Conducting the scoping study, inception workshop, innovation niche identification, national innovation facilitator training and initiaiting capacity needs assessment, were the main activities in 2016, in close collaboration with FAO, the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR) and Agrinatura, with full operation of the project following recruitment of a national project manager in September 2016. The steering committee met five times between September 2016 and February 2017, discussing selection and training of innovation niche and national innovation facilitators, the capacity need assessment, and the Agrinatura/EIAR partnership. Also advising the country team on implementation, the technical committee including extension organizations, NGOs, private sector actors and universities, organized three meetings from September 2016 to February 2017.
The inception workshop in April 2016 was attended by 58 participants, who were asked to formulate ideal characteristics of an agricultural innovation system. Participants generally agreed with the list of main stakeholders as presented by the scoping study, but the country team agreed not to present the stakeholder map as it had created significant discussion in an earlier technical validation meeting. All groups agreed that there are many actors involved and relationships are often complex. Groups also derived a statement on how innovation systems should look in 2025, and that they should comprise of several interacting actors that improve agricultural yields. The criteria used to select the innovation niches presented in the scoping study were also presented. Participants agreed that the technical working group would further refine the suggested list. The project has been promoting itself by engaging with Farm Radio International, enriching the Ethiopian page of the CDAIS website, presentations in conferences with relevant professional associations and meetings called by similar projects, inviting the media and preparing press releases for workshops, policy dialogues and the marketplace.