I conducted a study recently in over 50 rural communities from three regions in Ghana to understand how local farmer innovate. Below is the process that I have identified through interviews and focus group discussions.
The local farmers usually make attempts to address their problems when faced with challenges during their farming activities. When these attempts fail, they have two options
i) To seek advice from colleague farmers, or
ii) To seek advice from the scientists.
The figure below explains the process as described:
Credit: The Researcher
Seeking Advice from Scientists: With researchable problems, attempts are made by the scientists to find solutions through research, which could take years. Problems associated with extension, communication or advisory, are directed to the extension services for delivery to the farmers – communicating the know-how. However, due to the cost, complexity and incompatibility of most of these innovations from the scientists, local farmers are unable to use them.
Seeking Advice from Colleague Farmers: Local farmers also have the option to seek advice from their colleagues. In the event of failure to address the problems, local farmers attempt to innovate by either modifying the expensive or complex techniques that they learn from the scientists to meet their needs or radically developing new approaches by themselves. Successful implementation of these innovations by the individual farmers results in the spread of the innovation among the communities.
These innovations are shared internally through socialization whereby other farmers learn by doing. The most important stage, however, is where local innovations meet scientific innovations, a situation being referred to as best practices. Understanding what the local people do, how they behave, and why they act in those ways could give clues to researchers, which could help to produce relevant innovations to augment what the local people have been doing. This final stage where local innovations meet scientific innovations for co-creation is, however, missing within the innovation system resulting in the two systems innovating in isolation with little communication across the systems.
So how do we encourage local innovation from farmers? What is the role of the scientist? What is the role of the new information and communication technologies in this process? Feel free to join the conversation.