Agriculture and Human Values

, Volume 34, Issue 2, pp 453–472 | Cite as

A comparative analysis of agricultural knowledge and innovation systems in Kenya and Ghana: sustainable agricultural intensification in the rural–urban interface

  • Ivan S. Adolwa
  • Stefan SchwarzeEmail author
  • Imogen Bellwood-Howard
  • Nikolaus Schareika
  • Andreas Buerkert


Agriculture remains the backbone of most African economies, yet land degradation severely hampers agricultural productivity. Over the last decades, scientists and development practitioners have advocated integrated soil fertility management (ISFM) practices to improve soil fertility. However, their adoption rates are low, partly because many farmers in sub-Saharan Africa are not fully aware of the principles of this system innovation. This has been attributed to a wide communication gap between farmers and other agricultural actors in agricultural knowledge and innovation systems (AKIS). We add to the literature by applying innovation system approaches to ISFM awareness processes. This study aims to assess if AKIS are effectively disseminating ISFM knowledge by comparing results from two sites in Kenya and Ghana, which differ in the uptake of ISFM. Social network measures and statistical methods were employed using data from key formal actors and farmers. Our results suggest that the presence of weak knowledge ties is important for the awareness of ISFM at both research sites. However, in Kenya AKIS are more effective as there is a network of knowledge ties crucial for not only dissemination but also learning of complex innovations. This is largely lacking in Ghana where integration of formal and informal agricultural knowledge systems may be enhanced by fostering the function of informal and formal innovation brokers.


Actor ties Agricultural knowledge and innovation systems Ego networks Integrated soil fertility management 



African Green Revolution


Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa


Agricultural innovation systems


Agricultural knowledge and innovation systems


Analysis of variance


Community-based organizations


International center for tropical agriculture




International agricultural research centers


Improved germplasm


Integrated soil fertility management


Kenya agricultural research and livestock organization


Local adaptation


National agricultural research stations


Non-governmental organizations


Organic amendment


Urban and peri-urban


Savannah Agricultural Research Institute


Standard deviation


Sub-Saharan Africa


Strength of weak ties



This study was partly funded within Urban Foodplus project (FKZ: 031A242A) sponsored by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) under the initiative GlobE-Research for the Global Food Supply. This paper also benefited from comparative work in the rural-urban interface within FOR2432, funded by Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG). We are grateful for the logistical support and advice received from the University for Development Studies (UDS), the CSIR-Soil Research Institute, SARI, and KARLO. We also thank the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) officers, village elders and, last but not least, farmer and institutional actor participants in Kenya and Ghana for their cooperation. Lastly, we gratefully acknowledge the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) for granting a scholarship to the first author.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ivan S. Adolwa
    • 1
  • Stefan Schwarze
    • 2
    Email author
  • Imogen Bellwood-Howard
    • 3
  • Nikolaus Schareika
    • 3
  • Andreas Buerkert
    • 1
  1. 1.Organic Plant Production and Agroecosystems Research in the Tropics and Subtropics (OPATS)Universität KasselWitzenhausenGermany
  2. 2.Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural DevelopmentGeorg-August-Universität GöttingenGöttingenGermany
  3. 3.Institute of EthnologyGeorg-August-Universität GöttingenGöttingenGermany

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