The Strategic Plan places great emphasis on an innovation system approach, sometimes referred to as IAR4D. This puts farmers and users at the centre of innovative practices, and encourages learning through the interchange of ideas, successes and failures among stakeholders.
The targeted clients of the Strategic Plan, who will be the initial focus, include poor small-holder farmers, female-headed households, youths and other vulnerable groups. Under the IAR4D paradigm, communities and end-users are placed at the centre of innovation processes by:
- Creating multi-institutional innovation platforms at relevant levels to support and encourage the interaction of diverse stakeholder groups. These may range in scope from formally established platforms, to transient platforms in response to, and based on, specific demand.
- Creating and supporting, national focal points to serve as innovation platforms that would encourage and promote the IAR4D paradigm.
- Increasing beneficiary awareness of their role as full partners in research, empowering and encouraging them to take an active part in identification, planning, implementation and M&E.
- Tailoring research output and knowledge to meet the needs of farmers and end-users.
- Strengthening new and existing partnerships through the establishment of formal agreements which would identify specific roles, responsibilities and expectations of stakeholders, whilst making informal relationships to facilitate new paradigm research as and when necessary.
The emphasis of technical research is on adaptive and applied research. ARCN’s mandate is to deliver the indicated results and achieve its growth targets. It focuses on impact-oriented activities and undertakes other basic, strategic, and more upstream research only where there is a comparative advantage and clear rationale in relation to its Strategic Plan objectives.
Policy research, an integral component of this Strategic Plan, is a significant new element in the approach being taken by ARCN to agricultural research and development. Policy, markets, trade, institutional and socio-economic themes cut across the programme activities of all the elements of the Council. All commodity and system-based research contains policy research elements.
In its broadest sense, policy research responds to the demand of policy and decision makers for information on how to improve policy, and create the enabling environment for high levels of sustained economic growth in the sector. It informs policy makers and enhances decision-making based on relevant, factual information. This implies identifying the key national [and in some cases sub-regional] policy and decision-makers, creating effective working partnerships between them and the programmes of the Institutes and Secretariat.
As policy research is a new area of strategic focus, it is identifying, developing and establishing policy related partnerships to support policy, trade, markets, institutional, and socio-economic issues.
Strong inter-personal links underpin the forum [or forums] which facilitate the effective establishment and operation of consultation and articulation of demand. A different approach is used compared with that for facilitating the articulation of demand for technical research. The enhancement and development of the skills and competencies required for this form part of the Programme’s strategy.