Science and Practice – A Complex Relationship

In this year’s GIZ/EZ session, the linkages and the connectivity between research and development was discussed. How much research is necessary, and what type of knowledge and partnerships are needed to reach the final beneficiaries? - was the main question that arose their symposium.


The session started by discussing problems related to innovation: on the one hand, there is a lack of knowledge from the farmers' side. On the other hand, scientists believe they know what the problems connected to agriculture are, but often they are not completely aware of the frame conditions. You can tackle the problem if you don’t know as much as it is possible to know. There is also a big difficulty regarding the finance, as people - both scientists and farmers - are often not enough well-off and can’t afford the smallest investment in any kind of innovation. After all, we are living in a time of crisis. Furthermore, very often, farms lack manpower, and this occurs especially in Africa. There might be different goals in a project that involve farmers and scientists: goals like lowering the risk and highering the improvements, or producing peer review articles or increasing the possibilities of employment.

Possible solutions to such issues were discussed as follows:

- Cross-sectorial approaches – A multi-stakeholder project is most suitable to overcome systematic constraints. For this reason, the education of young professionals should be adapted to this reality. A concrete example would be to set up joint graduate schools and build up inter-university programmes for P.hD students.

- Think about scaling immediately - The matter of a possible scale has to be considered the right one since the beginning of a project

- Long-term engagement – It's often hard to know in the short-term the side and frame conditions. It's hard to tackle the problem if you don’t know everything (for example: problems related to support or extension services that are not known well enough). More generally speaking, it's necessary to know the whole knowledge system of the entire region/country where the research is being conducted.

- Capacity building – This has to be done step by step, and has to be done with local partners. People and stakeholders should be included because of the rate of adoption. This process is not always working well but it anyway creates a better understanding among the different partners. Furthermore, national research institutes and universities should be better involved and, in case of specific projects, private partnerships could be a good opportunity as well.

People from the audience also suggested that there should be less competition among scientists. An attendee, in particular, commented that “we work together when we get money for a joint project, but otherwise we are competing for funds.” The requirements profile for the next generation of scientists, according to the audience, may look like that: we have to be polyglot, international, speak a lot of languages, stay longer in the concerned countries and, in general, we should slow down a bit. The question is whether this is really applicable in the reality and how realistic this is. There were also several critical remarks highlighting that the discussed issues and possible solutions are not really new but have rather been discussed several times already. Anyway, as we are living in a complex world with complex problems, we will for sure being discussing on such topics again and again. This doesn’t mean that we are not having a progress, but it shows the complexity of the issues in this matter. There are, however, changes going on as many donors are discussing about new orientation of developing aid, and this could be a chance for the whole community of scientists and practitioners.


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