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New Agricultural Innovation Systems and Smallholder Participation in Modern Farm Product Markets

Smallholder farmers will continue to play a critical role in meeting the growing demand for food and non-food farm products in the next 30 years. Challenges in meeting this demand include climate change; deficiencies in enabling environments, resources, and capacities; and inappropriate institutional models of RD&E and development. Smallholders must improve productivity, volume, quality, and consistency of supply, but their downstream customers must also be competitive. Most smallholder supply chains lack the capacity for this. Therefore, new, vibrant agricultural innovation systems, or AIS, and improved enabling environments are vital. This paper outlines a transdisciplinary framework for investigating and facilitating these changes. It is based on the literature, projects, and experiences working in a range of developed and developing countries. A dualistic agribusiness systems model can help identify the complexity of problems, and the constraints to improving the productivity of smallholders and their value chains. It combines participatory and pluralistic action research and action learning processes to provide relevant solutions to improving the competitiveness of these chains. Key extension functions of rural advisory services to accelerate scaling out are integrated and discussed. The focus is at the program level, but it could be scaled to the macro level. Nevertheless, incorporating such approaches requires changes in philosophy, practice, and commitment of those involved in developing the agribusiness sector.


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