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MSc Thesis research position: Lessons learned from Stakeholder and Knowledge Networks in the CASCAPE project

In 2011 the multidisciplinary project CASCAPE (Capacity Building for Scaling Up of Evidence-based Best Practices in Agriculture, in Ethiopia) started in Ethiopia with the aim to improve food security for smallholder farmers in areas known-as high potential areas. CASCAPE is a research for development project managed by WUR Alterra & the Centre for Development Innovation, and implemented by six Ethiopian universities across the country.

 The CASCAPE project

Multi-disciplinary teams, consisting of experts in agronomy, extension, gender, socio-economics, nutrition, livestock, natural resource management and/or agro-forestry, work with farmers to address their agricultural constraints based on the following principles: i) participatory action research, ii) integrated farm management, iii) sustainability and iv) stakeholder and knowledge networks. Until 2014, the CASCAPE project has achieved a 50% increase in agricultural productivity for participating farmers in Ethiopia by helping them adopt improved practices. 2015 is the last year of phase 1 of the project.
One of the four objectives of CASCAPE was to establish and strengthen stakeholder and knowledge platforms to stimulate scaling up- and out of best practices in agriculture. A brief overview is presented below:

Value chain partnerships

Link value chain actors to reduce transaction costs and increase performance of the whole value chain (from production – processing – marketing - consumption)

Main driver
Processing company or lead buyer

Malt barley platform, Southern Ethiopia (Hawassa). A lead firm (Assela Malt Factory) was interested to buy large volumes of high quality barley varieties to produce malt for different beer companies (among which Heineken). CASCAPE sourced improved varieties (from research), trained and organised seed producers, and finally organised barley producers to produce and sell barley to the malt factory.

Farmer - market linkage platforms

Improve the market access for CASCAPE farmers

Main driver

In most cases, CASCAPE has introduced new varieties of popular staple crops (e.g. potato, tef, maize, etc). After increasing the productivity of those crops, farmers were complaining that they could not sell their produce. CASCAPE engaged in activities to promote market access for its farmers. Examples are Irish Potato marketing platform in Eastern Hararghe (Haramaya), Soy bean marketing platform (Jimma), etc.

Input supply platforms

Enhance sustainable input supply in particular areas

Main driver
CASCAPE (sometimes with Ethiopian government)

Access to seed, fertilizer and other inputs is problematic in most areas. Parallel to introducing new varieties, in some cases CASCAPE also established an “input supply system” where actors involved in crop production discuss issues around input supply. In most cases specific seed producers are identified and trained and their linkage with government and farmers is facilitated. Examples are the papaya input supply system in Tigray, or the seed potato system in Bahir Dar.
In other cases, CASCAPE establishes networks/linkages between input suppliers, government agencies, and farmers on specific inputs (e.g. lime or rhizobium) to make those inputs available in an affordable and sustainable way. Example is the lime policy dialogue between farmers, government and lime suppliers in Hawassa.

Knowledge sharing platforms

Joint planning & evaluation, lesson sharing, scaling of best practices

Main driver
Depending on the topic it can be the Ethiopian government (at district, federal, or national level), a Research Institute, University, or CASCAPE

CASCAPE is member of several platforms to align planning and activities with other stakeholders and to share lessons learned.
Examples are the regional technical committees at regional level in which Research Institutes, Universities, Government, CASCAPE and other projects/programmes jointly participate in 3 monthly meetings to plan and evaluate interventions. Other examples are the Stakeholder Workshops in the scaling phase of CASCAPE where innovations that are promoted to the scaling phase are being shared and a scaling strategy is agreed upon with the key stakeholders.

Problem statement(s) and approach

At the end of phase 1 of the CASCAPE project, it is high time to assess these different platforms in terms of their functionality and effectiveness, and to understand the factors that influence the process and outcomes of the platforms that CASCAPE established (or helped to establish). Hence an insight in the innovation context and process are needed. The System Failure framework (Klein-Woolthuis, 2005; van Mierlo et al, 2010) or Technical Innovation System framework (Hekkert et al, 2007; 2008; Jacobssen & Bergek, 2011) might give an insight in the context and functions focussed on, while literature on mediation roles (Kilelu et al, 2013); Institutional Entrepreneurship (Battilana et al, 2006) ord Innovation communities and champions (Hauschildt and Kirchmann, 2001, Howell et al, 2005, Gupta et al, 2006, Smith, 2007): may help to create a analytical framework explaining processes related to the innovation network.

To take advantage from lessons learned in phase 1 of the project, a number of topics were identified to be further explored by MSc research. One of these topics is: What is the potential of the current stakeholder and knowledge networks as established in CASCAPE to scale best practices in agriculture?

The MSC Research on Stakeholder and Knowledge networks

We are looking for a MSc student (Social Sciences) to work on the topic of stakeholder and knowledge networks in the context of the CASCAPE project. We ask the student to deliver a concept note for a thesis research on this subject. The thesis research may include the following topics / activities:

  • Literature review on stakeholder and knowledge networks in relation to agriculture for development
  • Analyse the factors that influence the process and outcomes of platforms that CASCAPE (helped to) establish(ed)
  • Contribute to recommendations for CASCAPE 2 on strengthening knowledge and stakeholder networks to scale best practices

The student is expected to spend a substantial period of time in one of the study areas and will work in close collaboration with Mikinay Seifu and her daily supervisor, Dr. Annemarie van Paassen.

This study will be carried out in close collaboration with Mikinay Seifu, an Ethiopian sandwich PhD student conducting research on Innovation Platforms, financially supported by the CASCAPE project.


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