January 1st 2014

Agricultural innovation from above and from below: confrontation and integration on Rwanda’s hills

How are 'top-down' innovations received and implemented in banana cropping systems in Rwanda? How do smallholders deal with new government policies when they fail to reflect local economic and social realities?


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In its 2008 World Development Report, the World Bank pleaded for a ‘Green Revolution’ for sub-Saharan Africa, pointing particularly to the importance of including smallholder farmers. This article focuses on the banana cropping system in Rwanda, and on the agricultural innovations introduced within this system.

We first consider macro-level innovations that are designed to promote a modernized agricultural sector and that correspond to the rationale of the Green Revolution. We analyse how such ‘top-down’ innovations are received on the ground and show how smallholders seek to evade new government policies when they fail to reflect local economic and social realities.

This demonstrates how some rural Rwandans are challenging the authority of the government in disguised ways in order to protect their local livelihoods. The Rwandan experience should inspire continent-wide Green Revolution policies to take account of the risk-coping rationale of small-scale farmers and their capacity to innovate ‘from below’.


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