In the last decade, a growing number of organizations have approached agricultural research and extension in ways that involve farmers as equal partners in all stages of the development process. These groups have also focused on strengthening the capacities of farmers and rural communities to experiment and innovate.
It has been recognized that these interactive approaches, often referred to by the umbrella term Participatory Technology Development (PTD) (van Veldhuizen et al., 1997), are necessary in order to improve agriculture and natural resource management, especially in the less well-endowed rural areas (Röling, 1996). Recently, some promising efforts have been made to institutionalize PTD within large organizations of agricultural research, extension and education/training both government and non-government organizations (NGOs).
This paper compares and analyzes some experiences in different countries in institutionalizing PTD, based on a study initiated by the International Institute of Rural Reconstruction (IIRR) in the Philippines and ETC Ecoculture in the Netherlands. Nineteen organizations took part in the study as well as in the subsequent one-week workshop on the topic.
The concept of Farmer Participatory Research (FPR) originally referred to efforts of scientists to involve farmers in (part of) their research activities. The approach has gradually evolved into PTD, which gives a more central role to farmers and their organizations in defining research agendas and in planning and implementing the actual research, with the aim of increasing local research and development capacities.