Food System Actors engaged in the co-creation of agroecological innovations - Results of Year 2 engagement in eight countries

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Authors: Simone Staiger-Rivas and Guillermo Orjuela-Ramirez (both Alliance Bioversity-CIAT), based on initiative country reports January 2023 -October 20203

The CGIAR initiative on Agroecology is actively engaging with food system actors (FSA) in eight countries (Burkina Faso, India, Kenya, Lao PDR, Peru, Senegal, Tunisia, and Zimbabwe), particularly to codesign, test, and adapt agroecological innovations, both technological and institutional, from food production to consumption. At the core is the necessity to generate scientific evidence that shows how agroecological principles applied in different socio-ecological systems are better able to provide equity, productivity, economic and environmental benefits than alternatives, including the status quo.

The engagement takes place in Agroecological Living Landscapes (ALLs) that are formed in selected territories of each country with diverse stakeholders, including farmer associations or communities, researchers from multiple disciplines, extensionists, private companies, international and national non-governmental organizations as well as local, regional, and national policymakers. The establishment of ALLs does not follow a standard methodology: Each country’s context leads to a different agroecological transition pathway(s) and multi stakeholder approaches.

The engagement of food system actors is addressed in the monitoring, evaluation, learning and impact assessment (MELIA) component of the initiative. Country teams collect and report data quarterly based on the following definitions: FSA are defined as private sector agents, policymakers, and female and male small-scale farmers, researchers, communities, investors. They engage with the initiative when they participate in meetings and activities that aim at assessing, co-designing and testing agroecological innovations at farm, market and policy levels. The co-creation process consists in FSA working together and having an equal voice in the activities that aim at developing culturally relevant innovations. Agroecological innovations in turn are of technological and institutional nature and concern the broad range of Agroecological principles (HLPE, 2019).

This summary analyzes the data from 2022, and data collected from January to October 2023. It includes seven countries, the data from Senegal missing as it is the latest country to join the Initiative. A report covering all eight countries and the entire two-year span will be published early 2024.

Findings

To date, a total of 4,398 FSA have been engaged.

Achievement of targets: Most Initiative outcome targets are already achieved or close to be achieved. The proposed target statement intends 225 national and international researchers to collaborate with FSAs —at least 5,500 farmers, 54 policymakers, 25 private-sector companies— in the co-design and testing of context-specific agroecological innovations (Figure 1). The initiative is effectively engaging the private sector and policymakers and will most probably surpass its targets.

Figure 1: Type of FSA engaged: 2022-2023 data versus target.

Engagement by country: The gender balance is almost equal with 49.7% female versus 50.27% male FSA engaged, although with variability between countries. Zimbabwe has engaged the highest number of FSA, followed by Tunisia, India, and Kenya. With respect to gender, India, Kenya and Zimbabwe have engaged more female FSA than male. In total, 42% of the FSA engaged are female, 58% are male (Figure 2). Engaging men and women in the development of innovations enables to address the limitations of the adoption of innovations according to gender, as well as to adapt technologies to different users.

Figure 2: FSA engaged by country and gender to date.

Engagement by work package (WP): Farmers have been engaged in all work packages: To no surprise farmers have been massively engaged in the formation of the ALLs and the decision on the agroecological innovations to be tested (WP1), but they have also been part not only on technical solutions but also on the socio-political dimensions beyond the farm level that are needed to positively affect food systems. of agroecological assessments (WP2), the analysis of value chains (WP3), the discussions on suitable policy and institutional arrangements for AE transitions (WP4) and they participated in exercises to understand the behavioral change contexts. 

Figure 3. FSA engagement by work package.

Further analysis of FSA typology with WP and country leads will inform strategies to achieve WP outcomes.  A closer look at the country data will help to analyze which FSA are or could be critical to make AE transitions a reality. While the Initiative has targets related to the number of FSA engaged, the intensity of engagement (in several WPs, and in several stages of co-creation) will be further analyzed.  

Key Takeaways:

Engagement of food system actors has a key element in the effective pursuit of results and the success of the Agroecology initiative. FSA engaged have been a constant pursuit that reflects the motivational environment during the implementation phase and has been manifested through various affective and social processes through the different work packages of the initiative. The initiative has successfully improved engagement among stakeholders at the farmer, producer organization, and policy levels. This aligns with the recommendations from agroecology research, which underscores the importance of fostering links between actors at various levels for the success of agroecology as a science and a practice.

The varied contexts of this initiative’s implementation demonstrate that agroecology does not have a singular point of entry. In some countries, the focus has been primarily on collaborating with policymakers, whereas in others, it has been on working with producer organizations. Identifying key players within a community also enables the leveraging of its social capital for the expansion of agroecology.

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