Editorial by RNI, April 2017

“Agro ecological innovation and development”, by Ludovic Temple*

The convergence of the renewed importance of sustainable development and technological transitions opens a controversy over the economic model mobilized or strengthened. The first model is based on the industrialization of the production function by the standardization of the inputs used to produce agricultural and food products. It is based on the search for the economies of scale, the concentration and specialization of farms and territories. This productivity-efficient model underlies a polarized innovation trajectory by liberating the productive activity of natural and social ecosystem. It reduces the diversity of the latter to a constraint that must be homogenized. A second economic model underlies an agriculture based on more family-friendly production methods. It is based more on the potential of natural and social ecosystems and on the diverse social production structures. These two models converge in the recognition of the inadequacy of the « diffusionist » innovation model based on the concept of invention as result of scientific research and its transfer from laboratory to global agriculture. This convergence can be analyzed by the concept of innovation system. The special issue of Technology and Innovation (http://www.openscience.fr/Innovations-agro-ecologiques-et-Developpement) highlights inter-tropical agriculture in developing countries: Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Haiti, Madagascar; Senegal and on different innovation processes (agro-ecology, biotechnology, bioenergy).

How the co-evolution between the adaptation of innovation models and technological trajectories that ecologize agronomic practices generates different impacts on development? These case studies confirm the increasing integration of inclusive research of stakeholders in the innovation processes. They describe an open collaborative evolution of the innovation models mobilized. The openness of the procedures reveal themselves as a potential explanation of the impacts of research on development. A second condition favourable to these impacts is identified in processes that reduce the labour hardship or enhance the innovation capacity of farmers to self-generate inputs from local resources. The development of innovation and research policies focused on the public good in the light of local societal expectations is a main issue.

* CIRAD UMR Innovation, Montpellier