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Journal of Mountain Science

, Volume 3, Issue 4, pp 305–324 | Cite as

Participatory and integrated research in mountainous regions of Thailand and Vietnam: Approaches and lessons learned

  • Andreas NeefEmail author
  • Franz Heidhues
  • Karl Stahr
  • Pittaya Sruamsiri
Article

Abstract

Participatory and integrated research approaches employed by a long-term Thai-Vietnamese-German collaborative research program, ‘The Uplands Program’, that address the vicious circles of resource scarcity, environmental degradation and rural poverty in mountainous regions of northern Thailand and northern Vietnam are discussed in this paper. We present two examples from the Thai component of the research program to show how different disciplines and stakeholders need to cooperate at different scales to make meaningful scientific contributions towards sustainable land use and rural development in mountainous regions. The case of resource conservation in the Thai highlands shows that local and scientific knowledge, conventional surveys and participatory modeling can be creatively combined. Integrated research on the potential of integrating fruit trees and associated technologies into mountain farming systems suggests that natural scientists have to work alongside economists and social scientists to avoid harmful effects of purely technology-driven and productivity-enhancing approaches. The success of new technologies cannot be measured solely by adoption rates and yield increases, but also needs to take into account their long-term impact on various groups of farmers and the ecological, economic and social trade-offs that they entail. Technical and institutional innovations need to go hand in hand to provide viable livelihood opportunities for smallholder farmers in mountain watersheds. The major lesson learned from the first six years of our research in the mountains of Thailand and Vietnam is that conventional and participatory approaches are not antagonistic; if scientists from various disciplines and research paradigms are open-minded, the combination of both approaches can produce meaningful results that cater for the needs of both the academic community and local stakeholders in mountain environments.

Keywords

Integrated research participatory approaches local and scientific knowledge Thailand Vietnam 

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Copyright information

© Science Press 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andreas Neef
    • 1
    Email author
  • Franz Heidhues
    • 1
  • Karl Stahr
    • 1
  • Pittaya Sruamsiri
    • 2
  1. 1.University of HohenheimStuttgartGermany
  2. 2.Chiang Mai UniversityThailand

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