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"Agricultural Innovation Systems"

"Agricultural Innovation Systems"

Book Chapter, pages 50-83

January 2011

Author: Calestous Juma, Professor of the Practice of International Development; Director, Science, Technology, and Globalization Project; Principal Investigator, Agricultural Innovation in Africa

Belfer Center Programs or Projects: Agricultural Innovation in Africa; Science, Technology, and Globalization; Science, Technology, and Public Policy


"The use of emerging technology and indigenous knowledge to promote sustainable agriculture will require adjustments in existing institutions. 1 New approaches will need to be adopted to promote close interactions between government, business, farmers, academia, and civil society. The aim of this chapter is to identify novel agricultural innovation systems of relevance to Africa. It will examine the connections between agricultural innovation and wider economic policies. Agriculture is inherently a place-based activity and so the chapter will outline strategies that reflect local needs and characteristics. Positioning sustainable agriculture as a knowledge-intensive sector will require fundamental reforms in existing learning institutions, especially universities and research institutes. Most specifically, key functions such as research, teaching, extension, and commercialization need to be much more closely integrated.

The Concept of Innovation Systems

Agriculture is considered central to African economies, but it is treated like other sectors, each with their own distinctive institutions and with little regard for their relationship with the rest of the economy. 2 This view is reinforced by traditional approaches, which argue that economic transition occurs in stages that involve the transfer of capital from the agricultural to the industrial sector. Both the sector and stage approaches conceal important linkages between agriculture and other sectors of the economy.

A more realistic view is to treat economies as "systems of innovation." The process of technological innovation involves interactions among a wide range of actors in society, who form a system of mutually reinforcing learning activities...."


1. G. E. Glasson et al., "Sustainability Science Education in Africa: Negotiating Indigenous Ways of Living with Nature in the Third Space," International Journal of Science Education 32, no. 1 (2010): 125–41.

2. S. W. Omamo and J. K. Lynam, "Agricultural Science and Technology Policy in Africa," Research Policy 32, no. 9 (2003): 1681–94.


For more information about this publication please contact the STG Coordinator.

For Academic Citation:

Juma, Calestous. "Agricultural Innovation Systems." January 2011

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