Shaping Agricultural Innovation Systems Responsive to Food Insecurity and Climate Change: Background Paper to the World Economic and Social Survey (WESS) 2011

Sally Heather Brooks, Michael Loevinsohn

Research output: Working paper


Climate change and variability present new challenges for agriculture; particularly for smallholder farmers who continue to be the mainstay of food production in developing countries. Its effects, while widespread, will be locally specific and socially differentiated, exacerbating existing vulnerabilities and uncertainties. In such situations, the innovations and adaptive strategies of communities living in conditions of rapid change can provide valuable lessons for those seeking to shape agricultural innovation systems responsive to food insecurity and climate change.
This paper draws lessons from selected country experiences of adaptation and innovation in pursuit of food security goals. It presents three case studies of systems of innovation operating in contrasting socio-economic, geographical and agro-ecological contexts and facing different challenges. In Southeast Asian post-Green Revolution rice cultivation we trace innovations responding to unintended consequences of rapid technological change. In India we focus on attempts to recover degraded semi-arid lands and the degraded livelihoods, lands and lives bypassed by the Green Revolution in a rapidly developing now middle income economy and a functioning democracy; in Southern Africa we explore responses to similar social and environmental challenges to those in the Indian context, but in low income economies with less developed institutions and democratic practice. We review each case in terms of four features of innovation systems more likely to build, sustain and/or enhance food security in situations of rapid change and uncertainty: a) recognition of the multi-functional nature of agriculture and the opportunity to realize multiple benefits; (b) access to diversity as the basis for flexibility and resilience; (c) concern for enhancing the capacity of decision makers at all levels; and (d) perseverance and continuity of effort aimed at securing well-being for those who depend on agriculture and its outputs. Finally we draw implications of this analysis for policy makers and other stakeholders in agricultural innovation systems.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages32
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jan 2010

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