The Tropical Agriculture Platform (TAP)

Celebrating World Food Day: FAO’s work on innovation in the context of the Tropical Agriculture Platform


Developing capacity to innovate

FAO believes that innovation in agriculture is the central driving force for achieving a world free from hunger and malnutrition. As countries around the world suffer the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year's World Food Day calls for global solidarity to help the most vulnerable people, including small-scale farmers.  We consider them Food Heroes since they produce the majority of the world’s food.

Innovation capacity is key for small farmers to continue and enhance their contribution to food security and to the eradication of hunger. The capacity to facilitate innovation processes in agricultural value chains is often weak. The assessments carried out by FAO found that capacity interventions often fail to capture the full complexity of innovation processes, interventions are planned and implemented in a fragmented fashion, and that they tend to neglect political and institutional mechanisms – the enabling environment for innovation. Other constraints include: a tendency for a technology-transfer view in the research and extension systems; organisational and cultural obstacles to collaboration between sectors and various actors; and capacity gaps in the agricultural extension and advisory services.

The Tropical Agriculture Platform and the CDAIS project

The Tropical Agriculture Platform (TAP), an initiative of G20 Agriculture Ministers in 2012 with a Secretariat hosted in FAO at the Research and Extension Unit, Office of Innovation, provides an opportunity to further promote approaches to and capacity of agricultural innovation systems, and to tackle problems of weak capacity in a systematic way.

From 2015 to 2019,  FAO’s Research and Extension Unit together with Agrinatura implemented the “Capacity Development for Agricultural Innovation System” project (CDAIS) which supported activities of the TAP at the global level to synthesize, and to further develop approaches and methods of capacity development for agricultural innovation systems at individual, organizational and institutional levels, including methods for needs assessment, implementation and evaluation.

CDAIS tested and validated these methods with actions focused on specific innovation partnerships and value chains in eight selected pilot countries in Africa (Angola, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Rwanda), Asia (Bangladesh, Laos), and Latin America (Guatemala and Honduras). This led to opportunities to improve the livelihoods and capacity to innovate of smallholder farmers and others in the selected partnerships.

A CDAIS story of change from Rwanda

One interesting story about sustainable enhancement of food production comes from Rwanda[1]: farmers and livestock keepers in parts of the country’s Eastern Province suffer from periodic and unpredictable rainfall, and a significant annual dry season in July and August. In response, the Government of Rwanda was financially supported by the World Bank to construct a USD 10 million dam retaining a 95-hectare water reservoir with a capacity of 3.3 million cubic metres and irrigation channels to distribute water to over 875 hectares of farmland. It was completed in 2015, but there were questions around how to organize water users  and how to sustainably make use of this infrastructure.

The CDAIS initiative “helped to establish a broader committee including all water users in the catchment.” Godfrey Mpambara, president of the Terimbere Mworozi livestock producers’ cooperative confirms.

Before, we had problems accessing water as all the farms would take all the water. But the CDAIS project helped us to talk with the farmers and this helped us all understand the needs of the others. Now there are much fewer conflicts. And with enough water our milk yields have increased, we can grow fodder crops, and as our cattle don’t have to walk far, they put on more weight and look better.

 “We now have 1448 individual farmer members” said vice-president of the water users’ association Yussuf Nkurizabo.

CDAIS has improved the collaboration amongst us, giving members a better feeling of ownership. The partnership has helped us as now we have a plan and regulations”.

Farmers recognised the changes as well. Hamoudoun Mzee, President of Couga Rice Growers’ Association noted that “With new advocacy skills we lobbied the local government to link us to Duterimbere Bank and they have now agreed to give loans to our members. We have improved our negotiation skills and the rice factory now issues us a contract that guarantees a price for our crop before harvesting.”