3 Benefits from adopting new technologies - research, innovation and networks for better food security, nutrition and agricultural productivity

How to build a bridge between research / innovations and end users through partnerships. Examples given from maternal and child health, soil diagnostics, solar panels and information systems in Sub Saharan Africa.

Organizers: Ministry for Foreign Affairs & Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Finland; University of Helsinki; Finnish Agri-Agency for Food and Forest Development (FFD); Tanzanian Horticulture Association (TAHA); Natural Resources Institute Finland (LUKE); The International Solidarity Foundation (ISF); the Finnish NGDO Platform to the EU (Kehys)


This side event raises discussion on how local ownership and acceptance for new technologies can be achieved by different actors. Several practical examples will be presented.

GloCal is a nutrition project at the University of Helsinki, targeting mothers and children in Kenya through locally filmed educational videos and mobile applications. The project is carried out together with Kenyatta University, the Kenyan Ministry of Health and Unicef.

Farmers’ ownership on technological innovations has been promoted by Tanzanian Horticultural Association and Finnish Agri-Agency for Food and Forest Development encouraging them to adopt innovations starting from household record keeping to information systems and solar panels

Rapid low cost spectral methods were developed in ICRAF for diagnosing soil micronutrient status together with Natural Resources Institute Finland. The results indicate high prevalence of deficiencies for many essential micronutrients. The methods can be used for testing smallholder farmers’ fields and for developing better practices for producing higher yields that meet the plant, animal and human requirements.

Civil society, academic institutions, state and private sector collaboration for developing economic and ecologic sustainability of agriculture in Somalia. Piloting operating model where capacity building in basic research is combined with farmer participation in defining research needs and finding solutions.

Key speakers

Prof. Martti Esala, Natural Resources Institute Finland Luke www.luke.fi/en/

Ms. Jenna Kettunen; International Solidarity Foundation ISF www.solidaarisuus.fi/in-english/

Mr. Anthony O. Chamanga, Tanzania Horticultural Association TAHA taha.or.tz  

Ms. Lauriina  Schneider; University of Helsinki www.helsinki.fi/food-and-environment/

Ms. Anna Gebremedhin, Embassy of Finland (Opening),  Ms. Tiina Huvio Finnish Agri-Agency for Food and Forest Development FFD (Facilitation) www.mtk.fi/ffd

Main themes/issues discussed

The side event, organized by Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry of Finland jointly with Finnish research centres and NGOs, presented cases on how local ownership and acceptance for new technologies can be achieved.

Luke presented a rapid low cost spectral methods developed with World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) for diagnosing soil micronutrients. The results from Africa indicate high prevalence of deficiencies for many essential micronutrients. The new spectral method has lowered the cost to analyse soil samples from 50 USD to 1 USD. Through testing soil samples the smallholder farmers can be informed on better practices to produce higher yields that meet the plant, animal and human micronutrient requirements. Research information is disseminated through Africa Soil Information Service (www.africasoils.net ) to farmer groups, public and private extension services, industry, national and local policy makers.

Solidarity Foundation considered that research is required also in fragile states to define evident based development activities. A lot of local knowledge was lost in Somalia during the war. There is a need to build research capacity in Somalian academic institutions. Research agenda is to be developed together with farmer associations and local NGOs and linkages to be established with private sector. A key issue is to build trust between all the stakeholders in the process of adopting innovations at the local level. 

TAHA jointly with FFD introduced how to encourage adoption on innovations by farmers in Zanzibar. The technologies for horticulture included drip irrigation, solar pumps and post-harvest handling technologies etc. While encouraging farmers to adopt innovations, it is important to invest on evidence-based research on the good practices communities already use. Adoption of technology and linkages to trade have increased production contributing to farmers’ income as well as improved availability and consumption of horticultural produce in Zanzibar, hence enhanced nutrition.

The University of Helsinki presented the GloCal nutrition project which aims to reduce maternal and child morbidity and mortality globally through nutrition and health education in the form of videos and mobile application. The program has been tested in Kenya jointly with the Ministry of Health and Unicef. Women’s knowledge and attitudes can be changed through a modern education model.The mobile application facilitates the work of healthcare workers and helps mothers in their daily life. The education videos can be loaded in English, Swahili, French, Portuguese and Amhara free of charge from website www.glocalnutrition.com .

Summary of key points

It is possible to improve food security and nutrition through adoption of new technologies. Both basic and advanced researches have a significant part in creating ways to improve food security, nutrition and agricultural productivity. However, the process should not be made to farmers but for and with farmers. Engaging local communities and recognizing local context, ideas and values is essential to ensure the adoption of new technologies. Mobile solutions and cheaper diagnostics methods can bring technological innovations to small farmer’s reach as never before.

Key outcomes/take away messages

Building bridges between research and end users through partnerships and engaging local communities is a key for the adoption of innovations and technologies. Value chain approach works only if every part of the chain is considered. Trust and engagement of different actors is required to enable improvements in food security, nutrition and agricultural productivity. Ideas and innovations directly from farmers are valuable as their involvement in defining research needs.