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Facilitating innovation for community based seed systems

Facilitating innovation for community based seed systems

Publicado el: 27 - septiembre - 2016

Interactive learning cycles and action learning have proved efficient to organize a critical mass of farmers promoting seed diversity in Cuba, Mexico and Bolivia.

Interactive learning cycles and action learning have proved efficient to organize a critical mass of farmers promoting seed diversity and in Cuba, Mexico and Bolivia.

(Excerpt from the Global Alliance for the Future of Food: Seeds of Resilience)

Innovation through collective learning and adaptation to opportunities and challenges is an approach, involving collective processes, enables stakeholders to seize opportunities, build trust and take joint action. ICRA has developed such an approach that leads multi-actor groups through progressive phases of joint action. We have applied this approach to scale up best participatory plant breeding practices in Cuba, Mexico and Bolivia.

An ICRA “interactive learning cycle” engages all those actors and stakeholders that face a common innovation challenge and stand to profit from joint learning and action. They reflect on the challenges they face, learn how to deal with them and plan how to apply the lessons learned in their own working environment.

Seeds of resilience coverS.JPG

Interactive learning applied by innovation brokers in Cuba and Bolivia.

However, for an action learning cycle to be successful, someone must keep the actors pointed in a jointly agreed direction. It is important to identify those who have excelled in the implementation of a new idea—champions—so they can be trained on the job as innovation brokers or facilitators. For instance, in four years, three learning cycles were conducted in Cuba and Bolivia applying a two-track interactive and experiential learning approach in each cycle.

They identified champions from different organizations (university lecturers, researchers, technicians, and farmers) who were then trained on the job as innovation facilitators/brokers. They facilitated a learning cycle with actors and stakeholders coming together to address a specific challenge).

Most important was the bottom-up approach, starting at the district level and gradually extending the learning groups to include other actors at the provincial and national level. A major success factor was the fact that the learning groups focused on real challenges that farmers were facing, and that the facilitators got the groups into action, collectively sourcing for solutions. This action learning helped to achieve a common understanding among a group of people as diverse as local governments, other public organizations and emerging business-minded farmers interested in agrobiodiversity. This method of action learning has been utilized to organize a critical mass of farmers and other stakeholders to promote seed diversity and farmers participation in Cuba, Mexico and Bolivia.

Barriers to success

Sometime public policies are paternalistic and consider farmers as a burden rather than a development opportunity. Frequently, local governments and local NGOs subside local seed production by buying improved seed and distributing it freely to communities.

Researchers, extension services and universities have limited capacity to involve small farmers and others key actors in search for seed supply solutions. For instance, local adapted landraces are well received by local farmers; however, it is not clear how farmers, breeders, lecturers, professors, extension workers and consumers can work together to maximize use of landraces.

The public plant breeding sector is often top-down in practice, with plant breeders putting researchers at the top, extension workers and NGOs next and farmers and rural consumers at the very bottom, as if they lack the intelligence that a researcher has to provide adequate seed solutions.

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