Scaling Up Through Participatory
Researchers, community activists, field workers and farm advisors are charged to work with many stakeholders and develop technologies that have widespread relevance. There are a number of successful approaches to this, from participatory breeding programs to farmer field schools. Many of these approaches involve experimentation, either through fostering learning and testing of technologies by farmers, or more formal trials for large-scale testing.
Participatory methods can be linked with trial designs to involve farmers and rural stakeholders in defining experimentation objectives and assessment of technology performance. Conducting surveys in conjunction with trials is one important tool that helps document farmer preferences and evaluation of the process, and of the technologies or varieties being tested. Detailed guides are available presenting information on how to carry out on-farm trials and complementary surveys (see for example, Mutsaers et al., 1997).
Quality interaction and investment of time and resources at a local level are critical to building relationships and conducting cooperative, participatory research. Heterogeneity of the biophysical landscape and the diversity of stakeholders with their different agendas are also a reality. These pose barriers to scaling up and out to reach a wide audience. Financial and human resource support requirements would have to be massive to engage many people in participatory action research.