Positive Deviance as a Catalyst for Sustainable Food Production and Nutrition in the Andes
03 / 2011 - unknown
Recently, a number of international assessments have raised concerns over the ability of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (AKSTD) to address present hunger and poverty concerns in an era of resource degradation and climatic uncertainty, combined with diminishing public support for agricultural research. In this context, the need for understanding how to mobilise effective, locally led rural innovation with no to little external support has become a priority. This integrated research programme aims at understanding Positive Deviance ? i.e., the spontaneous generation of novelties embedded in the daily problem-solving activity of farmers, but lying outside the distributional norms of practice -- as inspiration for a new approach to rural innovation. Starting from the rich tapestry of local practice, we will explore how scientific insights can strengthen and complement the most promising PD in ways that address both immediate and long term needs. This research will not only contribute to theories in the co-production of local and scientific knowledge, but it also will contribute to new thinking in innovation for development. We will develop and test methodologies to identify and strengthen PD in resource poor households that effectively respond to food security priorities. Building on earlier studies and recent stakeholder consultations, the project will focus on PD in two strategic areas for enabling farming families to defeat poverty and hunger: 1.creative utilisation of water for food production in the context of growing climate variability, and 2.strategic utilisation of food production for family nutrition, in particular for assuring the health and well-being of vulnerable mothers and infants. In-depth case studies will identify key knowledge factors involved in the success of PD as well as overcoming lingering conceptual barriers, knowledge gaps, and technological bottlenecks through alternative local experience, complemented by scientific insight. Provided linkages with development agents and governments, the learning process will necessarily include capacity-building and policy debates. The research is strategic in its reliance on local resources and, as a result, catalytic potential. This integrated programme will take place in Ecuador, which recently passed ?Food Sovereignty? legislation emphasizing institutional transition towards local innovation systems. The selected site is representative of the three dominant eco-regional zones of the wider highland Andes. As per the growing international interest in local food for addressing resource constraints and climate change, the re-positioning of agricultural science around endogenous potential in Ecuador holds global implications.