The Agricultural Innovation System


The visibility of rural advisory services has increased on the global agenda, but there is a big gap in terms of the provision of advocacy and leadership: Currently, there is no coherent or credible voice for rural advisory services. In contrast to the large and well-developed international structures in agricultural research, RAS lack direction regarding investment priorities and evidence-based recommendations for policies and approaches. There is also a need for enhanced individual and institutional capacity development within RAS and sharing of experience at local and regional levels. Worldwide, stakeholders in the rural advisory sector have expressed demand for a dynamic, proactive, and formal structure to assure a credible and clear voice for RAS.

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The Agricultural Innovation System

 ais diagram 530

GFRAS bases much of its conception of rural advisory services on the “agricultural innovation systems” conceptual framework. The World Bank defines an agricultural innovation system as a network of organizations, enterprises, and individuals focused on bringing new products, new processes, and new forms of organization into economic use, together with the institutions and policies that affect their behavior and performance.  Citation: World Bank. 2012. Agricultural Innovation Systems: An Investment Sourcebook. Washington, World Bank, 660p.

This concept can be further illustrated by the figure shown here. As can be seen from it, innovation is a process that takes place through a variety of actors within the innovation system (all the actors in the middle circle). Through their exchange (indicated by the arrows) innovation (the center circle) takes place. However, a crucial part of an agricultural innovation system is the policy environment, consumer demands, and the “rules of the game” that influence the interaction of these actors. This policy component is depicted by the outer darker circle, while the arrows at that level indicate the interaction between the policy environment and the actors themselves in the middle circle.

The AIS approach highlights the role of the institutional context to orient the innovation process, the necessity to understand and foster social networks, the complex interactions among different actors, the feedback loops taking place in an unpredictable innovation process, and the importance of social and individual learning processes. Also, the approach highlights several key aspects of the process of innovation. First, innovations are not just technical but include social, process, and institutional innovations. Second, innovations do not originate only with research but can come from any actor within the system. Finally, there are many iterations, feedback loops, and influencing factors (such as policies and regulations) that affect the uptake of innovations.