The Eastern African Farmer Innovation Fair in Kenya, 2013

Building on the experiences and lessons from the Farmer Innovation Fir (FIF) in Nepal in 2009, the Eastern African FIF took a step further to include farmer innovators from several countries in a region: Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda - a challenge that demanded even more collaboration and coordination than the fair in Nepal. The Eastern African FIF took place on 28 and 29 May 2013 in Nairobi, Kenya, and brought together a total of 50 farmer innovators from the four countries. The fair celebrated the creativity of these men and women and gave them public recognition. 

The fair was hosted by Prolinnova-Kenya and co-organised with the Agri-ProFocus (APF) network and other organisations concerned with smallholder agricultural development. The organising committee in Kenya comprised several organisations (http://aisa2013.wikispaces.com/organizers). In each of the four countries, the Prolinnova Country Platforms took the lead in setting up a national team to coordinate a process of identifying and selecting farmer innovators take part in the FIF in Kenya. Overall support and technical advice was given by ETC Foundation as the host of the international Prolinnova network. The Prolinnova-Nepal coordinator supported the Eastern African organising committee by sharing experiences and lessons from the FIF in Nepal.

The Eastern African FIF was one of a series of events in the Week of Agricultural Innovation in Africa (WAIA) 2013. ETC provided support in sourcing funding and organising these various events together with a diverse group of like-minded organisations. The events included the International Workshop on Agricultural Innovation in Africa AISA (http://aisa2013.wikispaces.com/ais+workshop); the final international meeting of the EU-funded Joint Learning in Innovation Systems in African Agriculture (JOLISAA) consortium (http://aisa2013.wikispaces.com/jolissa), the annual meeting of the Prolinnova Oversight Group POG (http://aisa2013.wikispaces.com/og); the International Prolinnova Partners Workshop IPW (http://aisa2013.wikispaces.com/ipw ) and the Innovation Platforms Writeshop of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), among others. The participants to these events were purposefully selected from major stakeholder groups concerned with innovation in smallholder agriculture, including formal researchers and academics, development practitioners, farmers, service providers, and policy- and decision-makers from Africa, Asia, Europe and Australia. Their visit to the fair provided them with valuable one-on-one time with a large group of farmer innovators.

The FIF was opened by a delegation of special invitees from different stakeholder groups, ranging from research institutions to NGOs and the private sector. In total, the FIF attracted nearly 1500 visitors from the general public. It offered daily panel discussions with experts and innovators, allowing an open forum among people from various interest groups. Conventional media such as Kenyan TV and newspapers, as well as newer social media such as Facebook and Twitter, were used to provide wider coverage of the event. More details: http://aisa2013.wikispaces.com/file/view/EAFIF%20report%20final.pdf/455448094/EAFIF%20report%20final.pdf

The fair created awareness within the agricultural research and development community and the general public through processes of social learning. The farmer innovators were enthused by the opportunity to discuss their ideas and concerns directly with practitioners and policymakers in ARD. The Kenyan farmer innovators decided to form a group and continued to communicate with each other after the fair, also organising their own local fairs at district level. Practitioners and policymakers in agricultural research and development equally appreciated being able to hear first-hand of the farmer innovators' experiences. As a result of such encounters, numerous people, institutions and policies concerned with agricultural research and development are gradually becoming more familiar with and supportive of farmer-led approaches.

Articles regarding the EAFIF were published in several magazines such as Baobab (http://www.prolinnova.net/sites/default/files/documents/Kenya/2013/baobab68_15102013_05extract.pdf); Farming Futures (http://www.agriculturesnetwork.org/magazines/global/education-for-change/social-learning?utm_source=mag-sep-2013&utm_medium=Email&utm_content=Article-Social-learning&utm_campaign=Education-for-change) and Appropriate Technology (http://aisa2013.wikispaces.com/file/view/AT_Sept13_PDF_Celebrating%20farmers%20creativity_Amos%20Thiong%27o_p19_21.pdf/450919068/AT_Sept13_PDF_Celebrating%20farmers%20creativity_Amos%20Thiong%27o_p19_21.pdf) .

Thirteen short videos of farmer innovators in Kenya were used during the fair to stimulate discussion and were uploaded to the Internet for further dissemination, see: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL7A4E762FA96E52F7