastern Africa. The project was first to explore potential interest in learning approaches to decentralization; and second to develop a learning framework and gain a commitment to learning approaches in Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda. DANIDA was dissatisfied with the impact of their investments in the decentralization and privatization of agricultural support services as the hoped for ‘demand-pull’ on service providers by farmers was not materializing. DANIDA deemed that a learning approach was needed to remedy the impasse.   So it requested ISG to consult with a wide array of stakeholders in the provision of agricultural services: leaders of farmer organizations, local and international NGO’s, local authorities at district level, agricultural policy makers, researchers, extensionists, and educators, whether they might be interested in exploring learning approaches. Each stakeholder group gave many reasons why learning approaches would help them.

The seminar envisioned four phases. The first phase was to assess interest in exploring learning processes.  The second would concentrate on developing a learning framework with representatives of interested stakeholders.  The third phase would build capacity to implement the learning process in a number of pilot districts during a forth phase.  Only the first two phases were implemented and the results shared at an international workshop in Tune, Denmark (see Workshop section).

The NARO-NAADS Project (2000-   ) was commissioned the World Bank.  The purpose of this project was to support the National Agriculture Research Organization (NARO) to implement the National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS ) by building capacity amont farmers and potential service providers in the development of learning approaches to enhance the capacity of farming communities to develop future visions that would allow them to formulate demands for agricultural advice, form partnerships with advisory service providers, and initiate a self-sustaining process of exchange among farmers and potential service providers.

The project was implemented via five training modules, the first module for NAADS key stakeholders: district and sub-county officials and selected potential service providers to familiarise them with the who, what, and how, of learning approaches. ISG and NAADS will use this training to gauge support for the further development learning approaches.  Three more training modules were implemented at the sub-county level focusing on a) the identification of development visions, b) needed services for their realization, c) farmer and service provider partnerships and d) institutional consequences.  The fifth and last module will train NAADS managers and key players in advisory services in the identification of management and training challenges associated with the development of learning approaches. In each module the process and outcomes of the training was documented in the form of learning resources to be used by the participants who implemented follow-up training.