Agriculture and Human Values

, Volume 11, Issue 2, pp 4-25

First online:

Participatory research and the race to save the planet: Questions, critique, and lessons from the field

  • Dianne E. Rocheleau

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


Participation has been widely touted as “the answer” to a number of problems facing sustainable development programs. It is not enough, however, to involve rural people as workers and informants in research and planning endeavors defined by outsiders. A truly collaborative approach will depend upon our ability to broaden our definitions of research and participation, to accommodate a wide spectrum of land users and local knowledge, and to expand our repertoire of research methods. This paper presents a critique of facile approaches to participation, outlines a more inclusive framework for who participates on what terms, and reviews a variety of methods that address the complex realities of rural livelihoods and landscapes. The final section of the paper suggests a multi-institutional model that combines the complementary strengths of several types of organizations in participatory field research and planning.