Building Innovation Systems for Small-Scale Agricultural Activities in Sub-Saharan Africa: Key Success Factors

Building Innovation Systems for Small-Scale Agricultural Activities in Sub-Saharan Africa: Key Success Factors

Olawale Oladipo Adejuwon (Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0135-0.ch012


The failure of agricultural research systems to provide appropriate technologies to enhance competitiveness in small-scale agricultural activities in sub-Saharan Africa has been well documented. Recognising the peculiarities of such activities, this chapter proposes that a system of innovation where; the actors interact with each other; a combination of science- and experience-based mode of learning and innovation is used and; users provide producers of innovations with feedback will produce appropriate innovations for the sector. It is further hypothesized that the success of this system will be dependent on; the number, scope and strength of interactions among actors; brokerage activities; and an initial successful innovation system for downstream activities. The chapter also undertakes a qualitative assessment of the some-what successful Cassava and the not-so-successful palm oil sectors in Nigeria to highlight the importance of the framework and the differences between successful and ineffective innovation systems.
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There has been increasing global demand for agricultural produce, not only for food security, but also by pressures for new sources of feed-stock for renewable energy. Compared with most regions in the world, sub-Saharan Africa shows a lot of promise to be the global basket for agricultural produce. Not only is there an abundance of land in most countries of the region, a majority of the population in the area are engaged in small-scale agricultural activities. Furthermore, there is a ready regional market due to a considerable and growing population in the region. In addition, and barring grave climatic conditions, a greater part of the region, especially the Guinea Savannah is most suitable for rain-fed agricultural production. It has been reported in several studies that smallholders have an important role to play in the development of African agriculture, not only because they produce about 75% of agricultural products in the area but also because such activities may have a positive impact on the socio-economic indices of practitioners (World Bank, 2009). In spite of the natural resources endowed on the region, agricultural productivity when compared with other regions remains low. For example, cereal yield per hectare in kilograms of harvested land (including wheat, rice, maize, barley, oats, rye, millet, sorghum, buckwheat, and mixed grains) for Nigeria, Kenya, Gabon, Zimbabwe (countries in the west, east, central and south sub-Saharan Africa respectively), Brazil, Thailand and Belgium for the 2010 to 2014 period was 1,537, 1,727, 1691, 724, 4826, 3022 and 9213 respectively. (World Bank, 2015). In comparison with smallholder productivity, the World Bank (2009) competitiveness indicators showed that the average domestic yield for smallholder cotton production in Mozambique, Nigeria and Zambia for 2007 was 0.6, 0.9 and 0.8 Metric tons per hectare (mt/ha) respectively while that of Brazil was 3.8 mt/ha for large-scale production. The World Bank (2009) report also shows that the domestic yield of Thailand for rice more than doubles the average yield of the 3 aforementioned African countries. Carr (2013) however argues that with adequate inputs such as in fertiliser and seeds, smallholders can be as productive as large farms. The author reports that small-scale farmers in Japan and China have achieved levels of productivity per unit area of land equal to and even higher than large-scale farmers anywhere in the world.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Producer-User Interactions: A continuous interactive process between agricultural research institutions and small-scale agricultural practitioners aimed at increasing the appropriateness of innovations in fulfilling user needs and increasing competence and productivity in small-scale agricultural activities.

Upstream Agricultural Activities: Activities concerned with the production of primary farm produce.

Brokers: Individuals or institutions who are embedded and facilitate linkages among groups of actors comprising small-scale practitioners, research bodies and funding/policy institutions to ensure the flow of information, knowledge and funding among disconnected actors in an innovation system for the successful development and diffusion of appropriate innovations.

Appropriate Innovations: Class of innovations that are; designed to increase farm yield, reduce post-harvest losses and improve the yield and quality of products transformed from primary farm produce; unbiased towards small-scale production and gender and; not sensitive to typical seasonal changes in market prices and variations in weather/climatic conditions.

Small-Scale Agricultural Practitioners: Individuals who earn below $5 a day from agricultural activities using a mixture of traditional and modern techniques of agricultural production for subsistence and commercial use.

Downstream Agricultural Activities: Activities concerned with the transformation of primary farm produce into intermediate and final products.

Innovation Systems: A system of actors that interact to disperse information, knowledge and funding for the development and diffusion of appropriate innovations in small-scale agricultural activities.

Interactions: A process enabled by network ties for the dissemination of information, knowledge and funds for the purpose of facilitating the development and diffusion of appropriate innovations in small-scale agricultural activities.

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