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Adapting the innovation systems approach to agricultural development in Vietnam: challenges to the public extension service


  • Rupert Friederichsen


  • Thai Minh
  • Andreas Neef
  • Volker Hoffmann


Competing models of innovation informing agricultural extension, such as transfer of technology, participatory extension and technology development, and innovation systems have been proposed over the last decades. These approaches are often presented as antagonistic or even mutually exclusive. This article shows how practitioners in a rural innovation system draw on different aspects of all three models, while creating a distinct local practice and discourse. We revisit and deepen the critique of Vietnam’s “model” approach to upland rural development, voiced a decade ago in this journal. Our analysis of interviews with grassroots extension workers and extension managers reveals how they have received government, donor, and academic discourses on participation, user-orientation, and private sector involvement in innovation. Extension workers as well as managers integrate the reform discourses into the still-dominant transfer of technology model. We show how extensionists draw selectively on these diverse discourses to foster interaction with outsiders and clients, and bolster their livelihood strategies. We conclude that the conceptual framework suggested by the innovation systems (IS) approach is broadly appropriate for analyzing the Vietnamese case, but that the IS approach in the contemporary Vietnamese context requires adaptation for taking into account the blurred line between private and state sectors, and recognizing the hegemonic position of state-based networks. Improving extensionists’ ability to mediate between the conflicting principles of farmers’ self-organization and government control is identified as a key challenge for increasing innovative capacity in rural upland Vietnam. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Suggested Citation

  • Rupert Friederichsen & Thai Minh & Andreas Neef & Volker Hoffmann, 2013. "Adapting the innovation systems approach to agricultural development in Vietnam: challenges to the public extension service," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 30(4), pages 555-568, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:agrhuv:v:30:y:2013:i:4:p:555-568
    DOI: 10.1007/s10460-013-9433-y

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Altenburg, Tilman & Schmitz, Hubert & Stamm, Andreas, 2008. "Breakthrough China's and India's Transition from Production to Innovation," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 36(2), pages 325-344, February.
    2. Rupert Friederichsen & Andreas Neef, 2010. "Variations of Late Socialist Development: Integration and Marginalization in the Northern Uplands of Vietnam and Laos," The European Journal of Development Research, Palgrave Macmillan;European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes (EADI), vol. 22(4), pages 564-581, September.
    3. Biggs, Stephen & Smith, Grant, 1998. "Beyond methodologies: Coalition-building for participatory technology development," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 26(2), pages 239-248, February.
    4. David Spielman & Kristin Davis & Martha Negash & Gezahegn Ayele, 2011. "Rural innovation systems and networks: findings from a study of Ethiopian smallholders," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 28(2), pages 195-212, June.
    5. Hall, Andrew & Bockett, Geoffrey & Taylor, Sarah & Sivamohan, M. V. K . & Clark, Norman, 2001. "Why Research Partnerships Really Matter: Innovation Theory, Institutional Arrangements and Implications for Developing New Technology for the Poor," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 29(5), pages 783-797, May.
    6. Norman Clark, 2002. "Innovation Systems, Institutional Change And The New Knowledge Market: Implications For Third World Agricultural Development," Economics of Innovation and New Technology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 11(4-5), pages 353-368.
    7. Joe Peters, 2001. "Transforming the ``model'' approach to upland rural development in Vietnam," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 18(4), pages 403-412, December.
    8. Laura German & Jeremias Mowo & Margaret Kingamkono, 2006. "A methodology for tracking the “fate” of technological interventions in agriculture," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 23(3), pages 353-369, October.
    9. Klerkx, Laurens & Aarts, Noelle & Leeuwis, Cees, 2010. "Adaptive management in agricultural innovation systems: The interactions between innovation networks and their environment," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 103(6), pages 390-400, July.
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    1. repec:eee:agisys:v:154:y:2017:i:c:p:157-167 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. repec:spr:agrhuv:v:34:y:2017:i:2:d:10.1007_s10460-016-9725-0 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. repec:eee:agisys:v:157:y:2017:i:c:p:129-139 is not listed on IDEAS


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