Innovation: Joint Learning About Innovation Systems In African Agriculture

Last update: 22.08.2013
Approved by
Is this your eco-innovation?
Update here.
Case studies in: 
agriculture, technology transfer, network research, network technologies, innovation, economic aspects
The JOLISAA project aimed to increase understanding of agricultural innovation systems focusing on smallholders livelihoods and the articulation of local/traditional and global knowledge. Lessons learnt about past and ongoing experiences with agricultural/rural innovation in East, Southern and West Africa were synthesised by combining joint case-study assessment with capacity-strengthening and networking at various scales.

Case studies tackled diverse innovation types and scales: from natural resource management to production and agribusiness, from local initiatives to national and regional ones. Joint learning was fostered by engaging diverse stakeholders, including researchers, practitioners and policymakers. The project delivered relevant, pragmatic and collectively validated recommendations to the EC and to African decision-makers for future research, practice and policy.

Over 42 months, a small consortium of European and African partners involving highly experienced and motivated research, development, capacity-strengthening and networking institutions facilitated an iterative process consisting of five interlinked thematic Work Packages (WPs):

- In WP1, an analytic framework and an operational approach was developed based on an innovation-system perspective and carefully adapted to the context and experiences of three regions in Africa.
- WP2 involved joint assessment and learning from a series of case studies in Kenya, South Africa and Benin.
- In WP3, the capacity of members of existing multistakeholder innovation platforms to assess their experiences and to facilitate innovation was strengthened, in close interaction with case-study development.
- In WP4, lessons was shared and discussed within existing national innovation platforms across Africa and with European/ international institutions.
- WP5 compiled and shared the project outputs and delivered them in formats suitable for a range of audiences, from academia to policymakers.


JOLISAA's goal was to assess how smallholders’ innovativeness, knowledge, capacities and other resources can be tapped into, strengthened and linked effectively to those of other stakeholders – public or private, local or global – to contribute to reducing rural poverty and improving food security in Africa.

JOLISAA aimed to support this message through:

- A comprehensive assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of existing approaches to, and experiences with, multi-stakeholder innovation at various scales
- Better understanding of the factors that push and pull the out-scaling of innovations and the role of both scientific and local knowledge in this process
- Shared insights into the actual and potential roles of local and external stakeholders (both public and private) in triggering and sustaining innovation.
The project effectively started on February 1, 2010 with electronic exchanges about defining key concepts and clarifying what an innovation case was in the JOLISAA context. Activities also started on developing drafts, strategies, plans and/or preliminary versions for the analytical framework, the literature review and the inventory guidelines. This allowed the corresponding activities and products to be presented and discussed during the first Global workshop (G1) held near Montpellier in late June 2010, which was perhaps more efficient than having had a traditional kick-off meeting in which most participants remain mostly passive because they dont quite know yet what the project is all about, or what their involvement in it is or should be.

An international learning and advisory committee (called JOLAC - JOLISAA international learning and advisory circle) has been set-up and did participate in the first electronic discussion organised in November 2010. The first global meeting, allowing partners to meet face-to-face was intense and successful. The first series of national workshops took place consecutively in the 3 target countries over the November-December period (Months 10 and 11), and were quite successful.

The major outcomes of these workshops include: 1) selected innovation case studies for each country were presented (in poster and oral format) and discussed collectively, and a preliminary collective assessment conducted during the workshops outlined major dimensions of such cases to be taken into consideration, as well as areas for improving the description of cases, 2) key areas for future activities were explored, including joint learning, capacity-strengthening, selection of cases for future assessment and national networking strategies. Finally, the "enriched" inventory of innovation experiences is well under way in the 3 target countries, with its finalisation being programmed for end of May 2011. It follows the inventory guidelines which are being used with local adaptation in the 3 target countries.

Major other project achievements so far are: 1) awareness, sharing and joint learning activities took place at international and national meetings; 2) the project objectives, approaches and initial products are being shared via the JOLISAA website, and 3) pedagogic materials ("Innovation reader") related to innovation systems and processes and to case assessment methodology have been developed.
A key output of the project will be joint learning and strengthened capacities among project partners and case-study holders, enabling them to assess and engage more effectively in multi-stakeholder innovation processes and systems. Another major output will be reports, publications and training materials about individual selected case studies, providing a better understanding of the nature, performance and impact of innovation systems and of the multistakeholder processes of knowledge creation, transfer, hybridisation and use that sustain innovation, as well as reports and publications presenting a cross-analysis of such cases.

The project will also produce policy briefs to contribute to more informed decision-making by formal agricultural research and development (ARD) actors in Africa and their international partners about how to strengthen Agricultural Innovation Systems (AIS) and local/traditional knowledge. Finally, the project will deliver relevant, pragmatic and collectively validated recommendations to the EC and to African decision-makers for future research, practice and policy related to AIS and local/traditional knowledge. All the above materials will be actively shared and disseminated at various scales - national, regional, African, global - both through the project website and during relevant national and international events.

As the words "joint learning" in the project title already highlight, all activities within the individual WPs are geared towards optimising knowledge generation by building on existing initiatives, networks and available knowledge about agricultural/rural innovation and local/traditional knowledge. Through its emphasis on innovation systems and approaches on diverse themes and scales, the JOLISAA project will also contribute to supporting sustainable agriculture and rural development and will contribute to meet the EUs commitment towards the United Nations Millennium development goals (MDGs).

More specifically, a major aim of JOLISAA is to devise an integrated framework and approach for joint assessment of agricultural/rural innovation systems and the role of L/TK, and for wide sharing of the lessons via networking/ dialogue among major innovation players at local, national and international level. At the beginning and end of the project, the assessment framework will be shared and discussed with a wide range of researchers and practitioners for critical reflection and fine-tuning. The work will be done in close collaboration by the European and African consortium partners and with different stakeholders active on the ground in Africa. Linking to ongoing programmes and innovation platforms will allow the project to make optimal use of existing resources, strengthen networking opportunities and provide an entry point for broad-based mutual knowledge generation.

The participatory assessment methodology with an inbuilt capacity-strengthening process (i.e. training of facilitators, reflection sessions with stakeholders etc) will have a strong component of learning and mutual knowledge generation at national and sub-national level. Being part of these assessment processes will build up and strengthen key stakeholders capacity to mobilise different types of knowledge and skills so that they can contribute more effectively in the future to overall knowledge generation and innovation. This capacity-strengthening component of the JOLISAA project will fit well into the first action plan (2008-10), priority action 2 that aims to "support S&T capacity building in Africa and implement Africas science and technology Consolidated plan of action (CPA)" and to the Strategic European framework for international science and technology cooperation (2008).

As a result of the project, project partners, network partners and stakeholders within the target countries will have an improved understanding of the underlying concepts of innovation systems involving local/traditional knowledge and the support structures and mechanisms required to make them work. Insights about the participation of small-scale farmers and other vulnerable stakeholder groups in such processes, and the benefits they receive from it will be particularly stressed. The goal, and hope, is that such understanding will be appropriated by the participating institutions and networks and hence better taken into account in their ongoing and future initiatives than is presently the case. Beyond these directly involved institutions, many other institutions in Africa, Europe and internationally will be able to adapt the framework and approach devised in this project, and to use the lessons learnt across cases and across countries.

Insights into how smallholder innovativeness, food security and livelihoods can be enhanced by ARD policies will help to translate the thinking around MDG 1 (eradicating extreme poverty and hunger) into concrete action, by revealing what changes are required in ARD structure and functioning in order to attain this goal. Conventional ARD actors (such as research and extension agencies) and funding agencies need to understand what possibilities they have to design and orchestrate multistakeholder innovation processes, and under which conditions these processes are most likely to be successful.

This innovation is the result of the project

Title: Joint Learning About Innovation Systems In African Agriculture


01.02.2010 to 31.07.2013

completed project

Organisations and people involved in this eco-innovation.

Please click on an entry to view all contact details.


Field: Fishing and aquaculture, Agriculture, Scientific research and development, Education (France)

Role in project: Project Coordination

Contact person: Dr. TRIOMPHE Bernard


Phone: +33-467-615614



Field: Agriculture, Scientific research and development, Education (Kenya)

Contact person: Dr. KAMAU Geoffrey


Phone: +254-204183301



Field: Agriculture, Scientific research and development, Education (Netherlands)

Role in project: Associated partner

Contact person: Dr. JOLANDA Van Den Berg


Phone: +31-703358165



Field: Agriculture, Scientific research and development (Netherlands)

Role in project: Associated partner

Contact person: Dr. WATERS-BAYER Ann


Phone: +31-304-32600



Field: Agriculture, Scientific research and development, Education (Netherlands)

Role in project: Associated partner

Contact person: Dr. HAWKINS Richard


Phone: +31-317422938



Field: Agriculture, Scientific research and development, Education (Benin)

Role in project: Associated partner

Contact person: Dr. VODOUHE Davo Simplice


Phone: +229-95607868



Field: Agriculture, Scientific research and development, Education (South Africa)

Contact person: Dr. STEVENS Joe


Phone: +27-124203249