Understanding dynamics of farmer-led innovation in the growth of small/smallholder commercial agriculture in Mozambique
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Mozambique is a country that lacks strong state institutions and has a turbulent history, the countries civil war coming to a close as recently as 1992. In the absence of government support which addresses the needs of the rural population, the majority of which are engaged in agriculture and live in poverty, and the ephemeral nature of development interventions, a considerable responsibility falls on farmers to be drivers of development in agriculture. This is especially true of processes of farmer-led irrigation development, which is expanding rapidly across SSA and is becoming an increasing focus of academia and international development organisations alike. Understanding the dynamics which underpin these farmer-led processes of development can provide invaluable insights that can facilitate moves towards supporting, rather than controlling, agricultural development. While modern literature has transcended the idea that the spread of innovations in agriculture can be attributed to the extrinsic characteristics of innovation or potential adapter, and come to greater appreciate the social dynamics which drive such processes, the exact nature of these social dynamics requires further attention. Furthermore, such studies generally focus on who does share and receive knowledge, rather than those who are excluded from engaging with such innovations. As such, this research aims to understand how innovation spreads in farmer-led processes of (irrigation) development in central Mozambique. This study was undertaken using an ethnographic approach to gain an emic understanding of these processes, as farmers experience them, and understand the barriers which face farmers trying to adopt given innovations from the same perspective. Rather than focusing on all innovations simultaneously spreading through various channels, a case study was performed on the spread of two complimentary sets of innovations which are currently facilitating smallscale farmers entering into commercial fruit production. These are innovations related to the growing of litchi trees and those pertaining to irrigation development, a prerequisite for farmers who wish to enter into this industry. The findings of this research corroborate other findings from Mozambique that innovations are generally transmitted in small social networks of highly connected individuals, mainly through networks of family and friends/neighbours. Learning by observation alone was found to play a minimal role in the spread of such innovations, attributable to both the social dynamics above and the highly specialized nature of knowledge associated with these innovations. The current wave of farmer-led development through which these innovations are spreading to the wider community in Inhazonia are found to be built upon processes of elite capture facilitated by clientelism and, as such, raises important questions about these two processes, which would generally be juxtaposed to one another.