National Agricultural Innovation Systems that Work for the Poor. Building on the Bolivian Experience (INIS—ANDEAN CHANGE PROGRAMME)


The Andean Change Alliance was created as a learning alliance in Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, partnering two CGIAR centres, CIP and CIAT, with regional organizations who shared a common vision. Andean Change compiled an inventory of 81 participatory methods including those that: i- link low income farmers to markets, ii- enhance social control over development projects, and iii- stimulate the participation of poor farmers in research. Seven were prioritized for broader dissemination. Direct training in participatory methods involved more than 700 participants. In addition, 50 different capacity building events reached more than 2,000 people and 50 different institutions. More than 65 nationally recognized facilitators for the seven methods were trained using trainers‘ guidelines. Andean Change supported 20 cases bringing together the providers of these methods with 17 different requesting partners who wanted to try them out. Providers carried out training and backstopping, and requesting partners implemented the method. Guidelines were prepared for rigorous qualitative and quantitative outcome and impact assessments of the application of the methods using participatory impact pathway analysis. Twelve impact studies of applying the methods in the cases and two synthesis studies looking at the fidelity of implementation and the validity of the theory of change for PMCA and PM&E and CIAL as well as a compendium describing the cases were published.

The studies showed that very poor farmers were able to take more responsibility for their development. For example, the PMCA not only linked smallholders to markets; it let the farmers communicate, negotiate and innovate with others in the value chain. The methods go to the heart of what Amartya Sen (1999) called ―Development as Freedom‖ meaning that development goes beyond pure economic growth which is useful because of what it makes us free to do.

The Policy Roundtable was institutionalized in Bolivia where participatory methods are embedded in the recently created National Institute for Agricultural and Forestry research, and made significant progress towards influencing policy in Peru, Ecuador and Colombia. A web-based Policy Evidence and Argument Bank was developed as a resource for policy influence and advocacy including evidence from the impact studies. Six policy briefs on the contribution of participatory methods were prepared and disseminated to regional partners for use in policy incidence. An interactive web-based portal offers resources including a catalogue of methods, historical impact studies, the Policy Evidence and Argument Bank, and knowledge systematized with partners.

Summing up, Andean Change tested its hypotheses about how participatory methods lead to outcomes and impact with rigorous qualitative and quantitative impact assessments, providing empirical support for policies to reform national agricultural innovation systems. Critics say that participatory methods may work on a small scale for NGOs, but are too labour-intensive, site-specific, costly and unreliable to be replicated reliably. Andean Change has shown that with expert training, participatory methods do produce consistent results across a diverse range of projects without great additional costs. Many agencies adopted the methods promoted because they met farmers‘ demands. The Andean Change approach to achieving pro-poor policy change could be replicated in Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.


Ciat. National Agricultural Innovation Systems that Work for the Poor. Building on the Bolivian Experience (INIS—ANDEAN CHANGE PROGRAMME). (2011) 58 pp. [Final Report, June 2011]

National Agricultural Innovation Systems that Work for the Poor. Building on the Bolivian Experience (INIS—ANDEAN CHANGE PROGRAMME)

Published 1 January 2011