Agriculture and Human Values

, Volume 31, Issue 4, pp 673–681 | Cite as

Using translational research to enhance farmers’ voice: a case study of the potential introduction of GM cassava in Kenya’s coast

  • Corinne Valdivia
  • M. Kengo  Danda
  • Dekha Sheikh
  • Harvey S. JamesJr.
  • Violet Gathaara
  • Grace Mbure
  • Festus Murithi
  • William Folk


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.


Translational research Participatory process Uncertainty Innovation GM Cassava 



We appreciate funding from the John Templeton Foundation, grant #29728, for our project “Assessing and Communicating the Risks and Benefits of GM Cassava in Kenya”.


  1. Adger, W.N. 2006. Vulnerability. Global Environmental Change 16: 268–281.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Agrawala, S., and K. Broad. 2002. Technology transfer perspectives on climate forecast applications. Research in Science and Technology Studies 13: 45–69.Google Scholar
  3. Cheyns, E. 2014. Making ‘minority voices’ heard in transnational roundtables: the role of local NGOs in reintroducing justice and attachments. Agriculture and Human Values, 31(3): 439–453.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Danda, M.K. 2013. Determinants for the market competitive edge of the new cassava seed: A case study of Mtwapa mandate area in the Coastal lowlands of Kenya. Unpublished MS thesis, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology. Nairobi, Kenya: JKUAT.Google Scholar
  5. Eakin, H. 2000. Smallholder maize production and climatic risk: A case study from Mexico. Climatic Change 45: 19–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Foster, A.D., and M.R. Rosenzweig. 2010. Microeconomics of technology adoption. Annual Review of Economics. doi: 10.1146/annurev.economics.102308.124433.Google Scholar
  7. Giller, K.E., E. Witter, M. Corbeels, and P. Tittonell. 2009. Conservation agriculture and smallholder farming in Africa: The heretics’ view. Field Crop Research 114(1): 23–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Gilles, J., and C. Valdivia. 2009. Local forecast communication in the Altiplano. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (BAMS) 90(1): 85–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Godfray, H.C.J., et al. 2010. Food security: The challenge of feeding 9 billion people. Science 327(5967): 812–818.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Hayward, C., L. Simpson, and L. Wood. 2004. Still left out in the cold: Problematizing participatory research and development. Sociologia Ruralis. 44(1): 95–108.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Hendrickson, M.K., J.L. Gilles, W.H. Meyers, K.C. Schneeberger, and W.R. Folk. 2014. Choice and voice: Creating a Community of practice in KwaZulu-Natal. South Africa: Agriculture and Human Values, this issue.Google Scholar
  12. James, H., C. Valdivia, W. Folk, D. Sheikh, F. Murithi, V. Gathaara, M.K. Danda, C. Bett, and G. Mbure. (2014). An assessment of factors facilitating and limiting the adoption of GM cassava in Kenya. Unpublished manuscript. Columbia, MO: University of Missouri.Google Scholar
  13. Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI). 2009. Strategic Plan, 2009-2014. Nairobi, Kenya: KARI.Google Scholar
  14. Kijima, Y. 2011. An inquiry into constraints on a green revolution in Sub-Saharan Africa: the case of NERICA rice in Uganda. World Development 39(1): 77–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Legg, J.P., et al. 2011. Comparing the regional epidemiology of the cassava mosaic and cassava brown streak virus pandemics in Africa. Virus Research 159(2): 161–170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Mason, V.I., et al. 1999. Guidelines for participatory monitoring & evaluation of technologies with farmers. Kitale: Kenya Agricultural Research Institute.Google Scholar
  17. Ministry of Agriculture. 2011. National cassava development strategy 2012–2016. Nairobi: Ministry of Agriculture.Google Scholar
  18. Okali, C., J. Sumber, and J. Farrington. 1994. Farmer participatory research: Rhetoric and reality. London: Intermediate Technology Publications.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Patt, A.P., and D. Schroter. 2008. Perceptions of climate risk in Mozambique: Implications for the success of adaptation strategies. Global Environmental Change 18: 458–467.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Patt, A., P. Suarez, and C. Gwata. 2005. Effects of seasonal climate forecasts and participatory workshops among subsistence farmers in Zimbabwe. PNAS, 102(35): 12623–12628. Accessed 1 May 2014.
  21. Rees, D.J., E.K. Njue, F.W. Makini, and D.M. Mbugua. 1998. Participatory rural appraisals of the farming systems of southwest Kenya, 1995 and 1996. Kitale: Kenya Agricultural Research Institute.Google Scholar
  22. Slovic, P., and E.U. Weber. 2002. Perception of Risk Posed by Extreme Events. Paper presented at Risk Management Strategies in an Uncertain World, Palisades, New York, April 12–13.Google Scholar
  23. Sperling, F., C., Valdivia, R. Quiroz, R. Valdivia, L. Angulo, A. Seimon, and I. Noble. 2008. Transitioning to Climate Resilient Development: Perspectives from Communities of Peru. Climate Change Series No. 115. Washington, DC: The World Bank Environment Department Papers, Sustainable Development Vice Presidency.Google Scholar
  24. Taylor, N.J., et al. 2012. The VIRCA project: Virus resistant cassava for Africa. GM Crops and Food: Biotechnology in Agriculture and the Food Chain 3(2): 93–103.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Valdivia, C., and J.L. Gilles. 2001. Gender and Resource Management: Households and Groups, Strategies and Transitions. Agriculture and Human Values 18(1): 5–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Valdivia, C., J. L. Gilles, and M. García. 2010a. Adapting to Change: Institutions and Processes in Linking Knowledge Systems for Action. In Strengthening Institutions to Address Climate Change and Advance the Greening Economy. 2nd Global Conference of Environmental Governance and Democracy. New Haven, CT: Yale University and United National Institute for Training and Research, 17–19 September.Google Scholar
  27. Valdivia, C., J. L. Gilles, C. Jetté, R. Quiroz, and R. Espejo. 2003. Coping and Adapting to Climate Variability: The Role of Assets, Networks, Knowledge and Institutions. In Insights and Tools for Adaptation: Learning from Climate Variability (pp. 189-199). Washington, DC: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Office of Global Programs, Climate and Societal Interactions.Google Scholar
  28. Valdivia, C., A. Seth, J.L. Gilles, M. García, E. Jiménez, J. Cusicanqui, F. Navia, and E. Yucra. 2010b. Adapting to climate change in andean ecosystems: Landscapes, capitals, and perceptions shaping rural livelihood strategies and linking knowledge systems. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 100(4): 818–834.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Wilkins, L. 2001. A primer on risk: An Interdisciplinary approach to thinking about public understanding of agbiotech. AgBioForum 4(3&4): 163–172.Google Scholar
  30. Woolf, S.H. 2008. The meaning of translational research and why it matters. Journal of the American Medical Association 299(2): 211–213.Google Scholar
  31. Ziervogel, G., and T.E. Downing. 2004. Stakeholder networks: Improving seasonal climate forecasts. Climatic Change 65: 73–103.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Corinne Valdivia
    • 1
  • M. Kengo  Danda
    • 2
  • Dekha Sheikh
    • 4
  • Harvey S. JamesJr.
    • 1
  • Violet Gathaara
    • 3
  • Grace Mbure
    • 5
  • Festus Murithi
    • 6
  • William Folk
    • 7
  1. 1.Department of Agricultural and Applied EconomicsUniversity of MissouriColumbiaUSA
  2. 2.Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, KARI-MtwapaMtwapaKenya
  3. 3.Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, KARI-KabeteNairobiKenya
  4. 4.CalgaryCanada
  5. 5.Kenya Agricultural Research Institute Muguga SouthNairobiKenya
  6. 6.Kenya Agricultural Research Institute HeadquartersNairobiKenya
  7. 7.Department of BiochemistryUniversity of MissouriColumbiaUSA

Personalised recommendations