Opportunities for Innovation

Development Policy24 Jun 2009Jim Woodhill

Yesterday we had a very interesting set of presentations from the Regional Research Associates. These are staff from regional universities who will be working on the research programme and who will support the COS-SIS programme’s PhD students. The 9 presentations have covered: oil palm; livestock food security; irrigation; cotton and cocoa. The aim is to look at the issues and opportunities for local communities and farmers that could be tackled by the innovation systems approach. From this initial scoping possible innovation processes that can be undertaken and researched will be identified.

A rich menu of the issues facing small scale producers has been presented. There has been particular emphasis on looking at both the technical issues and the institutional issues. These institutional issues include the challenges for farmers in establishing effective local organisations through to low prices driven by agricultural subsidies in the North. The inputs certainly reinforce the underlying assumption of the COS-SIS programme that any improvements will require that technical and institutional changes go hand in hand.

Later in the day I sat in on a very lively discussion about palm oil that explored the reasons why many farmers have such low yields and what innovations would be possible to link them into more profitable markets.