Rapid Appraisal of Agricultural Innovation Systems (RAAIS): constraints and opportunities for innovation in controlling parasitic weeds in rainfed rice production in Tanzania
Agricultural Innovation Systems (AIS) approaches have been advocated as a framework for integrated and holistic analyses of complex agricultural problems. The potential of AIS approaches to address complex agricultural problems remains largely unexplored. One of the reasons is the lack of a coherent set of conceptual and methodological building blocks that can provide insights into the (added) value of the AIS approach. This paper presents RAAIS, an ex-ante diagnostic tool that can support the analysis of AIS. RAAIS provides a first characterisation of complex agricultural problems, and the agricultural system in which the problem is embedded. RAAIS offers insight into the most relevant system dimensions, multilevel interactions, and the constraints, needs and interests of multiple stakeholders. In this study, we reflect on the application of RAAIS in the analysis of parasitic weed problems in rainfed rice production in Tanzania. Semistructured interviews, farmer and extensionist surveys and multistakeholder workshops were held in three districts in Tanzania where parasitic weeds are prevalent. The results show that, in Tanzania, the national crop protection system focuses on the control of (insect) pests and diseases, and not on weed prevention, which is essential for addressing parasitic weed problems effectively. Constraints along the rice value chain concentrate around the limited use of clean (certified) rice seed, which facilitates the spread of parasitic weed seeds through the informal rice seed system. Weeds, and parasitic weeds in particular, receive little attention in the agricultural research and training system in Tanzania. Consequently, extension and crop-protection officers have limited knowledge of parasitic weeds and how to effectively prevent and control them. More general challenges relate to the lack of policy coherence and coordinated action between public and private stakeholders in the agricultural system. We conclude that RAAIS can facilitate the delineation of AIS boundaries and the effective selection and action-oriented use of other, more in-depth, systems tools to enhance innovative capacity in agricultural systems.
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