In Ethiopia, Prolinnova builds on existing initiatives by NGOs, universities and the Ethiopian Agricultural Research Organisation (EARO) to learn and exchange experiences of participatory approaches to agricultural R&D, known as PROFIEET (PROmoting Farmer Innovation and Experimentation in EThiopia).
The initial focus of activities was on bringing together the key stakeholder institutions at the national level, reaching a common understanding of concepts of farmer innovation and farmer-led research and development, mobilising the interest of the stakeholder institutions in Prolinnova / PROFIEET, and ensuring their willingness and commitment to collaborate. This process took place through a series of meetings and individual visits of the co-ordinating NGO (Agri-Service Ethiopia, ASE) to the respective agencies and has been successfully completed with the formation and active functioning of the National Steering Committee (NSC). The following agencies are represented in the NSC, in alphabetical order: ASE, Debub University, Ethiopian Agricultural Research Organisation (EARO), Ethiopian Science and Technology Commission, FARM-Africa, Mekelle University, Ministry of Agriculture and SOS-Sahel Ethiopia. The linkage with ongoing IFAD activities is strong through the presence in the NSC of EARO, the host of the Agricultural Research and Training Project (ARTP). EARO is chairing the NSC.
The process of building the multi-stakeholder Steering Committee was time-consuming but not costly in terms of funds. For this reason, disbursement of funds in Ethiopia has started only slowly. For the inventory of in-country experiences with Prolinnova / PROFIEET approaches, the services of a consultant experienced in indigenous innovation research and Participatory Technology Development (PTD) were obtained. Results of the inventory are currently being compiled; the initial findings indicate that:
- thus far, involvement of farmers in technology development by EARO consists of verification trials in farmers’ fields and consultation of farmers during field days, but the establishment of Farmer Research Groups reflects EARO’s interest in nurturing a participatory approach to research
- EARO, in collaboration with the African Highlands Initiative (AHGI) of the CGIAR (Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research) is assessing the state of the art of Farmer Participatory Research from the perspective of formal research
- The ISWC (Indigenous Soil and Water Conservation) project co-ordinated by Mekelle University and the Farmer Research Project co-ordinated by FARM-Africa, have influenced individuals within Mekelle and Debub Universities, but the impact at institutional level is still weak
- Extension staff at federal and regional levels show keen interest in indigenous knowledge and innovation but attention to this is not systematically incorporated in the extension work
- there are some valuable experiences in identifying and building on farmer knowledge within NGOs, universities and some extension services, but the work is neither systematic nor well documented and the initiatives are not well linked with each other;
- all institutions express a great need for capacity building in Participatory Technology Development and methods of identifying, documenting and promoting local innovation in agriculture and NRM
- much can be gained by linking the efforts of EARO, NGOs, universities and extension services more systematically with each other, particularly in activities for mutual learning and capacity building.
A national workshop will be held in the last week of August 2003 with representatives of all stakeholder groups in agricultural research, extension and education, including farmers, to review the results of the inventory, to share and assess past experiences and to develop an agenda for scaling up and institutionalising Prolinnova / PROFIEET in various regions in Ethiopia. The NSC in Ethiopia has also offered to host the international workshop on Prolinnova.