Africa’s agrofood system must be advanced in a coordinated rhythm to ensure sustainable development that is reflected across the whole agrofood system. Work Package 3 of the InnoFoodAfrica (IFA) project aims to improve farming and primary production practices of African food systems. This is achieved by increasing food diversity through promotion of sustainable, climate-smart crop production and post-harvesting practices, boosting productivity and marketability of selected crops, supporting small-scale farmers (especially women and youth) in rural areas to utilize appropriate post-harvest handling and storage technologies.
To achieve these goals, the InnoFoodAfrica project undertakes a farmer participatory research (FPR) approach to empower smallholder farmers. The FPR approach was introduced in the late 1980s in response to the challenges and constraints encountered in adaptation of new agricultural technologies among small farmers when using a top-down technology transfer system. With this approach, selected farmers are involved in decision making, planning and in the development of suitable farming practices. While appreciating the benefits of formal agricultural research the FPR approach considers the heterogeneous farming practices and knowledge of smallholder farmers.
By engaging farmers groups in the FPR, IFA hopes to achieve a higher uptake to the best practices from the results obtained. The IFA FPR starts with a needs assessment study using questionnaires and focus group discussions with the farmers involved in the project, in order to determine the challenges they face in the selected project area. Suitable interventions and appropriate experiments will be designed in collaboration between the farmers, IFA researchers and local extension officers.
The FPR is designed in three phases. In the first phase, alternative technologies targeting the identified needs will be tested in selected farms. In the second phase, the identified best practices will be evaluated for example using a mother and baby trial design and in the third phase, farmers will be engaged in utilization of the best practices, in-order to position them for adaptation and upscaling. The appropriate technologies to be evaluated in the first phase are determined using a needs assessment study carried out by each team.
At present, local IFA teams in Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia and South Africa have initiated farmer selection and needs assessment studies. In Kenya, Uganda ad Ethiopia selection of farmers and conclusion of appropriate technologies for the FPR has been completed and the teams are now preparing to implement the first FPR in the current cropping season. In South Africa, the work is in progress, in anticipation to plant in September/October 2021.