SR article

Gambia's view on innovation

Since our project makes use of some very innovating conservation techniques, it is quite important to know Gambia's view towards innovation in general.

In Hekkert (2007), the innovation process is described as the development of technology joined with the system in which this technology is embedded. He defines 'innovation' as the "successful combination of hardware, software, and orgware, where orgware refers to the various components of the innovation system" (p.414). An innovation system is then the underlying principle that causes technological change and its resulting innovations. Through such an innovation system, one can determine all societal subsystems, persons and institutions that contribute to innovation. Thus, by mapping the activities in such a system, insights on the innovation process can be achieved.

As Hekkert tells us, these activities can be divided in the following seven areas, which also influence each other [29]. We combined the innovation analysis on the project level and the country level, because we think this gives a better overview.

Entrepreneurial activities/business system

According to an appraisal report of the Department of Social and Human Development of the Gambian government, there is a lack of opportunities to engage in entrepreneurship in especially the rural areas. That is why the government has initiated the 'Entrepreneurship promotion and microfinance development project' in 2007, in which they promise to train over 24,000 people in the rural areas in entrepreneurship. This project had a duration of five years. This shows that The Gambia indeed has entrepreneurial activities on its agenda. However, there are still a lot of constraints like a lack of market opportunities, a lack of access to financial and technical resources and the people’s dependence on a single economic activity, since all the Gambians in the rural area have is their harvest [30]. These constraints are very noticeable in the area where we are going to realise the project of solar drying and entrepreneurial activities are not supported in this area.

Knowledge development/education system

In 2007, the Ministry of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology (MoHERST) was created [31]. Before that, The Gambia did not have a formal science and technology policy. For our project, however, this is not relevant since most of the farmers that we are going to work with only had primary education if they even had the possibility to go to school at all. We are also going to work with some children at a boarding school, so their level of knowledge and understanding is much higher. 

Knowledge diffusion through networks/network system

There are no organised networks were knowledge can be shared in The Gambia [32]. In the rural areas, sharing knowledge happens by chatting at the market, learning friends and family something new that one has thought of and the word spreads. However, this is not systematic or reliable. By giving workshops in different villages and on the school, we hope to bring our knowledge to the people in a valuable way. Furthermore, there are some other institutes in The Gambia that have knowledge, for example MyFarm. Also, the knowledge will be in the Kairoh Garden Foundation after our project.

Guidance of the search/research system

On a national level the selection of options for R&D is made by MoHERST. On local level, in the rural areas, this selection is made by the market. An innovation will only withstand if there is a demand for the innovation (in our case, for dried food). We can influence this demand slightly by emphasizing the positive aspects of dried food, using the knowledge networks, and thus raising consciousness, curiosity and expectations.

Market formation/how markets function

The Gambia does have a number of taxes that they can use to create a market temporarily [33]. Again, this is not applicable to our project. We are going to create a market by spreading knowledge and creating a demand, as explained above.

Resources mobilization

Resources mobilization in The Gambia is very hard, since The Gambia itself simply does not have many resources. For our project, not many resources are needed. We have raised funds and we bring knowledge with us. Furthermore, the women in the villages grow the food themselves.

Creation of legitimacy/counteract resistance to change

The combination of selection, market formation and resources creates legitimacy for the innovation. By completing the different actions that we have described above, we aim for acceptance of the solar dryer technology and for the use of dried food. 

From this, we can conclude that The Gambia has some opportunities for innovation, but it can almost only be done when it is pursued by the government. For local people, opportunities are small which makes it a lot harder. However, there are some possibilities for innovation.


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