Why are innovation networks not inclusive? Considering diverse aspirations and constraints of heterogeneous smallholder farmers in Uganda
(University of Reading)
Paper short abstract:
The paper explores how innovation networks are exclusive due to unequal access to information, resources and enabling institutions, by applying systems thinking approach for innovation case studies in Uganda. The findings suggest the needs for a farmer-centred against an innovation-centred approach.
Paper long abstract:
Innovation support systems tend to be biased on particular innovations and ignore the real needs of poor farmers who are excluded from networks. How can innovation networks be inclusive in the world where smallholder farmers are becoming increasingly heterogeneous which limits social learning? This paper demonstrates how particular innovations spread and why not to all farmers in a community. Furthermore, it analyses the diverse aspirations and the real constraints which individual farmers (n=531) face in their innovation processes. The analysis of 12 innovation case studies in four villages of Uganda found that richer model farmers often use vertical networks for obtaining knowledge and pass it through to the horizontal informal networks where poorer farmers mostly observe and copy. Nevertheless, the lacking linkages with non-adopters remain as structural holes in those innovation networks. The 'laggards' in linear innovation approach clearly have their own priorities and their specific constraints with a strategy in mind. The poor farmers are increasingly constrained with limited land and stricter conditions for their rented land, and with other resources, before adopting various recommended innovations. It was also found that agricultural casual labour is increasingly important for poor people's innovations, while their lack of access to credit remains a bottleneck for them. In the meantime, the rich farmers are similarly constrained to access credit, due to costly quality education for their children. The paper suggests the importance of removing barriers for resource-poor farmers to enter innovation networks, by creating inclusive institutional environments whereby they can access necessary resources.
Inclusive innovation for development: what inclusion for a fairer future?