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Innovation Platforms For Technology Adoption

Value Chain Approach-Based Platforms:
Innovation Platforms for Technology Adoption (IPTA) in Africa

By Djalalou-Dine A. Arinloye*, Ousmane Coulibaly* and Sidi Sayang†

*International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA-BENIN), Cotonou, Benin 

†West and Central African Council for Agricultural Research and Development (CORAF/WECARD)


Background and Context

Multi-stakeholder Platforms (MSP) can be defined as “bringing together different stakeholders (actors) who have an interest in a problem situation and engaging them in a process of dialogue and collective learning that improves decision-making, action and innovation” (Mwesige, 2010, p. 181). In the case presented here, the core role of MSPs is to improve coordination and collaboration along the value chain, resulting in more efficient and equitable linkages that benefit those poor who are economically active. Where market linkages are weak, as is the case in many rural areas not just in Uganda, small and medium-sized producers, input suppliers, traders and millers, are forced to depend on scanty and skewed information and business opportunities. They tend to have a narrow picture of their sector, which breeds suspicion and mistrust among the various actors, contributing to overall stagnation of the entire sector. MSP approaches are a potentially relevant intervention as they seek to change the unproductive market dynamics and stimulate actors to take a broader view of the chain beyond the self-interest of individual positions.

The development of multi-stakeholder processes as a pathway for the Promotion of Science and Technology for Agricultural Development (PSTAD) project, in Africa, was the pivotal intervention in which actors were involved to better understand their roles in value chain development. The PSTAD project is a Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) led, Sub-regional Research Organizations (SRO) managed, and National Agricultural Research Services (NARS) implemented project funded by the African Development Bank (AfDB). This project supported two of FARA’s regional initiatives, including the Regional Agricultural Information and Learning Systems (RAILS) and the Dissemination of New Agricultural Technologies in Africa (DONATA). The present case study only focuses on lessons learnt from the DONATA interventions in African countries. The overall goal of DONATA is to promote the adoption and impact of proven agricultural technologies, including farmers' innovations and good agricultural practices. Three objectives guide DONATA’s work:

·         Undertake multi-stakeholder innovation platform processes and value chains analysis by linking agricultural technologies and best practice development to market demand;

·         Develop innovations in extension and advisory services to facilitate up-and-out scaling of technologies and best practices among limited resource households;

·         Create linkages with other regional initiatives and programs, including RAILS to improve information exchange and communication behaviors

DONATA uses the Innovation Platform for Technology Adoption (IPTA) approach along the value chain to facilitate the rapid dissemination and adoption of innovations of cassava and maize in target countries. The IPTA includes stakeholders and collaborators of diverse social and economic levels and the institutions that govern their behavior, with all groups working toward common objectives. The IPTA considers innovation to be a dynamic and systemic process that organizes and uses knowledge in new ways; and innovation can emerge from many sources, complex interactions, and knowledge flows.

The mid-term review carried out by the AfDB has pointed out some bottlenecks that affected the success of the interventions. The main constraints include the inadequate understanding and application of the concept of an innovation platform, and the lack of effective technical backstopping support to facilitate the innovation platforms. In West and Central Africa, CORAF/WECARD selected the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) to play this critical role of technical backstopping through facilitation and capacity strengthening activities for the life of the project. The backstopping aimed to assist CORAF/WECARD in providing technical facilitation to IPTA’s actors along the maize and cassava value chains, and capacity strengthening of NARS in disseminating new (i.e., proven) agricultural innovations.

The focus is on analyzing the structure, conduct and performance of platforms across African countries. The sample target countries include Burkina Faso and Sierra Leone, as start-up countries, as well as Benin and Togo, as new countries. Are considered as start-up countries those countries were IPTAs were established since the project has started during 2008, and new countries are those who started establishing their platforms longer than one to two years ago (2010). In these two categories of countries, all the installed platforms were visited systematically except for Sierra Leone, where seven platforms were selected among the current 45 based on their operating and effectiveness levels. Field visits led to data collection on stakeholders’ perceptions and opinions to improve the conduct, efficiency and sustainability of the platforms. In Sierra Leone, cassava value chains have been promoted, and in Benin, Burkina-Faso and Togo, maize was selected given its contribution to food security as the region’s main staple food crop and producers’ incomes generally.

A value chain approach has been used for effective and efficient coordination among its actors, access to input and product markets, achieving gender equity, creating partnerships with other stakeholders (i.e., public-private, private-cooperatives and related organizations along the value chains) augmenting the overall performance of the platforms, and implementing corrective measures. This case presents the constraints, opportunities, strengths and weaknesses of the different platforms identified, and the challenges faced by new and start-up platforms. In addition, suggestions and recommendations for better redefining the role of value chain actors in innovation platforms are shared for future action. 


Methodological Approach

Inventory of platforms: An inventory sheet was sent to national coordinators or focal points of countries to indicate the location of each platform implemented, the target crop, the innovations selected (i.e., improved varieties, availability and access to seeds, planting materials and other inputs), types of products being promoted (raw or processed) and the categories of actors involved. This initial review helped to categorize the platforms and group them according to types. Criteria used for the typology included the technology promoted, the location of the platform (i.e., the agro-ecological zone), and the kinds of actors involved.











Figure 1: Innovation platform for technology adoption (IPTA) value chain. 
Source: CORAF, 2009 

Typology of the platforms: Three main criteria formed the comprehensive typology used to classify the platforms:

·         functional level of the platforms and set of constraints, opportunities, strengths and weaknesses associated with the progress of activities within the platforms in target countries;

·         experience of the country in implementing DONATA’s activities (i.e., start-up countries and new countries);

·         availability of secondary data, including activity reports, number and types of platforms implemented in each country and need to collect complementary primary data.

Preliminary assessment tool kit: The next step consisted of drafting a tool kit for the assessment of commodity-based value chain platforms. The tool kit includes a conceptual framework and actors’ interview guides. Key points addressed include the structure, conduct and performance of the platforms, the level of achievements and gaps between expected and effectively achieved activities and targets. Also, an exchange with actors on suggestions to overcome gaps and enhance the efficiency and relevance of the platforms was undertaken.

Focus group discussions with IPTA’s actors: Focus group discussions were conducted separately with each category of platform actors in each country using the preliminary assessment criteria. The categories of actors interviewed included groups of producers, maize and cassava processors, input dealers, extension agents, wholesalers/retailers and consumers. Information, including quantitative data, was compiled and analyzed to address specific issues regarding the objectives sought.

Interviews with key informants: Key informants included knowledgeable resource persons who could provide specific details needed to crosscheck or complete information from the focus group discussions. They included scientists, extension agents, service providers, private or cooperative processers, in-country focal points and their staff such as field technicians, as well as monitoring and evaluation agents.

Field visits: The evaluation team visited some production, participatory varietal selection and best agronomic practices demonstration sites from which farmers observe and choose before adopting and replicating such on their individual plots. Some processing units owned by platforms or private companies that provide services and products to the platforms were also visited and interviews were conducted on linkages with platform members. Moreover, factors that may upgrade the quality of the services and products based on demand characteristics from the clients were also discussed and recommended.

Major Findings

Except for the Kenema platform in Sierra Leone, the common perception by actors from most of the platforms, was that they were supply-driven through CORAF’s initiatives after the workshop in Dakar, Senegal in 2008 (albeit considered a good initiative), even though the countries’ representatives selected the commodities. This view needs to be framed better, as well as animated and made fully functional by the platform actors. This perspective was reported mainly in Benin, where the stakeholders tended to view the platforms as an outside instrument owned by the project focal point instead of being demand driven. In regard to the focal points it is an attitudinal, and therefore a capacity strengthening issue that IITA should address as part of its facilitation and support for the platforms’ technical backstopping.

The start-up platforms have made significant advances in their operating practices and achievements. This performance can be explained by the fact that the platforms were established under various environmental and institutional conditions. The concepts and entry points for each platform are understood differently in each country and location/regions within countries. However, the platforms should be viewed in the global context of value chains. Platform actors may understand this, but in practice, the linkages between nodes and segments of each platform (i.e., connections between actors within and between platforms) are poor and should be strengthened. This deficiency shows the need for more capacity building on these concepts, not only for understanding and harmonization but also for the need to master the platform concept in a value chain approach.

In the newly established platforms in Togo, both in the Kara and Savannah regions, few actors have a good understanding of the concept of platforms from a value chain perspective. The survey results show that a majority of the actors involved in the platforms in Togo understood DONATA’s platform as “the gathering of all actors that interact to support and promote the production of new a variety of maize named Quality Protein Maize (QPM). The need to link production platforms to marketing and processing platforms was not perceived as a key priority in the Kara and Dapaong (Savannah) regions in North Togo. The IITA and DONATA teams suggest, therefore, that platforms be upgraded by strengthening linkages between stakeholders, and that capacity building sessions be organized (in French and English) on the value chain-based platform concepts (i.e., an examination of actors and their linkages using participatory, interactive methods). It is also recommended that demonstration plots be installed in other villages to create increased visibility of the platforms’ achievements (or per Rogers, 2003, observability) and more dissemination of information describing good production and post-harvest practices. Actors also expressed the need for exchange and sharing experiences between platforms operating at both the national and regional (or inter-country) levels.

Replicable Lessons Learned and Recommendations

Most of the start-up countries created the marketing and processing platforms to address the constraints of poor access to product markets and low prices following good harvests. The priority given to production before looking to markets and the characteristics of the demand will change with the value chain approach, where demand from markets and product attributes are the key factors that should drive the supply (Swanson, 2006). The value chain approach takes into consideration the market demand, as well as the characteristics or attributes for which traders, processors and consumers are willing-to-pay the premium prices that will drive a platform’s success. Other value chain components such as governance, capacity building, effective linkages between actors and lower transaction costs in addition to performance measurement of effectiveness, efficiency, gender equity, public-private partnership and sustainability, will be important for sustainable platforms to succeed. The capacity building of focal points and stakeholders on the value chain approach of platforms will be key. The new countries should learn from the experiences and lessons, including successes and failures, of start-up countries to ensure proper sustainability and achievement of their platforms.

Discussions with stakeholders highlighted five needs:

·         better identify stakeholders’ needs and generate ideas for platform sustainability and access to input and product markets;

·         facilitate exchange experiences between countries and platforms within countries and also from other development institutions;

·         increase support for widespread dissemination of positive experiences and lessons, including relevant information and knowledge;

·         ensure the sustainability of platforms;

·         continually strengthen the capacity of the actors and empower them at various levels.

 

The major outputs of the installed platforms are the recorded communication and information- sharing processes. The platforms have created a strong collaborative environment, which increased trust among stakeholders along the value chain. This result was noted by joint analysis and the understanding of daily issues and priority setting of platforms’ entry points. A joint action was created, as were shared roles on specific issues to overcome the problems they had in common. The involvement of public sectors also allowed a safe and fruitful institutional environment for the platforms activities. This has led to increased interactions with external actors, such as government, prefectural authorities and project partners.

Moreover, platform actors have acquired the ability to function as self-autonomous organizations. This is a good pathway by which the sustainability, self-confidence, engagement and mutual understanding of actors in the value chains can grow and improve. These attributes will be translated further into various kinds of new actions and partnerships within and between the value chains’ actors. A good ability to cohere and integrate different dimensions, including an improved ability to think beyond specific actors’ interests and see overall perspectives, negotiate between different interests and develop joint positions and avoid self-oriented profit-taking behaviors were also noted amongst the participants.

Farmers were able to create operating space by increasing their efficiency and effectiveness of engagement with government and private sectors, financial institutions, and to create market and meet quality and quantity demand through the wide adoption and dissemination of improved technologies (i.e., the improved maize and cassava varieties). With the continual support of national and non-governmental organizations’ extension services, actors have created the capacity for joint learning and adaptation to unpredicted circumstances. These behaviors have resulted in increased engagement of farmers, in processors and others improving their effectiveness and efficiency, in increased productivity, in increased incomes and employment of actors across the value chains and in more efficient and profitable production and processing that has contributed significantly to reducing food insecurity in the project intervention areas.

Some expectations that are consistent with the results of this preliminary assessment were raised. The discussions highlighted the following priorities for capacity building:

·         The need to train and inform stakeholders in platform conduct and sustainability within the value chain approach (platform concept and entry points, value chains actors mapping, operating and performance, value adding creation, gender and equity issues);

·         Knowledge and empowerment of stakeholders in access to input and product markets (including insecticides, pesticides, seeds, equipment, finances, quality and pricing);

·         Exchange experiences between countries and platforms within countries and with other development institutions (challenges, constraints and opportunities and success stories);

·         Ensure the sustainability of platforms by scaling up experiences and best bet practices.

A need for continuous capacity building within each country and across countries has been expressed and we call it: Continuous learning and empowerment of actors at various levels on agri-business (field training).


Across Countries SWOT Comparisons

Tables 1, 2, 3, and 4 summarize the comparison of the constraints, opportunities, strengths and weaknesses identified across countries for both new and start-up platforms.

 Table 1. Across countries comparison of STRENGTHS associated with platforms

Country

Sierra Leone

Benin

Togo

Burkina-Faso

Commodities

Cassava

Maize

Maize

Maize

Status

Startup and New platforms

New Platforms

New Platforms

Startup and New Platforms

Strengths


PRODUCTION (New and start-up) 
· Officially registered and recognized: legal registration of some platforms (Bombali in the Northern Province) 

· Relevant multi-stakeholders involved

· Good knowledge of production techniques for cassava

· Existence of management committees

· Production of improved varieties of cassava

· Groups created to meet specific opportunities (i.e., motivated actors)

· Existence of management committees


MARKETING
· Contracts between producers and traders 

- Respect of gender equity (new platforms)


PROCESSING
· Diversification of processed products: processing cassava into foofoo, gari and flour (new platforms) 

· Existence of management committees

PRODUCTION (New) 
· Improved maize productivity 

· High adoption of good agricultural practices in maize production

· Availability of a management unit

PRODUCTION (New)
· Improving the productivity of maize 

· Adoption of best practices in maize production

· Presence of an office manager

PRODUCTION (Start-up) 
· Beginning of grain producers in structuring departmental unions, provincial and national 

· Existence of the Federation of Maize Producers (FNZ)

· Existence of a college of maize producers in the CICB

· Existence of structures of agricultural research for the formation of seed and production of basic seed

· Availability of technicians for monitoring seed production and certification

· Existence of the National Union of Seed Producers

MARKETING (New)[1]
· Organization of grain traders in many areas; 

· Acquisition of online cleaning maize by wholesale traders;

· Existence of an informal information network (semi-wholesalers and collectors) for each wholesaler on the availability and price of maize field

PROCESSING (New)

· Existence of processing units with high-performance equipment;

· Existence of local suppliers to maintain and restrict imports

· Increasing demand for flour with increasing urbanization

Source: Coulibaly et al. 2011



Table 2.
Across Countries Comparison of WEAKNESSES associated with IPTAs

Country

Sierra Leone

Benin

Togo

Burkina-Faso

Commodities

Cassava

Maize

Maize

Maize

Status

Startup and New Platforms

New Platforms

New Platforms

Startup and New Platforms

Weaknesses

· Non-diversified products (startup platforms) 
· Delay in disbursing DONATA funds 
· Non-registration (startup platforms) 
· Remoteness from product markets (accessibility and marketing problems). 
· No registration with the local administration 
· Lack of processing equipment (especially with Moyamba platform in the Southern Province) 
· Lack of capacity building on platforms implementation and operation 
· Lack of understanding of platform notion in a value chain context 
· Platforms are established without expressed need of farmers, so the platforms are considered as the focal point properties 
· Absence of some necessary stakeholders in the platform 
· Irregular meetings
· Lack of capacity building on platform implementation and operation 
· Lack of understanding of platform notion in a value chain context 
· Platforms are established not from expressed need of farmers, so the platforms are considered as the focal point properties 
· Absence of some necessary stakeholders in the platform 
· Irregular meetings
· QPM variety’s potentials unknown by the majority of actors 
· Insufficient or unavailability of QPM seed to farmers 
· Insufficient knowledge in improved agronomic practices for improved QPM variety production 
· Limited exchange visits between different platform actors 
· Delay in disbursing DONATA funds 
· Steering committee not yet fully operational 
· Delays in kit provision to farmers 
· Lack of knowledge on value chains and agri-business 
· Low supply in quantity and quality from farmers to meet poultry feed demand (yellow maize) 
· Commercial seeds produced by DONATA farmers not certified 
· Platform of commercialization is still not operational 
· Long distance between prefectures making it difficult for members to meet regularly 
· Poor quality of fertilizers and seeds which need sorting before planting 
· Lack of adequate storage facilities 
· Poor governance for contractual arrangements between farmers and traders 
· Low bargaining power of farmers to deal with traders in setting maize price
PRODUCTION 
· Lack of seeds and seed producers 
· Failure of subsidized fertilizer 
· Delay in disbursing DONATA funds 
· High cost and non availability of inputs: fertilizers, herbicides and seeds 
· High level of impurities in maize on the market 
· Inadequate postharvest practices 
· Inadequate storage facilities especially in villages and departments 

MARKETING
· Low use of the metric system in the marketing; the utensils used are based on volume (flat, box, bag and tine) and not on weight 
· Lack of access to working capital 
· Sub-regional sales of maize subject to special authorization 
· Low quality Burkina Faso maize compared to that of Benin on the Nigerian market: weight, cleanliness and grain size (source CIC-B) 

PROCESSING
· Lack of equipment suitable for processing 
· Lack of standards for local products processed 
· High production costs (including electricity) 
· Lack of support for the promotion of processed products on the market 
· Poor quality of packaging used

 Source: Coulibaly et al. 2011



Table 3.
Across countries comparison of OPPORTUNITIES associated with IPTAs

 

Sierra Leone

Benin

Togo

Burkina-Faso

Commodities

Cassava

Maize

Maize

Maize

Status

Startup and New Platforms

New Platforms

New Platforms

Startup and New Platforms

Opportunities

· Availability of improved varieties of cassava 

· Demand for cassava- based products

· Fertile lands for cassava production
· Strong demand for maize (due to proximity to Nigeria) · Subsidized input (fertilizers and seeds) prices by the government 

· Exiting high maize demand at community and national level

· Available supply markets
· The support of banks: the availability of BRS and ECOBANK to finance the production platforms of maize marketing and processing 

· Membership of an economic zone in Burkina is an important market for maize (WAEMU and ECOWAS);

· The appearance of the food crisis raises the need to develop market oriented maize value chains

· Cereal production including that of maize;

· Support for producers by the state to reduce the cost of acquisition of mineral fertilizer (i.e., subsidies).

· Existence of a local market for processed maize, mainly flour, couscous flour, couscous, lumps of flour and yellow grits, where the main consumers are households, WFP, the Army, the CREN and breweries.

· The availability of interesting and appropriate maize varieties

 

Source: Coulibaly et al., 2011

Table 4. Across Countries Comparison of THREATS associated with IPTAs

Country

Sierra Leone

Benin

Togo

Burkina-Faso

Commodities

Cassava

Maize

Maize

Maize

Status

Startup and New Platforms

New Platforms

New Platforms

Startup and New Platforms

Threats

· Difficult access to land 

· Lack of appropriate structure for processing and storage

· Inadequate tools for cassava production

· Poor soil fertility 

· Excess supply of maize

· No adequate storage facilities

· Poor soil fertility

· Excess supply of maize

· No adequate storage facilities

· Significant insect and pest attacks of maize plants;

· Land tenure insecurity; most of the farmers are migrants and have to rent land
· Non competitiveness of maize in Burkina in the sub region compared to that of Ghana, Ivory Coast and Benin

 Source: Coulibaly et al., 2011



References

Coulibaly, O., Sanyang, S., Adetonah, S., Kuiseu, J., Arinloye, D. D., Nouhoheflin, T., & Sessou, E. F. (2011). Preliminary assessment and technical backstopping of DONATA platforms. Working Paper, IITA-CORAF/WECARD.

Conseil Ouest et Centre Africain pour la Recherche et le Développement Agricoles (CORAF) (2009). Dissemination of new agricultural technologies in Africa, innovation platform for technology adoption (DONATA/IPTA). Brochure. 1-10.Mwesige, D. (2010). Working with value chains in capacity development. In J. Ubels, N. A. Acquaye-Baddoo, & A. Fowler (Eds.), Capacity development in practice (pp. 181-193) London-Washington, DC.

Rogers, E. (2003). Diffusion of innovations (5th ed.). New York, NY: Free Press.

Swanson, B. E. (2006). The changing role of agricultural extension in a global economy. Journal of International Agricultural and Extension Education, 13(3), 5-17. Retrieved from www.aiaee.org/attachments/160_Swanson-Vol-13.3.pdf


[1] Marketing and processing platforms are not yet effectively functioning in the new countries (Benin and Togo)

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