Agriculture and Human Values

, Volume 11, Issue 2–3, pp 26–37 | Cite as

Farmers and researchers: The road to partnership

  • Deborah Merrill-Sands
  • Marie-Hélène Collion
Article

Abstract

User participation is a critical ingredient for relevant technology development, whether in agriculture or industry. This has long been recognized in private sector R&D firms. In most public sector agricultural research organizations in developing countries, however, systematic involvement of farmers, especially poor farmers, in research has been weak. These farmers are rarely powerful or well organized enough to bring pressure to bear on government agencies to respond to their needs and priorities. Farmer-responsive research methods, such as on-farm research, farming systems research, and farmer participatory research, have been introduced into research organizations to compensate for the lack of mechanisms for bringing farmers' views into the formulation of research priorities and agendas. The impact of these approaches in achieving this objective, however, has been less than hoped for.

Insufficient attention to the political and institutional dimensions of developing client-responsive research is a major reason for this lack of impact. To bring about permanent change, farmer-responsive research methods need to be reinforced by changes in the balance of power between research and its clients and in the constellation of decisionmakers responsible for formulating research agendas. Participatory planning methods applied at the level of research programs provide new opportunities for involving farmers in decision-making about program priorities and for systematically incorporating information about client's needs. Recent experiments with strengthening farmers' associations and linking them with research organizations suggest new opportunities for increasing farmers' ability to express demand, act as an external pressure group, and serve as viable partners with research organizations.

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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Deborah Merrill-Sands
  • Marie-Hélène Collion

There are no affiliations available

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