“Opting Out”: A Case Study of Smallholder Rejection of Research in Western Kenya

  • Michael MisikoEmail author


Biophysical soil fertility management research, however good the knowledge it generates, has to contend with social processes among smallholders if that research is to help alleviate poverty. This chapter traces the reasons why smallholder farmers in western Kenya “opted out” of the processes of a participatory, community-based soil fertility management research project that was intended to improve their livelihoods. Critical case sampling was used to investigate 16 notable “dissidents” of the action-research processes. In-depth interviews, informal interviews, and participant observation were undertaken among these informants and four focus group discussions were used for follow up and further data collection. Results showed that smallholders’ participation in soil fertility management research was shaped by many factors, including: perceptions of long-term vs. short-term benefits; personalities and the local “politics of research”; contradictory policies or practices of research institutions; and the nature of soil fertility technologies that were being researched. These factors had similar influences across gender and age. This chapter suggests that meaningful researcher–smallholder partnerships can be achieved if policies and practices of collaborating institutions are harmonised and research is objectively guided and reviewed against smallholder objectives.


Agricultural research Soil fertility Western Province (Kenya) Participation–“opting out” Smallholders 



I would like to acknowledge the assistance of farmers in western Kenya, the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), the Rockefeller Foundation, Wageningen University and Research Centre, and the TSBF Institute of CIAT. Perceptions documented here were observed among some farmers; this document does not wish to generalise all observations. The author takes full responsibility for any omissions, inaccuracies, and analyses.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Learning and Innovation SystemsAfrica Rice Centre (WARDA)CotonouBenin

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