TRIO - Adaptive smallholder systems in sub-Saharan Africa


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Titel TRIO - Adaptive smallholder systems in sub-Saharan Africa
Looptijd 01 / 2011 - 12 / 2011
Status Afgesloten
Onderzoeknummer OND1345830


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Samenvatting (EN)

Climate change and climate variability exacerbate the vulnerability of smallholder farmers in SSA. The urgency for adaptation actions in response to climate risks and price shocks is rapidly growing. Financial and physical resource restrictions result in smallholder farmers relying heavily on risk adverse survival strategies, which are geared towards coping with extremely adverse conditions but fail to capitalize on opportunities that good seasons or prices provide. Inadequate information flows and lack of transparency in agricultural value chains further obstructs sound market functioning.

The major impediments to sustainable agricultural development in SSA are high climate variability, low soil fertility, and dysfunctional input/service/output markets. These factors increase the risk of agricultural production, are obstacles for more efficient food production and marketing, and relate to a vicious cycle of co-limitations, characterized by:

a. bio-physical constraints (high climate variability, low soil fertility, limitations in seed and breed quality, lack of irrigation)
b. information constraints (limited access of both farmers and traders to price/market information for inputs/outputs and local climate information)
c. market, infrastructure, and services constraints (no or poor access to credit, fertilizers, quality genetic material and other farm inputs; poorly functioning input/output markets, poor physical and institutional infrastructure).
Desired outcomes can only be achieved if these co-limiting factors are addressed simultaneously.
As a result, food-security of smallholder farmers and rural communities is under permanent pressure. As the complex interactions between global, regional and local processes (e.g. climate change, market fluctuation, technology development) create an increasingly uncertain and risky environment, smallholder farmers capacities to develop sustainable practices are increasingly challenged. Widespread uncertainty and greater variability in food production at household level can lead to decreased food security at national level. Meeting these challenges requires effective cooperation between farmers, researchers, civil society, private sector and government in forms now often referred to as Agricultural Innovation Systems .

The concept of Agricultural Innovation System (AIS) has gained ground with the weakening of public extension because of structural adjustment and liberalization programmes. The AIS concept acknowledges that linear research extension farmer relations cannot effectively address the challenges faced by farmers experiencing rapid change in climate, market and technology. AIS is an evolving concept that requires better understanding and operationalisation (World Bank 2008). Convening stakeholders is essential to strengthening an AIS but it is not yet clear how these encounters can develop into flexible relationships and effective responses or what key mechanisms drive their functioning under constant change. Case studies and analysis of the emergent patterns and mechanisms will contribute to improved understanding and to informing policies for supporting AISs (World Bank 2008). Objectives
Understanding risks[i], and particularly climate related risks, is fundamental for our understanding of the performance of sub-Sahara African (SSA) agricultural production systems and local input/output market. This includes a sound understanding of farmers attitudes and risk management strategies as well as an appreciation of their innovativeness, knowledge and capacities, and existing social arrangements and market systems. Food production in SSA is still constrained by a vicious cycle of co-limitations, most of which relate to risks.

The complexity of management - environment interactions means that disciplinary solutions are usually ineffective and often make matters worse: co-limitations require co-innovations (see Burger, Meinke, and van der Lee, 2010). Hence, TRIO aims to provide:
a) better understanding of the pervasiveness of risk as a determining factor of household strategies, and of associated social arrangements and local markets;
b) development and testing of an assessment framework for innovations[ii] in the agro-ecology, information, technology and social and organizational domains that tally with household s focus on risk management and with advancement of entrepreneurial smallholders;
c) assessment of how such innovations improve the adaptive capacity[iii] of smallholder production and marketing systems and turn risks into opportunities for growth.
d) research and policy recommendations on upgrading of localized adaptive strategies developed by smallholder farmers to scalable programs.

TRIO will identify options to improve both risk and opportunity management of SSA smallholder agricultural production and marketing systems, thereby enhancing their adaptive capacity and leading to robust production systems and local input/output markets. Effective agricultural research that increases agricultural productivity and resilience in a rapidly changing environment requires the co-production of knowledge and innovation in ways that bridge distinctions between scientific and local knowledge.

TRIO therefore develops a trans-disciplinary research approach that builds upon smallholders and traders innovativeness, knowledge and capacities and addresses the complex set of interacting environmental, economic and social factors contributing to the current levels of vulnerability by implementation of Agricultural Innovation System (AIS) perspective. Jointly with stakeholders, existing agro-production systems will be strengthened or new ones designed that use resources more efficiently and effectively (mainly water, nutrients and capital) and reduce fluctuations in production volume and price. This might include application of agronomic options, improved physical food stocks, information systems, and insurances schemes designed to reduce the current vulnerability to climate and market shocks[iv].

Our scale of analysis is the local level at which households, small communities and local markets function (Fig. 1). This scale perspective is an important and deliberate choice in order to provide actors at that level with actionable knowledge. Although we focus on this scale, we recognise that we are dealing with a dynamic system that is prone to influences and disturbances that take place at other scales (see the vertical arrows in Fig. 1).

Brokering of information and knowledge plays a key role in these inter-scale relationships. Knowledge about future climatic and economic conditions has advanced to such a degree that information can be generated that is useful for management and policy decision making. Scientists have the possibility to play an important broker role in innovation processes because they operate at a strategic level: within science networks, at policy level and with local stakeholders (van der Meulen and Rip, 1998; Callon, 1994). Our assumption is that science provides sufficient foreseeability (i.e. the facility to reasonably anticipate damage that will probably ensue from acts or omissions), which opens the door for intensification and investment, while reducing the overall level of risk exposure by the simultaneous elimination of various co-limiting factors. Collaborative development and testing of such actionable risk management strategies will test the main hypothesis of this research.

Entrepreneurial smallholder farmers and farming communities throughout SSA will sustainably increase agricultural production and livelihoods through increased production efficiencies, improved risk management, more effective agricultural innovation systems, and participation in more efficient markets. Increased and less variable production will translate into increased and more stable incomes, improved livelihoods, improved food security, and more sustainable practices. These outcomes will be achieved by addressing simultaneously the main constraints to productivity increase, i.e. bio-physical constraints (high climate variability, low soil fertility, limitations in seed and breed quality, lack of irrigation); market and infrastructure constraints (no or poor access to credit, fertilizers, quality genetic material and other farm inputs; poorly functioning input/output markets, poor physical and institutional infrastructure); and information constraints (limited access of both farmers and traders to weather/climate and price/market information).

[i] In line with the International Organization for Standardization (ISO 31000:2009), we define risk in a value-neutral sense as the effect of uncertainty on objectives , i.e. the variability around an ill-defined and elusive mean. Risk therefore includes down-side risks (e.g. hardship) as well as up-side risks (opportunities). Risk management throughout this document could also be referred to as risk and opportunity management .

[ii] Innovation is the process that translates knowledge into economic growth and social well-being. It encompasses a series of scientific, technological, organisational, financial and commercial activities (ARC, 2009). An innovation refers both to the outcome and to the process by which this outcome has been achieved. In general terms, innovations as an outcome refers to whatever it requires in technical, organizational and institutional terms for dealing with a problematic or challenging situation (such as fighting against soil degradation, or achieving food security or obtaining more equal terms of trades within a supply-chain). More specifically, TRIO considers innovations (with an s ) as: New and promising ways that specific people (usually referred to as actors or stakeholders) in a specific place come up with for doing things (such as producing a crop, or tending their animals, or transforming a primary product, or marketing their produce etc.), for organizing and exchanging human, material and intellectual resources (such as sharing water for irrigation, or accessing communal grazing areas, or accessing market-related information and skills) .

In terms of process, TRIO is specifically interested in the sequence of actions, steps and interactions a specific set of stakeholders follows in a specific place to identify, develop and diffuse one or several specific innovations (as outcomes), in order to solve a specific problem or challenge, along with the knowledge mobilized in doing so.

TRIO applies an innovation Systems (IS) perspective as a key component of our framework for understanding and assessing multiskaeholder innovation at various scales, with a particular emphasis on innovation processes. We consider the dynamics of innovation systems and processes over time. This requires assessing, wherever possible, their multiple outcomes and impacts. Also, innovation is considered as an emergent property of both supervised and unsupervised learning and interaction of stakeholders.

[iii] We regard adaptive capacity as a conceptual framework that accounts for multiple drivers and sources of risk. This contrasts with other approaches that often assess vulnerability (i.e. the flip-side of adaptive capacity) within existing patterns of activity in closed systems. This can overlook the multiple drivers of vulnerability and sources of adaptive capacity arising from transformational change (Eriksen and Kelly, 2007; Nelson et al., 2010).

[iv] Such systems are currently under development by the WFP and WB at regional and country scale; we will link to these initiatives during the scoping stage of this program.

Long-term ambition: To increase the adaptive capacity of sub-Saharan African smallholder agriculture production and marketing systems in order to reduce vulnerability to environmental risks.

Objective for 2011: To further develop and test the TRIO trans-disciplinary conceptual framework and research methodology needed for the main phase, by using at least two case studies

TRIO is part of the Netherlands s commitment to assist Africa achieving the Millennium Development Goals. TRIO will specifically contribute to the achievement of MDGs 1 and 7:
- MDG 1 (Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger) by helping rural populations to escape from the poverty trap through design and development of food systems that (a) are robust to environmental and market risks, (b) create additional employment options (especially for younger people and women), (c) reduce vulnerability and (d) decrease hunger via increased food security;
- MDG 7 (Ensure environmental sustainability) by designing and promoting principles of sustainable development and sound environmental stewardship. Embracing diversity in agricultural systems will provide the buffering capacity needed for sound risk management, aligning productivity with sustainable practices. TRIO will equally contribute to the objectives of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD).

Activities in 2010 have resulted in:
- Agreed focus on risk & opportunity management from an innovation systems perspective;
- Spin-off to tow additional groups from original KB group (INREF proposal, AP21C);
- partner/case interest assessment + site selection Ethiopia/Kenya, South Africa and Ghana/Senegal.

Activities for 2011:
2011 will be used to develop and test the transdisciplinary conceptual framework and research methodology through setting up at least two case studies. Activities will include:
1. Finalize selection of case study countries and partners, based on inventory of suitable[1] production & market systems and their context and on partner suitability
2. Desk studies to elaborate components of assessment framework and related transdisci-plinary methods, including the assessment of existing climate models in the SSA context
3. Data/information collection in Netherlands on key concepts, behaviour of production & market systems, promising innovations, using:
a. interviews with key resource persons
b. workshops with reflection group to collect additional information/insights
c. additional workshops with key resource persons as necessary
4. Explorative studies in one or two case study countries using
a. interviews with key resource persons from universities, research institutes, farmer organizations, NGOs
b. PRA to augment and validate secondary data
5. Team sessions and sessions with reflection group to further define key concepts on robust systems, innovation, resilience, adaptive capacity, using collected information (see 2, 3 and 4), and iterative development of trans-disciplinary research methodology (linking bio-physical & socio-economic and quantitative & qualitative methods) and specification of data requirements; inventory of available (time series) data; outline of research approach and methods, etc.
6. discuss findings of above with reflection group vis-à-vis concepts & assumptions
7. Write articles on conceptual framework / case studies / research methodology.

Activities foreseen for the period 2012-2014
In its main phase, the proposed research seeks to create expertise in innovation processes in two causally connected domains, i.e. robust production systems and local input/output markets. research will focus on adaptive capacity of production & marketing systems at local to regional scale, using an AIS approach that integrates biophysical and socio- economic approaches research will focus on both enabling innovations - improvements on existing systems and practices, and transitional innovations- new and previously unknown options) in the areas of risk management, local markets functioning, soil fertility, access to credit, and access to climate information for the strategic use of inputs and farm management decisions, using farmer-accessible technologies like cell-phones

Core group of 5-8 scientists will carry out field and desk work and will meet regularly to process findings
Reflection group of senior scientists will meet regularly to provide feedback and input on concepts and approach
2011 work plan will outline sub-activities to be handled by individual or small groups of scientists.activity plan for the main phase (2012-2014) with funding proposals for co-financing, development of partnerships (project - and funding partners).

Results- Trans-disciplinary research methodology that combines bio-physical and socio-economic approaches to risk/adaptive management capacity
- Analysis and reporting of explorative case studies results
- Workshops/communication events for relevant partners
- Insights documented in scientific reports and peer-reviewed publications
- Operational work plan for main phase of research (2012-2014), including definitive case study selection, partners, research methodologies
- Co-financing arrangements agreed.

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