Prolinnova–South Africa held a three-day workshop (30 Nov–2 Dec 2005) on Participatory Innovation Development (PID) in Polokwane, Limpopo Province, in northern South Africa. It was the first in a learning sequence that continues with fieldwork in the participants’ working areas and a second workshop in early 2006. A total of 34 people (24 men, 10 women) took part. Of these, six were farmers (4 men, 2 women) from Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Provinces. The other participants came from the Limpopo Department of Agriculture, the Universities of Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal, the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) Sustainable Rural Livelihood (SRL) Division and the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC). The workshop was designed to stimulate exchange between stakeholders about the role of local innovation and experimentation in agricultural research and development, primarily in Limpopo Province, and to encourage organisation of farmer innovators to promote local innovation. A similar learning sequence took place in KZN Province last year and led to publication of a catalogue of farmers’ innovations.
After an introduction to the international Prolinnova programme and the concepts of local innovation and PID, presentations were made on experiences with innovation by a male and a female farmer, the BASED (Broadening Agricultural Service and Extension Delivery) programme of the Limpopo Department of Agriculture and the Prolinnova–SA programme. This was followed by small-group discussions on insights and questions. To prepare for the field trip, the workshop participants divided into two groups with different emphases: one group looking at the characteristics of farmer innovators and the other looking at farmer-extension-research partnerships. The fieldwork in Venda, about three hours’ bus trip north of the conference site, was to see farmers’ innovations in small-animal husbandry and soil and water conservation. Two of the innovators visited were workshop participants. On the third day of the workshop, after feedback from the two groups and discussion of insights from the fieldtrip, presentations were made on initiatives in farmer organisation and partnering: the Limpopo Small-Scale Farmers’ Association, the East and Southern Africa Small-Scale Farmers’ Forum (ESAFF), the Agricultural Research for Development programme of the ARC and the PELUM (Participatory Ecological Land Use Management) network in East and Southern Africa. The farmers formed their own group to discuss the way forward with respect to farmer organisation, while the other stakeholders discussed potential synergies between existing initiatives and Prolinnova and the way forward. A presentation on innovation in the face of HIV/AIDS helped contextualise the Prolinnova –SA activities within the reality of rural livelihoods in South Africa. The outcomes of the morning’s discussions formed the basis for action planning. The participants identified their own tasks for fieldwork, which could include describing local innovations, documenting farmer-extension-research partnerships, and using different media to support local innovation. The next meeting (one day of training in photographic or video documentation requested by the farmers, followed by a two-day feedback workshop) will be for exchanging what has been observed, experienced and documented about farmer innovation and PID in the intervening months. This workshop will be hosted by the Centre for Rural Community Empowerment (CRCE), a member of the Prolinnova–SA Core Team. The workshop in Polokwane provided a good opportunity to explore the major concepts and principles of Prolinnova and revealed considerable potential for synergies, particularly with the work of BASED in Participatory Agricultural Extension (PAE) and the efforts by CRCE to support farmer organisation and to use video as a tool in rural community development.