Overcoming constraints of scaling: Critical and empirical perspectives on agricultural innovation scaling

Published Date
May 27, 2021
Type
Journal Article
Overcoming constraints of scaling: Critical and empirical perspectives on agricultural innovation scaling
Authors:
Million Gebreyes
Kindu Mekonnen, Peter Thorne, Melkamu Derseh, Aberra Adie, Annet Mulema, Seid Ahmed Kemal, Lulseged Tamene, Tilahun Amede, Amare Haileslassie, Aster Gebrekirstos, Walter Tamuka Mupangwa, Mohammed Ebrahim, Temesgen Alene, Addisu Asfaw, Workneh Dubale, Simret Yasabu

Scaling is a ubiquitous concept in agricultural research in the global south as donors require
their research grantees to prove that their results can be scaled to impact upon the livelihoods
of a large number of beneficiaries. Recent studies on scaling have brought critical
perspectives to the rather technocratic tendencies in the agricultural innovations scaling literature.
Drawing on theoretical debates on spatial strategies and practical experience of
agricultural innovation scaling in Ethiopia, this paper adds to the current debate on what constitutes
scaling and how to overcome critical scaling constraints. The data for the paper
came from a qualitative assessment using focus group discussions, key informant interviews,
and document analysis on scaling work done in Ethiopia by a USAID-funded
research for development project. The paper concludes with four broad lessons for the current
understating of agricultural innovation scaling. First, scaling of agricultural innovations
requires a balanced focus on technical requirements and associated social dynamics surrounding
scaling targets, actors involved and their social relations. Second, appreciating the
social dynamics of scaling emphasizes the fact that scaling is more complex than a linear
rolling out of innovations towards diffusion. Third, scaling may not be strictly planned;
instead, it might be an extension of the innovation generation process that relies heavily on
both new and long-term relationships with key partners, trust, and continuous reflection and
learning. Fourth, the overall implication of the above three conclusions is that scaling strategies
need to be flexible, stepwise, and reflective. Despite the promises of flourishing scaling
frameworks, scaling strategies it would appear from the Africa RISING experience that, if
real impact is to be achieved, approaches will be required to be flexible enough to manage
the social, processual and emergent nature of the practice of scaling.

Citation:
Million Gebreyes, Kindu Mekonnen, Peter Thorne, Melkamu Derseh, Aberra Adie, Annet Mulema, Seid Ahmed Kemal, Lulseged Tamene, Tilahun Amede, Amare Haileslassie, Aster Gebrekirstos, Walter Tamuka Mupangwa, Mohammed Ebrahim, Temesgen Alene, Addisu Asfaw, Workneh Dubale, Simret Yasabu. (27/5/2021). Overcoming constraints of scaling: Critical and empirical perspectives on agricultural innovation scaling. PLoS ONE, 16 (5), pp. 1-19.
Keywords:
research
agriculture
farming systems
intensification
innovation systems