Today, the country teams from the IFAD-supported ‘Fodder Adoption Project’ met in Luang Prabang Laos to review and assess what was achieved during the project.
The workshop opened with an overview presentation by project coordinator Alan Duncan.
He introduced the goal of the project: to improve the livelihoods of poor livestock keepers through increased access to, and adoption of, fodder.
According to Duncan, the ‘heart’ of the project is the ‘smallholder livestock enterprise’ – with a main focus on feed inputs. This involves different types of interventions targeted to technical, organizational, and policy issues.
The central questions of the research are: Why does innovation occur so slowly in the livestock/fodder sector, and what can be done to accelerate innovation in this area?
The project has concentrated on three main areas: innovation, scale, and markets:
Duncan argues that innovation is not something we impose. Rather, systems are always changing, and innovation is a natural state: “farmers”, he noted “are naturally innovative individuals.” Since innovation and ideas can come from many directions or sources, enhancing innovation means building capacity for change (at community level, among different actors in innovation systems, though knowledge management).
In reality, this has required that project participants take an “actor oriented approach” that balances three activities: Addressing technology gaps through research, building capacities for innovation among the different actors, and facilitating multi-actor platforms where different people come together to make change happen.
Scale means “taking small scale pockets of success and working out ways of scaling them up and out.” The key to being able to scape up and out, according to Duncan, is to work at multiple scales, connecting them together. Thus the different countries have worked at the micro level (site level, likely to be technical interventions), the meso level (district level, likely to be institutional interventions), and at the macro level (provincial, national, international, likely to be policy interventions). When scaling up and out, he added “it’s a case of using local pockets of technical success as engines of change” at the system level.
Questions and discussion focused on ways the project handles the balance between technology push and market demand, the sequencing of activities, ‘who’ articulates the challenges that such innovation systems or platforms will address, and how the lessons of such research feed into larger-scale development interventions.
According to Duncan, the wider scaling out issues only come into play when the project has a technology that works; or as Werner Stür put it: “The question still is how you get something started.” Adds Duncan: “the real challenges are to scale out the innovation processes rather than the technologies themselves.”
More on the project: