An exploration of agricultural grassroots innovation in South Africa and implications for innovation indicator development
Brigid Letty, Zanele Shezi & Maxwell Mudhara
The core of this paper consists of two case studies of 'grassroots'
innovation led by innovative smallholder farmers in a village in South
Africa - one about developing an alternative production practice for
growing potatoes, and the other about introducing a new cash crop
(cherry peppers) and the establishment of a new marketing relationship.
One of the purposes of the study was to explore questions about the
development of innovation indicators that might support policy and
management concerned with this kind of innovation. The case studies are
therefore located in the context of a review of existing science,
technology and innovation indicators and their limitations with respect
to this area of agricultural innovation. Another purpose was to identify
and clarify the position of 'grassroots' innovation within other
perspectives on different kinds of innovation system (or mode of
innovation) in agriculture in developing countries. The case studies are
also therefore set in the context of a review of literature about these
other system perspectives, focusing in particular in 'formal' and
'informal' systems, and on 'grassroots' and 'participatory' modes of
innovation involving interactions between formal and informal systems.
The combination of case studies and broader reviews leads to two main
conclusions: (1) grassroots and other participatory modes of
agricultural innovation merit much greater policy attention than they
have received; but (2) the base of available analysis and indicators
about these approaches to innovation and their effectiveness is still
inadequate to inform and support policy and management in this area. The
paper therefore concludes with a discussion of steps that might be taken
to improve the available information, understanding and indicators about
these modes of innovation.
JEL Codes: O13, O17, O33.
Key words: Agriculture, innovation, grassroots innovation, informal economy