Innovating service delivery andaligning with the State: The co-creation of scaling mechanisms for cocoa extension in Africa

Sander Muilerman

Research output: Thesisinternal PhD, WU


This thesis focuses on how a public-private partnership (PPP) initiative attempted to innovate agricultural extension service provision and to achieve sector transformation to alternative training approaches, in order to tackle complex sustainability challenges among cocoa smallholder farmers. The purpose of this study is to fill a knowledge gap on why and how the processes of scaling and/or institutionalisation of FFS showed divergent outcomes in four different cocoa producing countries in Central and West Africa. The general objective of the thesis is to build a more complete understanding of the specific dynamics, dimensions, and interactions involved in going to scale.

The analysis in this thesis shows that transformation within an extension regime (in this case from one mode of top-down extension delivery (T&V) to the more participative learning-based farmer field schools) could indeed be confirmed and typologised with the chosen multilevel approach. However, this was not enough to truly understand what exactly happened between niche and regime and why. Literature from innovation studies could not bring out the context-specific mechanisms that led to divergence in scaling outcomes. Practitioners and scholars need to fully analyse and consider the specificity of the nature of the context.

Supplementary literature from sources other than innovation studies may have better explanatory value for understanding the niche interventions’ interaction with the context. This thesis supports a wider call in the literature for a re-appreciation of the State in innovation studies. Although capricious and bureaucratic, regime career professionals persevere in the practice of their unique insight, despite politicians, also in the face of substantial pressure to go to scale. A dominant socio-technical regime cannot be regarded merely as an impact domain. A regime faced with a promising niche innovation will ‘talk back’ and make judgement calls, often by employing contextual arguments rather than technical arguments. If the intervention fits the context, or if it changes course to fit the context, the dominant regime actors become indispensable co-creators, who will nevertheless continue to play by their own rules.

Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Wageningen University
  • Leeuwis, Cees, Promotor
  • Dietz, A.J., Promotor, External person
  • Vellema, Sietze, Co-promotor
Award date15 Oct 2019
Place of PublicationWageningen
Print ISBNs9789463951197
Publication statusPublished - 2019


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