Functions and limitations of farmer cooperatives as innovation intermediaries: Findings from China

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This article takes an innovation intermediary perspective to examine farmer cooperative’s (FC) roles in facilitating agricultural innovation and its positioning in the agricultural innovation system (AIS). The article draws experiences from the rapidly emerging FC field in China. Three cases are selected to cross check findings from them and innovation journey analysis is used within each case to understand FCs’ engagement in innovation processes. The findings show that FCs cover a wide range of knowledge intermediation and innovation intermediation functions identified by the literature. FCs recognize the importance to connect technical, social and economic dimensions of farming practice and provide corresponding services to link farmers to relevant actors, like extension agencies, research institutes and supermarkets. Though they mainly work through bilateral relationships as opposed to acting as a systemic intermediary, they could take the role of coordinator in the service system and bridge the gap between the research and policy system and everyday farming practice, especially in the absence of a systemic coordinator. However, their legitimacy as intermediary might be challenged due to the potential conflicts with governments, market actors or their members, and their local position may provide insufficient clout for developing durable relationships with relevant actors.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)115-125
JournalAgricultural Systems
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • international agricultural-research
  • sub-saharan africa
  • technological-change
  • systems perspective
  • networks
  • management
  • extension
  • knowledge
  • support

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