Food Security

, Volume 10, Issue 5, pp 1237–1250 | Cite as

Recognizing farmer-generated innovations through contests: insights from four African countries

  • Justice A. Tambo
Original Paper


Despite the recognition that farmers are an important source of agricultural innovations, farmer-generated innovations have received little attention from researchers. This paper presents the experiences and outcomes of applying contests to elicit farmer-generated innovations and to reward outstanding farmer innovators in selected districts in Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi and Zambia. The contests attracted 349 eligible entries, most of which were submitted by male innovators. The identified innovations were mainly technically-oriented practices, and only very few institutional innovations were recognized. The most common domains of innovations were related to livestock, crop management, and soil and water management. In particular, many of the innovators were using local resources to develop plant-based biopesticides and ethnoveterinary medicines in order to reduce production costs and improve food production. The findings of this study suggest that farmers are active experimenters who continuously generate remarkable and locally adapted innovations, which can indirectly contribute to efforts to achieve sustainable agricultural intensification or to make agriculture climate smart. The study concludes that farmers possess valuable ethnobotanical knowledge and innovation-generating potential that need to be harnessed and supported; and contest is an effective means to scout and acknowledge farmer innovators while simultaneously raising awareness of the farmer innovation approach among relevant stakeholders.


Contest Prize rewards Farmer-generated innovations Sustainable intensification Africa 



This research was financially supported by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) through the research project “Program of Accompanying Research for Agricultural Innovation (PARI). The author gratefully acknowledges project partners from EDRI, KALRO, DARS, ZARI, the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), and stakeholders who supported the implementation of the contests in the four study countries. The author also thanks the PARI project team members at ZEF for the helpful discussions, and Evelyn Baraké and Sougrynoma Zainatou Sore for their excellent research assistance, as well as the four anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The author declares no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. and International Society for Plant Pathology 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International (CABI)DelémontSwitzerland
  2. 2.Center for Development Research (ZEF)University of BonnBonnGermany

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