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The use of agricultural innovation systems approaches in Sierra Leone: exploring perceptions on innovations in rice production, research and extension

Kamara, L. I. (2018) The use of agricultural innovation systems approaches in Sierra Leone: exploring perceptions on innovations in rice production, research and extension. PhD thesis, University of Reading

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Abstract/Summary

Agriculture is the major contributor to the economic development of Sierra Leone and by far the largest employer of the majority of the country's workforce. The Government's strive to bolster the development of the agriculture sector, has encouraged the pluralisation of research and extension innovation programmes, encompassing the participation of diverse actors beyond the public sector to increasingly embrace an Agricultural Innovation Systems (AIS) approach. However, limited knowledge exists on the effectiveness of research and extension innovations in the country, particularly from an innovation systems' perspective. Rice has been promoted as the country's staple food crop since 2005. The purpose of this study has been to assess innovations within the rice sector, between 2005 and 2015, from an AIS perspective, by exploring the views of research and extension professionals, as well as smallholder farmers at community level; on four key innovations including Improved Rice Varieties, System of Rice Intensification, Technical Package on Rice and Agriculture Business Centers. Specifically, the research objectives of the study were: 1) to investigate the rice innovation processes and systems in Sierra Leone and establish the extent to which an AIS approach has been effected, based on the perspectives of research and extension professionals; 2) to identify and analyse the beliefs, attitudes, and behaviours of research and extension professionals which influence their use of an AIS approach; and, 3) to assess the influence of research and extension programmes on smallholder rice farmers' innovation processes in the country. The study used a mixed methods approach to gather and analyse data from agricultural research scientists, extension personnel, and smallholder farmers. The Theory of Planned Behaviour was applied to address objective two of the study; the remainder of the objectives were informed by AIS theory. Research tools for the data generation that informed the study included: workshops (2); focus group discussions (26); key informant interviews (73); structured questionnaires (322); and document reviews. The final sample size for the structured questionnaires comprised of farmers (n=200), research scientists from the Sierra Leone Agriculture Research Institute (n=35), extension professionals from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security (MAFFS) and Non­Governmental Organisations (n=87). Findings indicated a generally weak innovation system for rice in the country; Many innovations promoted within the study period involved a few dominant actors within the research and extension environment. There was also evidence of limited effort from research and extension actors to link farmers to external service providers such as traders, transporters, agro-dealers, and financial institutions. The innovation system was further weakened by a myriad of structural constraints including poor training/mentoring of research and extension staff, poor credit and financial services, high cost of technologies, poor communication facilities, poor access to markets for farmers and mobility for staff, lack of trust and poor collaboration and interaction among innovation system actors, and poor institutional policies. Further, the research found that research and extension professionals held positive attitudes towards the use of an A IS approach to innovation processes on rice. Their positive attitudes towards the AIS approach were largely influenced by their belief that using an AIS approach can have a range of desirable outcomes in rice production, including increasing productivity and profitability of innovations, food security, access to markets, reducing burden on any one actor, and capacity development of innovation stakeholders. However, the perceived control respondents have in their organisations, defined by their ability to take decisions on their activities, having the adequate knowledge and skills, as well as adequate financial resources, has the highest influence on their intention to use an AIS approach. This is followed by their perceived social pressure within their social circles (social referents), particularly employers, supervisors, colleagues, and donors. Their attitudes had the least influence on their intention to use an AIS approach. Finally, the study found that research and extension programmes have not had the desired influence on smallholder farmers' innovation processes or their innovation capacity. Farmers were found to have either dropped or not used external innovations due to innovation-specific and general constraints. They largely depend on their own initiative or on traditional methods for rice cultivation. Smallholder farmers lack the support needed to establish reliable and useful links with actors beyond research and extension who could improve their access to services, such as finance, markets, and transportation, which therefore limits their innovative capacity in general. The study highlights the need for the main AIS actors, including the MAFFS, to strengthen and facilitate the effective use of AIS approaches by research and extension professionals across all levels in the country. This may include creating an enabling environment for relevant actors beyond research and extension actors, to enhance the effective design and implementation of agricultural innovation programmes that are widely participatory and inclusive. This should involve addressing the perceived difficulties identified which influenced intention to use an AIS approach, together with perceived social pressure. This may deepen the sustainability and functional utility of agricultural innovation. Similar research in other countries is recommended to deepen understanding of what influences the use and effectiveness of AIS approaches.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:Dorward, P. and Van Hulst, F.
Thesis/Report Department:School of Agriculture, Policy and Development
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Faculty of Life Sciences > School of Agriculture, Policy and Development
ID Code:85257

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