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Opportunities and Challenges for Multi-Stakeholder Platforms in Agricultural Research for Development

(Valerie Poire) #1

Originally published at:
IITA researcher Nester Mashingaidze visits soybean trials set up with the multi-stakeholder platform in Kayonza, Rwanda.
IITA researcher Nester Mashingaidze visits soybean trials set up with the multi-stakeholder platform in Kayonza, Rwanda.

Why multi-stakeholder platforms?

Within Humidtropics, multi-stakeholder approaches play an important role towards achieving research for development outcomes. Multi-stakeholder platforms aim to foster technological and institutional innovation by facilitating continuous interaction and collaboration in networks of farmers, extension officers, policymakers, researchers and other relevant stakeholders in the agricultural system. In doing so, they are seen as a promising vehicle to stimulate collective action to address soil fertility, climate change, nutrition and other agricultural development challenges.

So what’s the problem?

The successful implementation of platforms requires a paradigm shift within agricultural research for development. Research institutes are expected to operate more demand-driven, which means that existing mandates are challenged. Also, achieving development impacts may require action that goes beyond the traditional roles and preferences of individual researchers. We conducted a study to reflect on the implementation and institutionalization of multi-stakeholder platforms in agricultural research for development. We use experiences from sub-Saharan Africa to demonstrate how the adoption and adaptation of multi-stakeholder platforms creates both opportunities and challenges that influence platform performance and impact.

Opportunities include the implementation of interlinked platforms across local and national levels, platform-led innovation funds to accommodate platform interests, new partnerships between research and development organizations, and more flexible and long-term programs to accommodate the (changing) platform needs.

Constraints include that researchers and institutional mandates continue to dominate the platforms and – consequently – often set the research for development agenda. This results in situations where platforms focus on technology testing and adoption, whereas other systems dimensions such as policy and markets remain underexplored. We wonder whether these types of platforms reinforce rather than challenge existing agricultural innovation paradigms.

Way forward?

The study shows that multi-stakeholder platforms need a conducive environment, that includes new organizational mandates and incentives, procedures and funding, as well as mindset changes of researchers and other stakeholders in the agricultural sector. Additionally, capacity development of process facilitators seems to play an important role in strengthening the functioning of multi-stakeholder processes. In some situations, tapping into existing multi-stakeholder networks could be more efficient than establishing new platforms.

The article has been published under Open Access with Experimental Agriculture and can be downloaded here:

Please refer to the paper as: Schut, M., Klerkx, L., Sartas, M., Lamers, D., Mc Campbell, M., Ogbonna, I., Kaushik, P., Atta-Krah, K., Leeuwis, C., 2015. Innovation Platforms: Experiences with their institutional embedding in Agricultural Research for Development. Experimental Agriculture, available on CJO2015: doi:10.1017/S001447971500023X.

For more information, contact Marc Schut

Interested in reading more about multi-stakeholder platforms? On November 30, 2015, the Humidtropics book entitled Innovation Platforms for Agricultural Development - Evaluating the Mature Innovation Platforms Landscape will be launched in Kampala, Uganda. You can pre-order the book here:

Blog by Marc Schut, Social Scientist, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA)/Wageningen University (WUR). Blog edited by Valérie Poiré, Communication Officer, Humidtropics. Photo by Alain N. Hero/CIALCA.