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Course Information Undergraduate prospectus

Agricultural Innovation for Development

Course summary

Course code: AGRI1166
Level: 7
Credits: 15
School: Engineering and Science
Department: Natural Resources Institute
Course Coordinator(s): Adrienne Martin



The global context of uncertainty in agricultural production, markets and trade, accompanied by rising food and energy prices is having an impact at the smallest village level in developing countries, adding to the already considerable burden of poverty. These factors, combined with the changing institutional landscape and decline of the public sector, pose great challenges to all those involved in agricultural and natural resources related research, development and training. Narrow sectoral approaches are no longer adequate to deal with the complexity of the interrelationships. An increasing requirement is to understand and use approaches, tools and methods which encourage integrated 'systems' thinking, broader based partnerships and the participation of farmers and natural resource users in innovation processes, including problem diagnosis, planning, implementation, evaluation and promotion.

The course will provide these, with particular reference to resource-poor rural and peri-urban situations in developing countries. The course combines natural and social science perspectives, and makes full use of the up-to-date field experience of the Natural Resources Institute, to:

Provide a comparative overview of different approaches to research for development;
Provide an understanding of the concepts, characteristics and usage of farming systems, livelihood systems, value chains and innovation systems approaches;
Introduce the principles and tools of research for development (participatory approaches for the identification, validation and sharing of knowledge, research products and policy options relevant to the needs and institutional, biophysical and socio-economic context of rural and peri-urban people).

Learning outcomes

On completion of this unit, students will be able to:
1. Reflect on the characteristics, concepts and inter-relations between farming systems, sustainable rural livelihoods, value chains and agricultural innovation systems approaches;
2. Describe the principles and importance of participation and social inclusion, and analyse the range of methods available for interaction with, and support to, rural and peri-urban people;
3. From an understanding of the characteristics of successful multi-stakeholder innovation partnerships, and the external factors that influence them, be able to formulate proposals for their development in real work situations;
4. Access a range of tools and techniques that can be applied to the identification, validation, promotion and evaluation of technologies, policies, institutions and processes relevant to the needs and contexts of rural and peri-urban people.

Indicative content

Overview of historical changes in approaches to agricultural research and development towards more integrated systems thinking.
Characteristics, concepts and present status of farming systems approaches;
Participatory research approaches - concepts and principles of participation.
Poverty, gender and social differentiation and their relevance to agricultural development.
The Sustainable Livelihoods Framework and examples of its application in livelihoods analysis;
The Integrated Agricultural Research for Development (IAR4D) approach;
The agricultural innovation systems approach: characteristics and implications and examples of successful and less successful multi-stakeholder partnerships
Value chains and market-oriented agricultural development
Methods for interaction with, and support to, rural and resource poor communities; knowledge sharing and communication methods to link knowledge producers and different groups of potential users.
Working with farmers and other partners - the range of tools and techniques that can be applied to the participatory identification, validation, promotion and evaluation of technologies, institutions, policies and processes relevant to the needs and contexts of rural and peri-urban people.

Teaching and learning activity

Seminar sessions, group work, guided analysis of published literature and reports, video from field situations and case-studies led by those with recent first-hand field experience will be the principal modes of instruction.


Essay related to the topics - 50%
1500-2000 words plus bibliography.
Essay* (contributing to LO 1 and 2).

Group Presentation - 50%
Application of multi-stakeholder partnership theory to a specified situation
(LO 3). Presentation in class**

Pass mark - 50%

* Students will submit a draft that will be given an indicative mark and written feedback. A final version will then be submitted, which will then be given a final mark.
** Guidance will be provided on how to make a good presentation, and constructive feedback will be given. The group would work together on the assignment and its presentation. The group would be marked as a whole, with individuals all getting the same mark.

Students must pass all elements to pass the course.