Feed the Future Innovation Labs: We're Stronger Together
During the annual Feed the Future Innovation Labs Directors Meeting this past September, dozens of representatives from universities across the U.S. came together to discuss their progress, reflect on their current work and plan for future collaboration initiatives. Mywish Maredia, Director of the Food Security Policy Innovation Lab, discussed the vision the Innovation Labs hope to fulfill as part of the larger USAID Feed the Future initiative. The two key parameters that determine the impact of the Innovation Lab's research, which touches upon climate-resilient seeds to value chains, are adoption—that is, the use and uptake of new research—and the positive effects that can be measured following the adoption process.
For this reason, the Innovation Labs have embraced a strategy of producing low-cost and innovative methods to allow for the extension of technologies far and wide. This isn't a simple two step-process, however. Professor Maredia stressed that the innovations will work best if there is awareness, access, availability and demand from target beneficiaries. Even then, the concept of measuring impact is complex and may take years to fully gauge.
Dave Hoisington, Chair of the Innovation Labs Council and Director of the Peanut Productivity & Mytocotoxin Control Innovation Lab, gave a presentation on the importance of empowering host country institutions to address constraints and needs by co-creating new technologies and knowledge. Professor Hoisington believes utilizing modern science to support multi-disciplinary ag research would ultimately build human and institutional capacity across target Feed the Future zones.
Whether it's through partnerships with local NGOs, the private sector or public extension service providers, the Innovation Labs understand their research as being most impactful when it reaches and cooperates with a diverse set of partners.
Elizabeth Mitcham of the Horticulture Innovation Lab also discusses that pathways to scaling of technologies rely on supply chain development and solid cost-benefit analysis. Demonstrative of efforts that bring together market dynamics, local innovators, and public and private actors are initiative below put into action by the Innovation Labs:
- The Feed the Future Asia Innovative Farmers project spearheaded in Cambodia, Bangladesh, Burma and Nepal, a program designed to connect smallholder farmers to successful and affordable tech advances that have been sourced through competitions.
- In a similar effort to sustainably scale-up innovations, the Soybean Innovation Lab carried out a training in northern Ghana that provided thresher building skills to local engineers so they may build and sell threshers to their respective local farming communities.
The two instances are fitting examples of how the Labs can take an innovative idea and bring together a diverse set of stakeholders—in this case, local innovators as well as national and international NGOs.
From climate-resilient seeds and irrigation to value chains, learn more about the work and research produced by each of the Innovation Labs on Agrilinks.