Julius Mugwagwa and Simon Outram edited a Special Issue of the Journal of International Development (Vol 22, Issue 3), published in April 2010. Here, Julius describes some of the background to this issue:
With a special emphasis on agricultural biotechnologies, the special issue examines from different perspectives why advanced expertise and technological availability have seemingly had only a minor impact on the productivity of agriculture and hence food security in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The different contributors use various case studies to explore both the overarching context of how different stakeholders within the agricultural sector understand the role of expertise and technological availability in the agricultural innovation process, along with the specific details of how these function within countries and regionally.
The contributors also explore the relationship between technology, policy and public engagement approaches and wider concepts of technology development and governance. Overall, this is ultimately not a negative story. Instead of the now common despair about the abilities of Africa to meet it is own food-security requirements, this issue presents articles which demonstrate how much is already in place, with reflections and suggestions on how such resources can be made to work together for the greater socio-economic good of the continent.
On a more personal level, this special issue originates from an awareness that while researchers frequently carry out their work in fine detail, with time and funding limitations and disciplinary structures, there is seldom the opportunity to see how each piece of research relates to another.
This special issue is a gratifying reflection and opportunity to review the products of such separate research projects together in a way that tells a grander and coherent story. In this case, the combined contributions pause questions and seek to provide suggestions on why specific areas such as policy and stakeholder engagement, which are necessary for the success of any technological innovation, remain only partially-functional in Africa’s agriculture arena.
Each of the papers looks at technology development, utilisation, policy and public engagement systems from different theoretical perspectives, laying bare how technology is only fully possible to utilise when other (non-technological) elements – such as regulatory frameworks, marketing structures, and communication of benefits and risks – are all in place. This is not an argument for perfection in all facets, but that the degree to which each of these elements functions fully will have a substantial impact upon the success (or otherwise) of the introduction of such new technology. Policy development and implementation need to constantly reflect on this.
While this special issue is largely grounded in research carried out by researchers engaged in various levels of technological and institutional innovation in SSA, we target a broader contribution to empirical evidence and literature on agricultural innovation globally, particularly how a broadened perspective on innovation can generate new ways of thinking that can ultimately improve upon existing practices.
Journal of International Development Special Issue: Agricultural Innovation and Food Security in Africa: Tracing Connections and Missing Links Issue,
Edited by Simon M. Outram, Julius T. Mugwagwa
Volume 22 Issue 3 , Pages 283 - 389 (April 2010)