March 29th 2013

Systemic analysis of innovation processes in banana systems in the Great Lakes region

How do farmers in the Great Lakes region (Rwanda, Burundi, Kivu) manage to overcome major challenges such as the lack of resources, production means and plants diseases ?


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The agrarian systems of the Great Lakes region (Rwanda, Burundi and Kivu), one of the most densely populated on the continent, are characterised by small family farms where banana cultivation constitutes an agronomic, food, economic and social pillar for households. Faced with major challenges such as lack of production means (labour force, degradation of soil fertility) and diseases (banana bacterial wilt), farmers must innovate to overcome these constraints.

Using a systemic and comprehensive approach developed and constructed over the course of the research, this thesis analyses the innovation processes at work in the region’s agricultural systems.

The results highlight the diversity, complexity and efficiency of small-scale farming. Taking these elements into account throughout the research process has made it possible to understand farmers’ strategies and to overcome the negative perceptions (archaism, incompetence) that too often weigh on them, in order to recognize their capacities.

This study demonstrates the potential of a bottom-up and systemic approach to innovation in relation to the solutions that are most often exclusively technical and are carried by numerous national and international players. Two action-research projects, one in microfinance and the other in plant pathology, illustrate the usefulness of this type of approach and the interest of the methodology developed. This interdisciplinary thesis contributes to legitimizing an alternative path that is more relevant for tomorrow’s agriculture while questioning the role of the researcher in agricultural research for development.


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