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Being Innovative by Accessing and Applying New Technology

posted May 26, 2011, 9:28 AM by Andrea Bohn   [ updated May 26, 2011, 12:56 PM ]
     by Catholic Relief Services  
Innovation and experimentation skills enable farmers to access, test and adapt technical options to improve production, processing and marketing and the natural resource base on which productivity depends. These skills are important because they help farmer groups respond to changes in markets and maintain their competitiveness.

Learner Objectives

Following the course, the field agent will be able to:
  • Explain what innovation is, why it is important and how it can be achieved by smallholder farmers groups and in other rural agro-enterprises.
  • Facilitate farmer groups and farmer led agro-enterprises through a process of innovation to resolve significant constraints to productivity, profitability and the sustainability of their productive activities.

Sections and Lessons

Section 1. Concepts and  Principles of Innovation

Lesson 1. What is innovation and why it is important? Explains how innovation is the successful exploitation of new ideas, which implies going beyond invention of the new idea to taking that idea and putting it to use. Identifies what drives the need for innovation (globalization, technological and knowledge revolutions, climate change, competition, changing markets, etc.).
Lesson 2. Types of innovation and how is innovation fostered and achieved? Illustrates a) incremental innovation - where something is adapted or modified and b) radical innovation - which involves completely new ideas. Explains the role of a field agent in fostering innovation in farmer groups and farmer enterprises.

Section 2. Learning how to Innovate with Farmers’ groups

Lesson 1. Getting organized for innovation. Explains how the field agent motivates a group to initiate the innovation process by explaining the steps that are required and the benefits that can accrue. Describes how the innovation process is normally undertaken by a sub-group or committee that will be trained in the research process and be responsible for providing feedback to the larger group or community.
Lesson 2. Problem identification and description. Deals with how research topics are chosen through farmer group diagnostic processes. These are likely to be closely related to the analysis that farmer groups may have already undertaken on the marketing and production of specific crops or livestock products, and on how they want to manage their natural resources.
Lesson 3. Sourcing information and ideas. Explains how farmers seek information and advice about their chosen topic from other farmers, resource people and the formal R&D system.
Lesson 4. Exploring possible solutions and selecting ones to test. Examines the possible solutions against a set of criteria to select those which are most appropriate to the assets that the farmers have at their disposition.
Lesson 5. Designing the experiment. Identifies objectives of experiments or trials, the need for treatments and controls, the materials and methods to be used, the data to be collected, and the responsibilities for different tasks.
Lesson 6. Collecting and recording observations. Defines how farmers implement the experiment or trial and how data is collected
Lesson 7. Processing and analysis of results. Describes how the field agent facilitates the processing of the data and its tabulation for presentation to the wider group or community. The results are analyzed by discussing what has been learnt from the experience, what results were expected, what results are new.
Lesson 8. Applying the findings and sharing knowledge. Deals with how decisions are taken about how findings might be applied, the need for further experimentation, or changes in the innovation topic. Illustrates the means of transmitting the findings more widely to other groups if findings are positive.

This is Module 6 of the course suite on

"Preparing Farmer Groups
to Engage Successfully with Markets"

This module is intended for face-to-face delivery.
  • The course material, additional resources, and assessment tool will be attached below.
  • The video lecture will be made available at
    Simply set up a free account, place the course in your cart and get started! The courses are offered free of charge.

Expected Completion Date

End of September 2011


These courses are developed for field agents that facilitate community agricultural development processes and impart knowledge and skills to smallholder farmers and other rural actors on how to produce profitably and sustainably.

Learning Objectives of the Course Suite

After receiving this set of courses, the field agent will be able to plan and implement a series of inter-related trainings to build farmer and other rural actors’ skills in 5 critical areas for successful engagement with markets.

Key References for This Module

  • Ashby, J. A., Braun, A., Gracia, T., Guerrero, M de P., Hernández L. A., Quirós, C. A. and Roa, J. I. 2000. Investing in Farmers as Researchers. Experience with Local Agricultural Research Committees in Latin America. Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical. Cali, Colombia.
  • Pontius, J., Diltis, R. and Bartlett, A. (Editors) 2002. From farmer field school to community IPM: Ten years of IPM training in Asia. FAO, Bangkok.
  • Braun A. R, Thiele G. and Fernández M, 2000. Farmer Field Schools and Local Agricultural Research Committees: Complementary platforms for integrated decision-making in sustainable agriculture. AgREN Network Paper No. 105, ODI, UK.
  • Wettasinha, C. and Waters-Bayer, A. (eds). 2010. Farmer-led joint research: experiences of PROLINNOVA partners. A booklet in the series on Promoting Local Innovation PROLINNOVA). Silang, Cavite, Philippines: IIRR / Leusden: PROLINNOVA International Secretariat, ETC EcoCulture. October.

Time Required to Teach This Module

Each lesson will be structured to be delivered in 2 hours or less, so the estimated total time required for this module is 20 hours.