Exploring Agricultural Innovation Processes among Actors in Coffee Farming Sector in Eastern Ethiopia

Kemal Kasim, Rien Van Der Velde, Loes Witteveen


Despite decades of research and policy intervention made by different actors, the rate of coffee innovation development was extremely low and poverty remains high among households of coffee producers. Apart from transferring hardware technologies to increase on-farm production and productivity, attention has not been given to factors influencing patterns of actor’s interactions and social networks to enhance social learning, communication, participation and negotiation to promote pro-poor innovations.  However, recently, it is increasingly being appreciated that what is important for social change is not only knowledge about technology and production, but also institutions and organisations including their (attitude, practices, incentives) for collective learning and innovations, policy environment to avoid institutional and market failure. Exploring the described research problem from adopter and non-adopter sides is a traditional way of looking farming societies taking into consideration different factors which are challenging innovation capacities of farmers, and simultaneously under circumstances in which many actors and networks involved in innovation processes. Thus, is there any alternative way of looking these research problem that provides better picture of factors which drive innovation processes, and also respectful for actors involved in innovation process in coffee sector? Furthermore, if certain behaviour, attitude and practices of the individual, group or community and/or institutions would appears to favour diffusion of innovations, why not create this space? Therefore, the purpose of this study was to explore factors influencing patterns of interactions and social networks among actors, mainly policy and institutional to effectively supporting innovation processes in coffee farming sector in Eastern Ethiopia. Significance was to find out role played by different actors to increase innovation and innovative knowledge.  A qualitative case study research approach derived from both conceptual framework, literature review and based on empirical data was utilised. The primary data for this study was obtained through in-depth-interviews with key public and private actors/organisations followed by focus group discussions (FGDs), and participant observations at community level and stakeholder workshop. The qualitative information has been systematically categorized, tabulated and summarized. The results of the study found that different actors have different conflicting views that drive or constrain patterns of interaction and relationships with each other’s. Among many factors, lack of shared vision, limited communication gap, lack of incentives for collaboration, lack of resources, lack of leadership and management are the factors that leads to loss of trust relationships. The study also confirmed that despite dynamics of changing of Ethiopian agricultural sector policy and intervention, innovation trends tends to follow linear models of technology dissemination through mainly public actors. In spite of, few policy visions such as commercialisations, decentralisation and newly introduced coffee marketing policy, other policy approach like extension approach are not supportive to ensure actors participation to speed up momentum of coffee innovation processes.

Keywords: Innovation processes, patterns of interactions, social networks, social learning, participation, innovative knowledge

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