Ag Sector Council Recap: Partnering with Innovation Labs
The April Ag Sector Council Seminar featured a discussion of the Feed the Future Innovation Labs for Collaborative Research. Innovation Labs are one part of the Feed the Future Research Strategy, which supports research and development to improve smallholder agriculture in a changing climate. Saharah Moon Chapotin began the seminar with a brief overview of the Feed the Future research strategy. She outlined the overall goal of the strategy, which is to promote sustainable agricultural intensification through three research themes: advancing productivity, transforming key production systems, and improving nutrition and food safety. The research strategy accomplishes this goal through seven program areas (see slides and/or the webinar recording for more info on each!):
- Increase cereal yields and adaption to climate change for improved feed and fodder production
- Increase productivity and availability of legumes
- Protect animals and tropical staples from major pests and diseases
- Sustainably increase production and consumption of highly nutritious foods and diversify diets
- Create supportive agricultural policy environments
- Fundamentally transform key production systems
- Build professional and organizational capacities to address agricultural challenges and opportunities
Next, Chapotin explained how Innovation Labs partner with the agricultural development community. She identified specific ways Missions, U.S. colleges, universities, and development partners could work directly with the Labs to help bring research to scale. She noted that often the science behind sustainable intensification is there – it is primarily a matter of bringing that science or specific technology to scale. Innovation Labs act as the link between cutting-edge research happening in the U.S. and the implementing partners, Missions, and graduate students abroad.
Muni Muniappan spoke about the IPM Innovation Lab’s work in Nepal on the KISAN project. The project focuses on scaling up integrated-pest management (IPM) packages and technology to small-scale farmers throughout the Terrai region of Nepal (see a more detailed description of this project in an Agrilinks blog post here). The project began in 2013 when the Nepal Mission gave the IPM Innovation Lab an Associate Award to transfer IPM technology. The Innovation Lab works in close collaboration with the Mission, development partners, and farmers to implement the project.
Irv Widders from the Legume Innovation Lab rounded out the seminar with a discussion of the Bean Transfer Dissemination (BTD) project and the ways that the team designs research. Specifically, they start with certain questions in mind to ensure that the project's investments in research translate to technologies adopted by farmers. The objectives of BTD were to expand access to improved varieties of beans and quality seed in Central America and the Caribbean. The sustainability of the project involved not just distributing seeds, but establishing seed systems and stimulating demand for quality seed. The project relied on informal, community-based seed banks, or Banco Comunitaria, run by community leaders. Because it was community-based, the farmers themselves assumed responsibility for seed security, and farmers had a vested interest in “seed security.”
The Seminar concluded with a number of questions from the audience on more specifics ways to get involved with Innovation Labs. For more information, watch a recording of the webinar, check out this list of all the Innovation Labs here, and see coverage of the Innovation Lab Council Workshop here (part one, part two, and the field trips days one and two).