‘Innovation platforms’ are currently receiving a lot of attention amongst the international agricultural research community. Just last month, CPWF held a side event at Africa Agriculture Science Week on the various types of engagement platforms its programs in the Volta, Nile and Limpopo rivers basins are exploring. So what are innovation platforms and how can they help strengthen agricultural markets?
CPWF’s Volta Basin Development Challenge (VBDC) is to “strengthen integrated management of rainwater and small reservoirs so that they can be used equitably and for multiple purposes”. One VBDC project is conducting research on innovation platforms, which is defines as “coalitions of actors along value chains formed to address constraints and explore opportunities to upgrade the value chains through the use of knowledge and mutual learning”. The goals of the project are to provide mechanisms of facilitating communication and collaboration among multiple actors with different interests; help address challenges and identify opportunities for common benefits in order to facilitate value chains development, and; determine how innovation platforms can serve as spaces for participatory action research.
On August 29th, Zewdie Adane gave a presentation on this to the International Livestock Research Institute in Nairobi. Entitled ‘Impact of innovation platforms on marketing relationships: The case of Volta Basin integrated crop-livestock value chains in northern Ghana’, the presentation provides an explanation of the project’s qualitative and quantitative research on communication and information sharing, and market access of innovation platforms members and other stakeholders in four communities in northern Ghana.
The study demonstrates that improvement in access to input and output markets of innovation platform members is related to improvements in overall communication or interaction in the last two years during which members were involved in the platform. Forty-two out of 43 respondents agreed that improvements in communication and interaction with value chain actors has been as a result of their membership in the innovation platform. Forty-one out of 43 respondents agreed that their access to markets has improved because of participation. Additionally, the study found that those who listen to various media outlets have better access to market information, and hence better market access and that women have better access to markets than men. The innovation platforms were also shown to have improved interactions among value chain actors and created new, but limited, additional market options.
Some reported benefits from participation in the innovation platforms were:
- Improved knowledge on better techniques of crop and livestock production
- Better post-harvest management (e.g. storage) and timing of sale
- Knowledge on price standardization, use of weighing scales and commercialization
- Knowledge and cooperatives
Given the short time the innovation platforms have been in operation, and the lack of a control group, it is difficult to conclude if the innovation platform project had significant impact. It is also not possible to conclude if the conceptual framework the project established is suitable for impact evaluation if used alone.