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Assessment of the Enabling Rural Innovation (ERI) approach: Case studies from Malawi and Uganda

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This paper presents lessons from applying an innovative action research approach for linking smallholder farmers to markets, in eastern and southern Africa. The Enabling Rural Innovation (ERI) approach aims to strengthen social organization and entrepreneurial capacity in rural communities. It focuses on fostering community-based capacity for the inclusion of rural women and the poor in analyzing and accessing market opportunities. Using case studies from Malawi and Uganda the paper assesses the outcomes of ERI on rural communities with a focus on human capital, gender issues and investment in natural resource management. Results show that households are benefiting significantly from linkages to markets in terms of increasing household incomes, and accumulating assets. Skills in analyzing markets and in negotiating with traders have increased among smallholder farmers. The integration of gender in the approach has led to changes in gender decision making patterns at household and community level towards a more shared decision-making process. The results however show a difference in skills between men and women, with women showing lower levels of skills acquisition. Farmer participatory research has increased investments in improved technologies such as fertilizer applications for soil fertility management.
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Keywords: Enabling Rural Innovation; Farmer market linkages; Gender; Human capital; Natural resource management

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: International Centre for Tropical Agriculture, Kampala, Uganda 2: International Centre for Tropical Agriculture, Mt. Pleasant, Harare, Zimbabwe 3: Tropical Soil Biology and Fertility Instititute, Mt. Pleasant, Harare, Zimbabwe 4: International Centre for Tropical Agriculture, Kampala Uganda

Publication date: 2008-02-01

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