Insights into potato innovation systems in Bolivia, Ethiopia, Peru and Uganda
In the last 50years, theoretical and practical approaches to promoting agricultural innovations have been evolving. Initial innovation diffusion theories led to a linear, top-down approach of technology transfer. However, changes occurred in the 1970s and 1980s, such as the economic structural adjustment which caused a dramatic decrease in governmental agricultural research and extension services in several developing countries. Simultaneously a number of new stakeholders (NGOs, private companies, farmer organizations, local governments, etc.) started to contribute to agricultural innovations more actively in the 1990s and 2000s. As the changes occurred, scholars began proposing new theories, such as the innovation systems approach, to explain how multiple stakeholders interact, exchange information, generate knowledge and develop innovations for solving problems. The paper describes the results of a rapid appraisal of potato innovation systems in Bolivia, Ethiopia, Peru and Uganda. The method was useful for identifying components and limitations in the system at pilot sites. Results indicate that the systems had similar types of components, namely national and local government organizations, NGOs, private companies, farmer organizations and media; another common feature was the limited interaction among organizational components, which reduced farmer access to information, technologies, organizations, markets and services. However, the role of organizational components was different across countries. Farmer organizations played a limited role at the pilot sites in these countries, except in Bolivia. The role of national governments was also limited in Bolivia and Peru, but played a major role in Ethiopia and Uganda at the moment of the study. Local governments were starting to play an important role in the four sites. NGOs played an active role in most countries, and the private companies in charge of input supply were more active in Bolivia and Peru. Media (radio) were present, but they were not contributing significantly to disseminating information for innovation. The International Potato Center (CIP) was present in all the systems, playing a role of innovation brokerage. Results indicate that different types of intervention would be needed for each country to strengthen the roles that components were already playing, but should look for improving interactions among components. In Ethiopia, strengthening innovation capacity of potato-related government organizations would be desirable to start the process, but in Bolivia, Peru and Uganda, enhancing interactions and coordination among government organizations, NGOs, private companies and farmer organizations would be needed, for example, to improve farmer access to quality planting material and markets. The role of farmer organizations and the private companies in charge of input supply need to be strengthened in the potato innovation systems in all places. The rapid appraisal of potato innovation systems has shown to be a method with potential to start understanding the complexity of the innovation systems and identify potential entry points for interventions.
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