Innovation systems and capability building among smallholders: How do institutional arrangements fit in this nexus?

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is-bookFor over two decades, the concept of innovation systems has received considerable attention as a key approach in enhancing agricultural development. In a newly published book, innovation systems approach is acclaimed as an effective strategy for supporting smallholders. One of the chapters considers how institutional arrangements influence interactive learning among actors in an innovation system. The chapter is based on a case study of the floriculture industry in Kenya and focuses on how knowledge generation and sharing contributes to learning, innovation and capability building amongst farmers.

Focusing on key actors as “sources of knowledge” for farmers and farmers’ choices for such actors as “collaborators in research and development”, the study sought to investigate how these preferences influenced farmers’ capabilities to respond to challenges and changes in their contexts. It further investigated how institutional factors and organizational culture influenced the interaction and collaborations amongst the different actors. The paper outlines how farmers can organize themselves to demand for research services in a way that makes universities and research and development institutes respond. It further articulates new institutional arrangements that will enable R&D actors to respond to farmers’ requests.

The chapter, by Maurice Bolo from the Scinnovent Centre, concludes that institutional factors such as organizational culture play a huge role in shaping the tendency of the individual actors within an organization to interact with other actors within the wider innovation system. Different cultures are distinguished, depending on the nature of the organization’s activities and interests. For instance, Bolo notes that non-governmental organizations (NGO) demonstrated a ‘clan culture’ where teamwork and collaborations is highly valued; Input suppliers were characterized by a ‘market culture’ and were more results-oriented to winning market share and penetrating new markets while universities and public research institutes are still dominated by a ‘hierarchical culture’ that undermines their responsiveness to ad hoc client demands.

Download the book containing this chapter here