HUMIDTROPICS: Strategic Research Theme 3 on Scaling and Institutional Innovation

Humidtropics is a CGIAR Research Program led by IITA. It seeks to transform the lives of the rural poor in tropical America, Asia and Africa, and uses integrated systems research and unique partnership platforms for impact on poverty and ecosystems integrity. Research organizations involved in core partnership with Humidtropics are AVRDC, Bioversity International, CIAT, CIP, FARA, icipe, ICRAF, IITA, ILRI, IWMI, and WUR.

Under the cross cutting Flagship Scaling and Institutional Innovation, Wageningen University together with its partners develops and tests frameworks that enhance institutional innovation and responsible scaling in an action research mode and promotes their use via publications, interactions and capacity development because technological options cannot scale unless they are accompanied by institutional innovation. It is expected that organizations will use them to influence knowledge, attitudes and practices in Actions Sites to bring best-fit systems innovations to scale.

The responsible scaling and institutional innovation work is part of the crosscutting theme linking work across the other flagship action areas in the Humidtropics.

The projects

Central Mekong Flagship

"Over 300 million people live in the Central Mekong area, 63% of whom are agriculture dependent and 29% live on less than US$1.25/day. Three Action Sites have been selected encompassing portions of six countries. By the end of 2014, we expect to have operational R4D Platforms in northwest Vietnam, central Vietnam and northern Thailand. These R4D Platforms will have identified local entry points, and developed and tested entry points. Moving into 2015-2016, the Flagship will focus on systems interventions and analysis of trade-offs among the key components. Diagnosis and platform establishment is planned to move into new locations, namely Cambodia, Southern Laos and Myanmar. Emerging themes for interventions during 2014 and into the extension period 2015-2016, include integrated crop-fodder-livestock systems, involving interaction with erosion control and soil fertility management; diversifying mono-crop rubber forests; sustainable intensification of rice rotations with vegetables and potatoes; tackling malnutrition through increasing dietary diversity; integrated pest management; enhancing value-chains, and market access for key commodities. All interventions are targeted to contribute towards all IDOs, though there would be differentiated emphasis on certain IDOs, based on the prioritization within respective Action Sites."

Humidtropics Website

Project: Scaling up forage systems in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam

Wageningen UR: Ms. Katharina Schiller (CIAT/WUR), Dr. Marijn Poortvliet, Dr. Anne Marike Lokhorst, Dr. Laurens Klerkx, Prof. Cees Leeuwis (WUR)
CIAT: Dr. Adrian Bollinger, Dr. Tassilo Tiemann (CIAT)


The ‘Improved forage-based feeding systems for smallholder livelihoods in the Cambodia-Laos-Vietnam development triangle’ program has been implemented by CIAT Laos and partners since 2011 to enhance the livelihoods and incomes of marginalized small farmers in adjacent provinces of Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam (further referred to as the CLV triangle). The program works on three fronts. First, it seeks to improve the productivity of smallholder crop and livestock systems. Second, it seeks to enhance smallholders’ engagement with markets through increased demand awareness and more effective and efficient linkages between livestock value-chain stakeholders. Third, knowledge sharing and transfer mechanisms within and between the three countries are established and strengthened.

This study focuses on two research questions:

  1. Since the advent of the CLV development triangle in 2002, what factors have enabled or inhibited the scaling up and out of improved forage-based feeding systems among smallholders in each country of the CLV triangle?
  2. How are knowledge and innovation platforms within and between the countries contributing to the scaling up and out of improved forage-based feeding systems for smallholders?

To address the research questions, case studies will be implemented in each country between April and August 2015. Because farmers’ environmental knowledge and local decision-making structures have been found to influence farmers’ deciding whether or not to adopt new technologies, a survey amongst smallholder livestock producers in each country of the CLV triangle will be carried out, relating farmers’ perceptions of environmental factors to their agro-environmental behavior – in this case, their adoption of improved forage systems.

International Partners


Project: Scaling up green rubber in Xishuangbanna, China

Wageningen UR: Mr. Seerp Wigboldus

ICRAF: Mr. Jim Hammond, Dr. Yi Zhuangfang, Dr. He Jun, Prof. Xu Jianchu


Monoculture rubber cultivation has increasingly taken over the extremely biodiverse landscapes of Xishuangbanna prefecture in Yunnan province, China. This has come at a great cost in terms of ecosystem services, which relates to negative impact on soils, hydrological conditions, fauna, and even local climatic conditions. The high financial profitability of natural rubber has largely overruled environmental concerns so far, but critical voices are becoming stronger, especially in the scientific community and in government circles. The environmental and socio-cultural damage of what some have called a “rubber addiction” has been studied and documented in many ways, and ideas for greening the rubber sector under the flag of 'green rubber' have been proposed.

There is still a need for developing an integrative perspective on what would be involved in scaling up ‘green rubber’, what products, processes and practices and what levels of decision-making would be involved, what (potentially different) perspectives stakeholders hold, and how this would translate into an approach/strategy to help green rubber go to scale. This study addresses these issues by conducting a quick-scan assessment involving literature review, stakeholder interviews, and a facilitated multi-stakeholder workshop. Research products include an integrative and interpretive perspective on change factors and dynamics as well as strategic perspectives on potential ways of unlocking the current stalemate in scaling up green rubber.

International Partners

ICRAF East and Central Asia

West African Humid Lowlands Flagship

"In West Africa, the humid tropics occupy an area of 206 million ha and are home to 145 million people. About 28% of the population live on less than US$1.25/day, the average market access is 3 hours and 58% of land area is estimated to be degraded. The Flagship Project has Action Sites in the humid and sub-humid regions of Nigeria, Cameroon, Ghana and Ivory Coast. The Nigeria and Cameroon Action Sites are now operational and the Ivory Coast and Ghana Sites will be initiated during 2014. In the Nigeria and Cameroon Action Sites, the broad entry points identified include intensification and diversification of the tree crop systems, intensification of food crop systems, involvement of youth in agriculture, improvement of market access and strengthening of institutions for innovation. The research will contribute towards Humidtropics’ IDOs, with particular emphasis on income, productivity, environment and innovation"

Humidtropics Website

Project: Scaling processes in agricultural innovation system transitions. Learning from the case of scaling up cocoa farmer field schools in Cameroon

Wageningen UR: Sander Muilerman (IITA) and Seerp Wigboldus (CDI/WUR).
ICRAF: Anne Degrande


This study aims to retrospectively identify key dimensions and dynamics involved in the unsatisfactory scaling up of the cocoa farmer field school approach and its institutionalization in the cocoa innovation system in Cameroon. The related interpretive analysis discusses findings against the backdrop of the experiences with the same STCP programme in Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Nigeria.

In western central Africa, the Sustainable Tree Crops Program (STCP), a public-private partnership and innovation platform managed by IITA, ran from 2000 to 2011 and supported the scaling up of agroforestry in 5 countries, including Cameroon, with a focus on cacao. Cacao is the most important cash crop in Cameroon, with an estimated 500,000 farmers growing the crop.

International Partners


Project: Assessing the contribution of Monitoring and Evaluation in facilitating institutional innovation in Humidtropics

Wageningen UR: Moussa Bathily (Phd Candidate, WUR), Dr. Marc Schut (IITA/WUR), Dr. Barbara van Mierlo and Prof. Cees Leeuwis (WUR)


This research aims to investigate the contribution of evaluation in fostering institutional learning and change in international agricultural institutes in the light of Agricultural Research For Development. In order to do so, it focuses on identifying the factors hindering existing evaluation approaches to contribute to the change process of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and the analysis of the role of innovative evaluation approaches in multi-stakeholders platforms established by the Humidtropics, a CGIAR Research Program. The research will result in the identification and further development of new forms of evaluation approaches to support institutional learning and change initiative in AR4D institutes such as IITA and Humidtropics.

Moreover, this research includes and aims to study and document an institutional experiment that has been set up by Humidtropics’ management in order to enhance the contribution of Humidtropics’ partners by aligning their activities in an effective integrated systems approach. This will be done by mean of reflexive monitoring and evaluation which is expected to increase the effectiveness of the institutional experiment by generating regular critical reflections on the effective contribution of CG and non-CG actors and the conditions under which this new institutional arrangement is taking place, for enhanced Humidtropics results.

International Partners


East and Central African Humid Highlands Flagship

"The East and Central Africa Flagship Project covers the highlands (1,125-1,800 m above sea level) of Western Kenya, Southern Uganda (Lake Victoria Basin), the Ethiopian highlands, Eastern DR Congo, Burundi and Rwanda. The area is uniquely endowed with great potential in terms of water, soils and a variety of staple and cash crops as well as livestock. Agriculture is the mainstay of the economy of the area. However, with an average population density of 263 persons/km2, 36% of the population living on less than US$1.25/day, and 49% of the total land estimated to be degraded, the region faces debilitating poverty and food insecurity. The Flagship Project will involve integrated research to remove barriers to production and enable enhanced livelihoods and natural resources management. The entry points identified include improved soil fertility management, integration of legumes and trees into production systems, crop diversification, nutritional integration into cropping and food systems, strengthening of seed systems, integrated livestock production, Striga management, and the development of improved value chains for priority commodities."

Humidtropics Website

Project: An ex-post analysis of the scaling processes of the Banana Xanthomonas Wilt (BXW) control methods in Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Wageningen UR: Onno Giller (IITA/WUR) and Dr. Marc Schut (IITA/WUR)
Bioversity International: Boudy van Schagen


Banana Xanthomonas Wilt (BXW) disease has been raging through Eastern and Central Africa since it was first apparent in Uganda in 2001, having spread from Ethiopia. During the years that followed, BXW spread from Uganda through Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania and the (Eastern) Democratic Republic of Congo. The main modes of transmission of the disease are through tools, animal grazing and insect vector transmission, and to curb the spread of the disease any further as well as decrease the incidences of BXW, a control package was drawn up. This package included early male bud removal, disinfecting farm tools, not exchanging planting material, only using disease-free planting material, keeping grazing animals off infected fields, and the removal of BXW infected ‘mats’. In the worst case scenario BXW will be too high (a threshold of about 14% is used) and the whole field needs to be uprooted. It was also often advised that farmers leave the patches, or entire fields, where BXW infected mats were present fallow for at least 6 months. This set of control methods was scaled across the various countries, with varying degrees of success. This research aims to understand the dynamics of the scaling processes within the various strategies deployed by three of these countries: Rwanda, Uganda and the (Eastern) Democratic Republic of Congo. Understanding the dynamics of the scaling processes will both provide insights about how to continue efforts to control BXW, by giving indications on how to bring amended BXW control methods to scale that are currently being worked on. From a wider perspective, this retrospective case will give insights into the dynamics of scaling processes in the region and in general. The framework and methodology that will be used to carry out this research is PROMIS, which is being proposed as a novel way of researching scaling processes and the related processes of adopting new (configurations of) practices.

International Partners

Bioversity International, IITA

Project: Action research to support and understand the functioning in multi-stakeholder platforms in an Agricultural Research for Development context

Wageningen UR: Dr. Marc Schut (IITA/WUR), Prof. Cees Leeuwis and Dr. Laurens Klerkx (WUR)


Action research aimed at both supporting and understanding the functioning in MSP in Agricultural Research for Development (AR4D) programmes. We study MSP implementation and opportunities and challenges that influence platform performance and impact. In the East and Central Africa Flagship the objective is to enhance the systemness of field trials and follow up gender norms and nutrition baseline studies together with platform participants. Through participatory priority setting and reflexive monitoring tools will be used to support this. We will initiate a second round of social network analyses which will enable comparative analysis and will show whether the features of the social networks of platform participants have changed as compared to 2014. In 2015, capacity development activities with Humidtropics facilitators will be continued and intensified in at least two other Action Areas. This will enable us to better understand platform performance towards integrated agricultural innovation

International Partners

IITA, Bioversity International

Local partners

Burundi: ISABU
Democratic Republic of Congo: DIOBASS
Rwanda: RAB

Publications and links

Schut, M. et al., under review. Multi Stakeholder Platforms; opportunities and challenges for methodology-based approaches in Agricultural Research for Development”

Schut, M. et al., under review. Participatory identification of specific and generic entry points for sustainable identification of agricultural systems in Central Africa

Schut, M. et al., under review. Social network analysis of collaboration, knowledge exchange and influence in Research for Development Platforms in Central Africa

Project: Effectiveness and efficiency of multistakeholder processes in delivering development outcomes

Wageningen UR: Murat Sartas (WUR/IITA/SLU), Dr. Marc Schut (IITA/WUR), Prof. Cees Leeuwis and Dr. Laurens Klerkx (WUR)
IITA: Dr. Piet van Asten
SLU: Dr. Linley Chiwona Karltun


Utilization of systems approaches using multi-stakeholder process as a modality of intervention has been increasingly experimented in research for development interventions. Recent research findings indicated strong evidence of the positive contribution of multi-stakeholder processes such as research for development (R4D) and innovation platforms (IP) in increasing the impact of research for development interventions. However, generic factors of the process leading to higher impact yet to discovered. A major constraint for lack insight in generic factors is insufficient characterization of the context the multi-stakeholder processes operate. A second one is the absence of a common generic theory of change linking multi-stakeholder processes to development outcomes. A third constraint is highly scattered efforts for research tool developments on the effectiveness and efficiency of the processes in achieving development outcomes. The project aims to contribute to understanding of generic success factors to improve effectiveness and efficiency of R4D interventions through a systematic review, development of a learning system and other research products targeting these three major constraints. It anticipates that the outputs will contribute to better designing and implementation of R4D interventions.

International Partners


Local partners

Uganda: Makerere University, Mukono District Office, Wakiso District Office
Burundi: ISABU
Democratic Republic of Congo: DIOBASS
Rwanda: RAB

Central American and Caribbean Flagship

"The Central America and Caribbean Flagship, working in three Action Sites (northern Nicaragua, greater Trifinio in Honduras-Guatemala-El Salvador, and the border region in Haiti-Dominican Republic) is characterized by erosion and nutrient depletion of soils resulting in degradation of 75% of agricultural lands. In the northern Nicaragua Action Site, the research focus will be on three major land use systems: maize-bean-livestock-tree; coffee-banana-tree; and cocoa-banana-tree. A more detailed mapping process of stakeholders, their linkages and mechanisms has provided the basis to assemble a diverse group of partners into incipient Innovation Platforms. These groups generate approaches focusing around the farm household as an enterprise/livelihood system/agro-ecosystem management unit, the multi-farm territory with important service and support functions in ecosystem services, infrastructure and market access and diverse forms of social capital, and the broader institutional and market system. Main research products will be on institutional innovation (policy), dietary diversity in food security, farm/local territory modelling, household decision making tools (trade-offs, resilience), and trade-offs within integrated livestock-fodder–crop-tree systems. During the extension phase, activities and partnerships will extend into the Greater Trifinio area (including parts of Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala), where an Action Site will be initiated."

Humidtropics Website

Project: Scaling up Agroecology in Nicaragua

Wageningen UR: Katharina Schiller (CIAT/ WUR), Onno Giller (IITA/WUR), Dr. Laurens Klerkx, Dr. Marijn Poortviet, Dr. Anne Marike Lokhorst and Prof. Cees Leeuwis (WUR)
CIAT-Nicaragua: Dr. Falguni Guharay,Dr. Rein van der Hoek (CIAT)
Field Assistants: Nelson Castellón and Eduardo Herrera (CIAT)


In Nicaragua a transition to agroecology is on the government’s agenda. In addition to new laws promoting agroecological production, the government has recently allocated US$ 80 million to support smallholders in using more sustainable farming practices. Agroecology has a long tradition and strong grassroots history in Nicaragua: the ‘Campesino a Campesino’ movement has been promoting farmer-to-farmer agroecological learning for three decades. The national umbrella organization for agroecological producers, MAONIC, has been instrumental in formulating Law 765, which explicitly incorporates agroecology into the nation’s agricultural production system and was enacted along with national technical standards for agroecological production. Our study aims to understand the current dynamics of the transition to agroecology in Nicaragua from both systemic and individual perspectives. We worked with the ‘basic grains/ranching’ innovation platform in northern Nicaragua to understand the factors promoting or inhibiting the uptake of more agroecological farming practices by smallholder farmers. The PROMIS (PRactice-Orientated Multi-level perspective on Innovation and Scaling) framework was used to analyse the strains within the adoption of agroecological farming practices, as well as the strains involved in the scaling effort.

International Partners


Local partners (territorial alliance)



More information on the Nicanorte action area (provided by CIAT-Nicaragua):

Croscutting projects

Project: Taking (up)scaling processes seriously in agricultural research, innovation and development – towards an integrative approach

Wageningen UR: Mr. Onno Giller, Dr. Laurens Klerkx, Dr. Cees Leeuwis, Dr. Anne Marike Lokhorst, Dr. Marijn Poortvliet, Ms. Katharina Schiller, Dr. Marc Schut and Ir. Seerp Wigboldus


This project contributes to enhanced understanding about mechanisms and wider dynamics involved in processes of scaling (up and down). This relates to effectiveness questions (success and failure of scaling processes), but also to quality issues. When innovations go to scale, they cross boundaries of systems, scales, levels and domains. What was effective/responsible at one level or within one domain, may no longer be considered effective/responsible at another level, or in another domain. Decision makers need to be informed both ex ante and ex durante about what happens when (effective/responsible) innovations scale up to ensure that what started as effective/responsible remains being effective/responsible e.g. at other scale levels and in other domains. Design of (effective/responsible) innovation processes therefore needs to have future scaling up in mind. This requires a more integrative perspective on scaling processes than a mere approach of ‘find out what works and do more of the same’ which involves traditional extension approaches of adoption, transfer, and dissemination. This project will provide conceptual, interpretive and strategic frameworks to inform decision makers in engaging with scaling processes from such more integrative perspective. Case studies will illustrate how such frameworks can be put to use.


Wigboldus, S. et al. (under review ) Widening strategic perspectives on scaling up for future food security.

The team

WUR Focal Point for Humidtropics

  • Dr. Laurens Klerkx (Knowledge, Technology and Innovation, WUR)

SRT3 Team Leaders

  • Prof. Cees Leeuwis (Knowledge, Technology and Innovation, WUR)
  • Dr. Ann Degrande (ICRAF)

WUR team working on SRT3

  • Mr. Moussa Bathily (IITA/WUR)
  • Mr. Onno Giller (IITA/WUR)
  • Dr. Laurens Klerkx (Knowledge, Technology and Innovation, WUR)
  • Prof. Cees Leeuwis (Knowledge, Technology and Innovation, WUR)
  • Dr. Anne Marike Lokhorst (Strategic Communication, WUR)
  • Dr. Marijn Poortvliet (Strategic Communication, WUR)
  • Mr. Murat Sartas (IITA/WUR)
  • Ms. Katharina Schiller (CIAT/WUR)
  • Dr. Marc Schut (IITA/WUR)
  • Ir. Seerp Wigboldus (Centre for Development and Innovation, WUR)

The publications

Marc Schut, Laurens Klerkx, Jonne Rodenburg, Juma Kayeke, Léonard C. Hinnou, Cara M. Raboanarielina, Patrice Y. Adegbola, Aad van Ast, Lammert Bastiaans (2015). "RAAIS: Rapid Appraisal of Agricultural Innovation Systems (Part I). A diagnostic tool for integrated analysis of complex problems and innovation capacity."  Agricultural Systems, Volume 132, Pages 1-11. doi:10.1016/j.agsy.2014.08.009.

Marc Schut, Jonne Rodenburg, Laurens Klerkx, Juma Kayeke, Aad van Ast, Lammert Bastiaans (2015). "RAAIS: Rapid Appraisal of Agricultural Innovation Systems (Part II). Integrated analysis of parasitic weed problems in rice in Tanzania." Agricultural Systems, Volume 132, Pages 2-24. doi:10.1016/j.agsy.2014.09.004.

Wigboldus, S.A. and Leeuwis, C. (2013). "Towards responsible scaling up
and out in agricultural development An exploration of concepts and principles." Discussion paper, CDI and CPT, Wageningen UR.

Disclaimer: This webpage and links are being continuously updated. The content must thus be taken as provisional and may be changed in the future.