This study stresses the importance that SI practices – a process where yields increase without adverse environmental impact or the cultivation of more land – are developed by, and continually responsive to, the experience of primary actors in agriculture (e.g. farmers, input suppliers, etc.). This approach to SI ensures that successful practices are reinforced from the start, drawing on the knowledge and innovations of the same farmers who will go on to implement them. Chapter 5 underpins the integrity of farmer-level influence in the development of SI, presenting data from a series of case studies across Africa, Asia and Latin America, in which grassroots SI innovations have succeeded – even in the absence of state support.
The book then makes the case that an ‘environment’ conducive to farmer-level development and innovation in SI should be created by those with the capital and authority to do so, such as the state, NGOs, large-scale private enterprise and financial institutions. In particular, the book advocates partnerships between private enterprise – with the capital and structural agility to adapt to emerging knowledge, problems and innovations in agriculture – and governments that are able to uphold the private sector’s accountability. However, the authors emphasise that an enabling SI environment can only be successful if these secondary actors are receptive to the knowledge and lessons accumulated by primary actors on the ground, and eschew a prescriptive, top-down approach to SI practices.