Multilevel Innovation Platforms for Development of Smallholder Livestock Systems: How effective are they?

Zelalem Lema, Lisa A. Lobry de Bruyn , Graham R. Marshall , Romana Roschinsky, Alan Duncan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


There is growing recognition that sustainable development of smallholder agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa requires a systems approach. One response to this has been the application of the agricultural innovation systems concept and the use of Innovation Platforms (IP) as tools for agricultural development. By providing social space and facilitating interactions among farmers, researchers and other stakeholders, IPs can promote collective action and foster innovation. The question is, how effective are these IPs in stimulating innovation that can be sustained beyond their lifetime, and can they be used to link issues across multiple scales? The case study reported here examined the effect of a multilevel IP structure in achieving smallholder livestock innovation outcomes in the Ethiopian Highlands. Our findings indicate that a series of IPs inter-linked across scales facilitated researcher-led technical innovations that enhanced the capacity of farmers and livestock experts around feed technologies. The multilevel IPs also improved linkages and strengthened partnerships between actors within and across levels to implement farm-level technologies effectively. However, sustained innovation requires the creation of a shared understanding among actors on the complex nature of the various value chain issues that need to be addressed to achieve meaningful change. Specifically, we found that farmers
lack access to affordable services, and this requires an integration of value chain concepts
within multilevel IPs at the early stages of formation to engage relevant actors across levels
to stimulate multiple interventions beyond the farm-level. Changes are needed at the organizational level to facilitate reconfiguration of resources and devolution of responsibilities to support the innovation process. Similar to other studies on the utility of
IPs, we found that the existence of power dynamics and an institutional context that favours the status quo are key issues that need be considered when building multilevel IPs
to achieve inclusive value chain innovations.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAgricultural systems
Early online date16 Jan 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 16 Jan 2021


  • multilevel structure
  • innovation platforms
  • functions of innovation systems
  • smallholder livestock
  • Ethiopia


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