Pathway for agricultural science impact in West Africa: lessons from the Convergence of Sciences programme

S. Nederlof, N. Röling, A. van Huis

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19 Citations (Scopus)


The impact of agricultural research on the livelihoods of resource-poor farmers in West Africa has been disappointing. This article reports on research on agricultural research that sought to identify an alternative pathway of science that would lead to greater impact. It is based on the analysis of the work at eight pilot learning sites in the Convergence of Sciences (CoS) programme. Each site featured research for development with resource-poor farmers and other stakeholders. On the basis of literature review, we first built a perspective on the mix of research outcomes that seems necessary for agricultural research to be demand-driven and client-oriented. This perspective then served as the framework for analysis of the work at the eight learning sites. Adapted and consolidated on the basis of this empirical work, the framework represents a set of preliminary ideas for designing an effective pathway for agricultural science. The analysis shows that CoS has, in a number of diverse contexts and with respect to different crops, demonstrated that it is possible to establish vibrant multi-stakeholder learning coalitions at the local and programme levels that generate a great deal of enthusiasm and drive. It is further possible to identify promising opportunities that can be effectively addressed by agricultural research, if that research is multi-disciplinary, refrains from making constraining pre-analytical choices, pays attention to institutional aspects, and uses procedures that ensure that research is not only supply-, but also demand-driven. The study fills a gap in defining the nature of the components of a meaningful agricultural innovation system. The institutional dynamics at the macro level remain to be addressed in CoS' second phase. The present paper reports on the social dimensions and methodological issues of the first phase of the programme. The outcomes of the agronomic experiments with farmers will be reported elsewhere
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)247-264
JournalInternational Journal of Agricultural Sustainability
Issue number2&3
Publication statusPublished - 2007


  • ghana
  • benin
  • system innovation
  • multi-stakeholder processes


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