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Science, Technology and Innovation

Technology - seeds, breeds, fertility inputs, disease control measures, water management - is clearly key to getting agriculture moving. But the impacts of extensive investment in technology development and transfer in Africa and in some parts of Asia have been patchy. With new technology options coming on-stream (e.g. biotechnologies or various sorts) and important new players in the private sector in particular, there are new challenges for the governance of technology in the agriculture sector. The old research and development extension arrangements of 20-30 years ago are not appropriate, but what is? We want to ask a number of questions:

  • How can agricultural technology be made to work for the poor? What are the implications for technology choice and priority setting mechanisms?
  • How are technology trajectories linked to processes of agrarian/livelihood change in different settings?
  • What should be the roles of public and private sectors (both international and national) in technology development?
  • How is access to technology options constrained? What alternatives exist?
  • How should national/regional innovation systems look to deliver inputs for small farmers?

Productivity assessments are let down by poor methods

Flawed methods are used to assess the productivity of new technology for farmers, resulting in unreliable evidence, according to a new briefing by Future Agricultures member Michael Loevinsohn.

New technology that enables sustainable and profitable production of food is critical for both food and nutrition security and economic development. Yet, as this Institute of Development Studies (IDS) policy briefing explains, recent research suggests assessments of the productivity gains farmers realise from new technology are routinely flawed methodologically and hence unreliable as a basis for decision making.

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Rethinking farm systems

farm system drawing

How do we understand farming systems? The terms that researchers use affect how we see farming and agriculture in relation to the wider world.

In a new blog post, Jim Sumberg, Stephen Whitfield and Ken Giller suggest a new way of thinking about how farms connect to each other and to the non-rural economy.

Blog: A new way of bringing ‘farms’ and ‘systems’ together

Strengthening African seed systems

afriseedsA regional dialogue on “Strengthening African Seed Systems: Technical, Economic and Policy Challenges” took place in Nairobi on 14-15 July, hosted by Future Agricultures and the Tegemeo Institute of Agricultural Policy and Development.

Video and presentations from the event are now available to view on this page.

The workshop aimed to examine the institutional, social and political dimensions of getting seed technologies into use and to highlight the challenges of increasing access to improved seeds for poor farmers through both formal and informal channels.

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Technology: more than mobiles

mobile phoneElectronic devices allow farmers in Africa to access and share information as never before. But the role of ‘technology’ in agriculture is about more than just sharing practices through mobile phones. Institutions, social change and politics play a part. In a new blog post, Jim Sumberg calls for a renewed recognition of these wider factors in debates about technology and technical change.

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‘African Farmer’ online game launched

family-for-mailchAfrican Farmer, a free, open source online game, has been launched by the Future Agricultures Consortium and the University of Sussex.

The game simulates the complex decisions and uncertainties faced by small-scale farmers living in Sub-Saharan Africa. It aims to challenge and engage students, development practitioners, and anyone interested in the challenges faced by farmers in poor countries.

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Arguing about agronomy

conagA new article in Outlook on Agriculture looks at how agronomy has been affected by social change since the 1970s. The science of agronomy informs crucial decisions on development. It is often seen as a practical, problem-solving field, but like other areas of study is affected by politics and power. The authors call for more attention to the contestations around new agronomic knowledge and technology.

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Further Reading