Professor Ockie Bosch, will pursue an innovative global health and development research project, titled “Establishing an Evolutionary Learning Laboratory for Labour Saving Innovations for Women Smallholder Farmers” after winning a Grand Challenges Explorations grant, which is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Grand Challenges Explorations (GCE) funds individuals worldwide to explore innovative ideas to solve persistent global health and development challenges.
Of one of 10 projects to receive funding, Professor Bosch demonstrated in a two-page online application a bold idea in one of four critical global health and development topic areas that included agriculture development, neglected tropical diseases and communications.
“Women farming degraded land using inefficient farming systems that depend on physical labour is characteristic of agricultural production in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia,” says Professor Bosch. “These farming systems are diverse and often complex and it’s evident that no single labour-saving technology, or even a selection of technologies, will provide much impetus for permanent change. Anything new must be fit-for-purpose, not just agriculturally, but also socially, psychologically and culturally. What is need is ‘a new way of thinking’ about the whole of the farming system and the interactions between its component parts.”
The aim of the research is to establish a systems-based Evolutionary Learning Laboratory in which all stakeholders including woman farmers, policy makers and developers of technological innovations will work together on appropriate strategies and technologies to improve such farming systems.
“Of particular importance is the recognition by the Gates Foundation that complex problems of this nature cannot be solved with traditional linear thinking that leads to ‘quick fixes’, but require a systems-thinking approach to ensure long-lasting and sustainable outcomes,” says Professor Bosch.