Efforts to promote innovation by farmers and to involve them in formal agricultural research and development (ARD) have great relevance in creating learning opportunities for all involved farmers, researchers and development agents, to democratize the ARD process, and to enhance relevance of ARD efforts for farmers. In West Africa, recognition by the formal ARD sector of the role of farmer innovation in ARD is limited. While there are some initiatives and organizations, these are scattered; the work is done by a number of NGOs and through some research programs, but with few linkages. These are reasons to suggest organization of two events that would bring farmer innovation to the forefront and increase interaction, linkages and learning among actors. Both events would be hosted in Burkina Faso. The West Africa Farmer Innovation Fair (FIPAO), a two-day event with good media coverage, will highlight the importance of farmer-led innovation in agricultural development, celebrate farmer creativity and bring formal researchers, policymakers and the public in contact with 50 West African farmer innovators. The fair will be preceded by a Francophone West African Workshop on “Approaches to research by and with smallholder farmers” which will have 30 participants. The workshop will focus on: i) sharing experiences with different approaches to supporting research and innovation by and with smallholder farmers, including dissemination of the process and results; ii) identifying the strengths and weaknesses of the different research approaches as well as dissemination strategies; iii) analyzing the institutional landscape and context within which the farmer-centred research takes place; and vi) drawing lessons and formulating recommendations for recognizing, strengthening and upscaling approaches to research by and with smallholder farmers. It will distil key policy messages about research and development and share these with farmers and policymakers at the fair.
The two suggested events represent a unique learning opportunity regarding farmer-led innovation, farmer-led or farmer-participatory agricultural research and development, and more democratized approaches to ARD. The events will inform CCRP’s work and strategies, and CCRP’s visibility in West Africa will be enhanced. Policy recommendations derived at the workshop have the potential to influence the perception of true farmer participation in ARD. Linkages of CCRP with PROLINNOVA, CCAFS, Miserior, and others via the suggested events are additional assets.