Agricultural Innovation in the CIS

The current challenges to agriculture have raised the need to find new solutions to support farmers and other market players in improving production efficiency, fostering sustainability and empowering the rural population.  According to research carried out by the World Bank, around 75% of the Worlds poor are involved in agriculture, which has a fundamental role in the world economy.

Agriculture is important to the majority of countries within the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States), however they lack knowledge and experience in innovation and research. The question whether adaptation of European or other innovative systems can have positive impact on the further development of agricultural sector in the CIS counties has been raised for many years now.  Fostering innovation in agriculture has become one of the main concerns for local and international experts even though hardly anyone has come up with a blueprint for making agricultural innovation happen. Due to rapidly emerging challenges such as  climate change and changing consumer demands many parties struggle to react rapidly enough through investing in new technologies, or adjusting farming systems.

In all the CIS countries the standards established during the Soviet era and immediately after the collapse of the Soviet Union are still in place today. Unfortunately, they are often far below the standards set by international organizations.

In order to strengthen the capacity to innovate many specialists in the CIS states focus on embedding knowledge in real life, and in real farming situations.

There are good examples of projects to encourage innovation in Armenia, for example the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development is funding forums of farmers, dairy processors and ministry of agriculture officials in order to build capacity within the dairy sector.

According to the National Statistical Service approx. 37% of Armenia’s population is living in rural communities. The majority of local population in rural areas is engaged in substantive agriculture on small farms with an average monthly income of USD 110. The poverty level among rural population is 36%. Special departments of the UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) are running projects to train  farmers and other agricultural stakeholders through internationally experienced professionals. The training includes case studies, theory, practical tasks and exchange of experience within the communities.

The System of Innovation by Bergek et al. (2007)  suggests that if an innovation system is to evolve then, it has to perform well within 7 dimensions, these are:

  1. Knowledge development and diffusion;
  2. Influence on direction of search and identification of opportunities;
  3. Entrepreneurial experimentation and management of risk and uncertainty;
  4. Market formation;
  5. Resource mobilization;
  6. Legitimation;
  7. Development of positive externalities.

This research suggests that innovation leadership is a fundamental issue when it comes to finding new solutions, however this is lacking in many CIS countries. The combination of innovation theory and innovation practice is not something that can be ”developed“ overnight. However for success it is important to gather opinions of all stakeholders and input innovative ideas and solutions in rural development. To achieve success in agriculture, business, government and science should act as one, and is likely to be the key to success for agriculture in the CIS,  like it was in majority of other developed countries.

Copyright: skyfish555 / 123RF Stock Photo