Challenges and lessons when using farmer knowledge in agricultural research and development projects in Africa
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Van Asten, P., Kaaria, S., Fermont, A.M. & Delve, R.J. (2009). Challenges and lessons when using farmer knowledge in agricultural research and development projects in Africa. Experimental Agriculture, 45(1), 1-14.
Permanent link to cite or share this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/97336
Farmer participatory research (FPR) approaches are now considered mainstream and are especiallyapplicable for developing appropriate technology options in complex, diverse and risk-prone regions,where local adaptations are crucial. Although the advantages of using farmer knowledge to guide scientificresearch are numerous and well documented, the challenges and potential pitfalls that befall biophysicalresearchers, in particular, when using FPR approaches have received much less attention, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. Our experiences show that in certain cases, the methods used to collect farmer knowledgeare flawed, leading to inaccurate or incomplete information being gathered. This potentially leads to thedevelopment and promotion of unsustainable, unprofitable or socially unacceptable technologies. Thispaper uses a series of examples to illustrate that discrepancies between farmer and researcher observationsmay occur because (i) farmers and scientists may not have sufficient insight into the systems complexity,(ii) farmers and scientists use different reference frameworks, and (iii) methodological errors may lead tofarmers intentionally or unintentionally providing false or ‘desired’ information to achieve (short-term)benefits. This paper concludes by providing guidelines to improve the integration of farmer and scientificknowledge in order to develop appropriate technology options that are both environmentally sound andadaptable to local conditions.
Published online: 28 Oct. 2008
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