News & events


HSRC Annual innovation and development lecture:

02 March 2017
12:30 - 14:00


SPEAKER: K J Joseph, Ministry of Commerce Chair, Centre for  Development Studies, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala India;  Editor in Chief Innovation and Development (Routledge) and Vice President Globelics

DATE: 02 March 2017 | TIME: 12:15 for 12:30 – 14:00 | Venues in Pretoria, Durban and Cape Town or watch online at:

The presentation is available for download below:

There is growing consensus that, for agrarian economies in the 21st century, agriculture remains fundamental for poverty reduction, livelihood security, economic growth and environmental sustainability (World Bank 2008). The relevance of innovation for addressing these issues is no revelation for the scientific community and policy makers. Their attempts, so far, have however been like chasing a moving target. The paradigm governing agricultural research and development has shifted from an Agricultural Research Systems (ARS) approach, which focuses on adoption and diffusion, to Farming Systems Research (FSR) and Agricultural Knowledge and Information Systems approaches, and finally, to an Agricultural Innovation System (AIS) perspective. Drawing on the National System of Innovation approach, the AIS perspective postulates that agricultural innovations emerge from interaction and knowledge flows between research and entrepreneurial organizations in the public and private sectors, which is in contrast to the common view that research organizations produce new knowledge that farmers blindly adopt.

It has also been argued that about 500 family farms, representing more than nine out of ten farms in the world, are at the center of the solution for achieving food security and sustainable rural development (FAO 2014). The case has often been made for promoting capacity to innovate at multiple levels – the individual, organizational and institutional level – in order to enable small-scale farmers to collectively act and innovate. An emerging body of literature on small-scale farmer (SSF) innovation (QUNO 2015) refers to small-scale farmers as innovators themselves rather than mere implementers of innovations. The innovation systems perspective proposes that our ability to address current challenges depends on the extent of learning, innovation and competence-building among various actors and organizations in the innovation system, governed by the institutional context and the manner in which these capabilities are harnessed for addressing different issues.

In this context, the lecture will explore how small-scale farmers are integrated within an AIS and the extent to which the institutions are conducive for harnessing their innovation capabilities to address varied issues pertaining to agricultural development. The lecture will discuss case studies from China and India to draw out lessons for policy. It is argued that a small-scale-farmer innovation system is fundamentally different from formal sector innovation systems. Small-scale farmers, like small firms, are confronted with numerous challenges and have an inherent capacity to innovate. This attribute, if appropriately nurtured and harnessed, could make the AIS more inclusive. Small-scale farmer innovation could complement, and even substitute to some extent, organized agricultural research and development, thereby contributing towards addressing the pressing needs of food security, rural employment, livelihoods and environmental sustainability.

Kindly RSVP by 01 March 2017

Cape Town : HSRC, Merchant House 116-118 Buitengracht Street Cape Town, Cape Town. Contact: Jean Witten, Tel (021) 4668004, Fax (021) 461 0299, or

Durban :  The Atrium, 5th Floor, 430 Peter Mokaba Ridge, Berea, 4001 , Contact Ridhwaan Khan, Tel (031) 242 5400, cell: 083 788 2786 or , or Hlengiwe Zulu at e-mail

Pretoria : HSRC Video Conference, 1st floor HSRC Library Human Sciences Research Council, 134 Pretorius Street, Pretoria. Arlene Grossberg, Tel: (012) 302 2811, e-mail:

The HSRC seminar series is funded by the Department of Science and Technology (DST). The views and opinions expressed therein as well as findings and statements of the seminar series do not necessarily represent the views of the DST.