While efforts to improve agricultural innovation have typically focused primarily on training and organizational capacity development, there is an emerging practice that is centered on improving incentives for cooperation and strengthening linkages among relevant actors through what are known as “innovation intermediaries” or “innovation brokers.”
Examples of this new approach can be found in the Papa Andina Partnership Program, based at the International Potato Center (CIP), an international agricultural research center affiliated to the CGIAR and working in Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru. The program functions as a second-level innovation broker in the Andean potato sector, backstopping national partners who facilitate local innovation processes in their respective countries, with the goal of developing more effective ways of bringing stakeholders together to promote within market chains innovation processes that benefit small-scale potato farmers in highland areas where native varieties of potatoes still predominate. Until recently, these native varieties received almost no attention in potato research agendas. In Ecuador, for example, native potatoes have almost disappeared from the market. But the new innovation approaches have focused on their untapped market potential, particularly given their diversity in color and shape, high cooking versatility, nutritional profile, and traditional, low input production practices. The program has focused on ways to exploit this potential through finding innovative ways to expand the market for native potatoes through product development — and working with researchers, farmers, private companies, and nutritional and gastronomic experts.
Early products have opened new market niches and brought higher prices for farmers. Among these were T’ikapapa (bagged native potatoes), which received the prestigious BBC World Challenge Award and the UN Seed Award, and Jalca Chips (multicolored native potato chips), which became highly popular in the duty-free shops at Lima airport. As a result, a supply chain has been created that gives more than 200 farmers access to a stable market and a negotiated price that provides them with a 20–40 percent profit margin.
- André Devaux, Miguel Ordinola and Douglas Horton, eds., Innovation for Development: The Papa Andina Experience, (Lima: International Potato Center, 2011), 76.