Using translational research to enhance farmers’ voice: a case study of the potential introduction of GM cassava in Kenya’s coast
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- Valdivia, C., Danda, M.K., Sheikh, D. et al. Agric Hum Values (2014) 31: 673. doi:10.1007/s10460-014-9536-0
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Genetically modified (GM) cassava is currently being developed to address problems of diseases that threaten the food security of farmers in developing countries. The technologies are aimed at smallholder farmers, in hopes of reducing the vulnerability of cassava production to these diseases. In this paper we examine barriers to farmers’ voice in the development of GM cassava. We also examine the role of a translational research process to enhance farmers’ voice, to understand the sources of vulnerability farmers in a group in Kenya’s Coast face, and to determine if their concerns are consistent with those of the scientists in agriculture addressing farmers’ needs. A two-way communication participatory process provided insights into the complex vulnerability context of farmers, their primary concerns with processing and markets of cassava in order to improve livelihoods, the lack of networks with two way communication flows, and the lack of information on GM technologies. The translational research engaged farmers and scientists in an iterative process where scientists are learning what farmers need, and farmers are learning about the potential benefits and risks from GM technologies, while at the same time expressing their concerns.