Following paradigm shifts in 1980s that resulted from relentless efforts made by a few informed social scientists in the early 20th century, some lead international organizations, NGOs, and national research and extension organizations came to pronounce innovation system in agriculture and rural development. These are, in fact, results of decades of intellectual dialogues among scientists in general and social scientists in particular as to what methodological routes should be followed in pursuit of science and science for development. The majors taken in this regard received increasing importance with the realization that more than fifty years of development assistance, especially in the developing world, did not adequately curve down poverty and its multiple consequences, notably, environmental degradation. In spite of encouraging efforts underway the worldover by different agencies to promote what is named as a sustainable development through people’s participation, achievements made so far seems to be far below the extent of responses required to cope up with multi-faceted challenges at hand. Moreover, there are still conceptual and methodological gaps that are adversely affecting the common intentions geared towards making a difference in poverty alleviation and reducing environmental degradation, among others. There is still substantial adherence to technology transfer while the intention is innovation system. For some, even using the term innovation seems to be a major shift in their approach. In my view, one of the major gaps in this respect is lack of shared understanding of methodological issues by scientists and development practitioners, both from social and natural sciences streams. This paper, therefore, attempts to shed some light on these issues and propose ways to get innovation system approach work better in agriculture and rural development.
Presented at APPRI 2008 International Workshop, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, 21-24 October 2008