Participatory Research and Development for Sustainable Agriculture and Natural Resource Management: A Sourcebook - Vol. 1

By Julian Gonsalves; Thomas Becker et al. | Go to book overview

22
Developing Agricultural Solutions
with Smallholder Farmers: How to
Get Started with Participatory
Approaches
Farmers are natural experimenters. They are always trying new ideas and technologies to improve their farming practices. Before government extension services existed, farmers based this experimentation on their own knowledge and the experiences and ideas of other farmers in their area. Only in the last few decades have governments established research and extension agencies to help farmers improve agricultural production. Extension workers in these agencies usually promote technologies developed by researchers (such as new rice varieties), implement government programs (such as livestock credit schemes) and administer government regulations.

This paper is an edited version of
an entire guidebook with the same
title. For more details, refer to:
Horne, P.M. and W.W. Stür. 2003.
Developing Agricultural Solutions
with Smallholder Farmers: How to
Get Started with Participatory
Approaches.

In some cases, this approach to agricultural development has worked well. For example, improved rice varieties and fertilizers have helped farmers in lowland areas to increase yields. In other cases, such as for smallholder agricultural systems in upland areas, this approach has not worked well. We have to ask ourselves ‘Why not?’
❑ Often we simply did not understand farmers’ needs, assuming that improved productivity alone was enough to ensure adoption.
❑ The huge variation in resources, opportunities and constraints between farm households, particularly in upland areas, means that no single technology will be appropriate for all farmers.

-172-

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