Who talks to whom in African agricultural research information networks? The Malawi case

Klaus Droppelmann, Mariam A.T.J. Mapila, John Mazunda, Paul Howard Thangata, Jason Yauney

The sector-wide approach currently dominates as the strategy for developing the agricultural sector of many African countries. Although it is recognized that agricultural research plays a vital role in ensuring success of sectorwide agricultural development strategies, there has been little or no effort to explicitly link the research strategies of the National Agricultural Research System (NARS) in African countries to the research agenda that is articulated in sectorwide agricultural development strategies. This study fills that gap by analyzing the readiness of Malawi’s NARS to respond to the research needs of the national agricultural sector development strategy, namely the Agriculture Sector Wide Approach (ASWAp) program. Results of a social network analysis demonstrate that public agricultural research departments play a central coordinating role in facilitating information sharing, with other actors remaining on the periphery. However, that analysis also shows the important role other actors play in relaying information to a wider network of stakeholders. These secondary information pathways can play a crucial role in ensuring successful implementation of the national agricultural research agenda. Policymakers and managers of public research programs are called upon to integrate other research actors into the mainstream national agricultural research information network. This is vital as other research actors are, at the global level, increasingly taking up a greater role in financing and disseminating research and research results, and in enhancing the scaling up and out of new agricultural technologies.

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