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FAO conducts an Expert Consultation Meeting on Promoting Agricultural Innovation Systems
Rome, Italy
19 March 2012 - 21 March 2012


The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), has concluded a consultation meeting with key partners to identify gaps and opportunities for promoting Agriculture Innovation Systems (AIS). AIS is expected to be the theme for the FAO flagship publication, the State of Food and Agriculture (SOFA) for 2014. FANRPAN was represented at the consultation meeting by Ian Mashingaidze (CAADP Programme Manager).

To contribute to more effective and inclusive agricultural development, the FAO Office of Knowledge Exchange, Research, and Extension (OEK), proposes to launch a significant new report on Agricultural Innovation Systems (AIS), with a strong focus on the role of the family farm, to coincide with the 2014 Year of Family Farming. OEK envisions that such an initiative will be undertaken in partnership with GFAR, GFRAS, CGIAR, the World Bank and other development banks, IFAD, and other key stakeholders. While recognizing that definitions of family farming and smallholder agriculture are not synonymous, the main emphasis will be on agricultural innovation and smallholder family farms.

The proposed "Developing Family Farmer Innovation Capacity (DAIC)" report will examine agricultural innovation through a review of the relevant literature, expert opinion and a series of case study analyses, to identify and generate the principles that can be used to inform policy and practical actions at the corporate, national and regional level. In consideration of the Year of Family Farming, there will be a focus on how agricultural innovation systems can more effectively support family farming and family farmers. The case studies will be purposefully selected at different institutional levels and focus on agricultural and natural resource management innovation experiences from around the globe.

There is currently growing global interest in AIS, e.g. the recently published World Bank Sourcebook on Agricultural Innovations; and the OECD work on AIS and its Conference on Agricultural Knowledge Systems (AKS) held on 15-17 June 2011. The proposed "Developing Family Farmer Innovation Capacity (DAIC)" report is expected to provide the basis for the FAO the State of Food and Agriculture (SOFA) report for 2014. SOFA reports have been published by FAO in 6 major languages since 1947, focusing on a key theme each year.

The consultation meeting, which was attended by about 40 participants, focused on:
  • Identifying major issues, trends, and recent thinking on inclusive agricultural innovation processes
  • Identifying gaps in knowledge on how to build innovation capacity for smallholders;
  • Providing guidance on sharpening the focus of the study on "Developing Family Farming Innovation Capacity" and on work plan for the study and publication;
  • Identifying potential cases of successes and challenges in strengthening inclusive agricultural innovation systems; and
  • Developing a road map and timeframe for the development of the study.
Following the consultation meeting, the following next steps are proposed by FAO:
  • To prepare an AIS background document based on inputs from the meeting, which will be used for further consultations;
  • To conduct regional consultation meetings to enrich the process by capturing regional issues, challenges and opportunities for AIS (the regional consultation meeting for East and Southern Africa is proposed to be held in South Africa in November 2012);
  • To take advantage of other regional gatherings to promote the AIS initiative; and
  • To moderate an AIS e-conference in June 2012 to broaden the consultation process.

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