Using farmer-oriented approaches to agricultural development
Small and marginal farmers caught in the subsistence cycle are hesitant to take risks since they are uncertain of the results. When it comes to adopting new practices in farming or any other aspect of living, their intuitive reaction is to wait and see if anybody else nearby has taken it up and if so, with what results. At home with their traditional practices they are hesitant to try something new. However, if the improved methods are discussed in the light of their own experience, highlighting the advantages and disadvantages of change, most often react favourably to innovation. If practices are selected which meet their direct and immediate needs the chances of their acceptance are even greater.
The success of farmer-oriented agricultural research and extension, and of a participatory research programme within the national agricultural research system, depends on national political and economic context and institutional dynamics. However, the public sector is clearly not the only actor in technology development and dissemination. Farmer organizations and non-governmental grassroots support organizations are also very active and combine their agricultural work to broader goals of strengthening farmer organization, cultural recovery and ecological agriculture. Their work methods are highly participatory, greatly reduce the research/extension linkage problem and are built upon much local knowledge. They have significant capacity to distribute technology and train indigenous agricultural promoters. Nonetheless, they too have certain limitations. While they conduct some controlled investigation, much of their research is iterative. Thus, while the public sector could learn much from these organizations for its own work, there is also a potential complementarity between them and the national agricultural research system.
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