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Abstract - The Journal of Agricultural Education and Extension - Feb, 2018

Purpose: The limited uptake of improved agricultural practices in Africa raise questions on the functionality of current agricultural research systems. Our purpose is to explore the capacity for local innovation within the research systems of Ethiopia, Malawi and Mozambique.

Design/methodology/approach: Using Conservation Agriculture (CA) as a case study, we qualitatively explore with 26 locally based agricultural researchers the context of CA research and promotion, including their perceptions on persistent research gaps and issues in closing them.

Findings: Respondents identified that CA was not yet a finished product, with concerns regarding the benefit, feasibility and relevance of CA implementation. They asserted that while further adaptation was required, they were unable to do this due to institutional constraints within their research, extension and policy contexts.

Practical implications: We find that CA continues to be considered a donor-driven intervention in its current form and requires substantial further adaptation to local contexts before researchers will deem it ready for farmer uptake. The five research gaps identified by respondents highlight practical areas where further adaptations must occur.

Theoretical implications: Our findings suggest a lack of participatory research and extension most likely reflects limited financial, human and social capital to implement more participatory approaches. Without addressing these capacities, widespread adoption of complex farming systems change appears unlikely.

Originality/Value: Whilst many studies have identified a need for local innovation to enable CA utilisation, few have qualitatively explored directly with local researchers the capacity of such systems to do so. We address this gap in the literature.