Positive Deviance as a Catalyst for Sustainable Food Production and Nutrition in the Andes

Outside the concerns over the ability of agricultural research and development practice to address our pressing food crises, lies a commonly neglected resource: the creativity embedded in peoples’ daily practices and self-organisation.

Recently, a number of international assessments have raised concerns over the ability of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (AKSTD) to address present hunger and poverty concerns in an era of resource degradation and climatic uncertainty, combined with diminishing public support for agricultural research. In this context, the need for understanding how to mobilise effective, locally led innovation with no to little external support has become a priority.

This integrated research programme aims at understanding ‘Positive Deviance’ – the spontaneous generation of novelties embedded in people’s daily problem-solving activity, but lying outside the distributional norms of practice – as inspiration for a new approach to rural innovation. Starting from the rich tapestry of local practice, we are exploring how scientific insights can strengthen and complement the most promising PD in water management and family nutrition in ways that address both immediate and long term needs. This research is working with theories in the co-production of local and scientific knowledge and aims at contributing to new thinking in innovation for development policy.