Thomson Reuters Foundation

Inform - Connect - Empower

Smallholder farmers ‘remain left out of most R&D’

SciDev - Tue, 27 May 2014 11:36 GMT
hum-aid cli-ada cli-pol
Tweet Recommend Google + LinkedIn Email Print
Leave us a comment

Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

[VIENNA] Smallholder farmers must be more involved in the research process to meet farmers’ needs and maximise its development impact, a meeting has heard.
 
Individual subsistence farmers and farm organisations that represent their interests are a vital but underused link in the research and development(R&D) chain, experts said earlier this month (5-8 May) at the first meeting of Agrinatura, an alliance of 31 European universities working in agriculturalresearch, in Austria.
 

“Too many researchers are still convinced that they know everything and can do all the steps without the farmers.”

Doris Herrman, Bern University 

Scientists are still too removed from the communities they are trying to help, said Doris Herrman, head of research at Bern University of Applied Sciences’ School of Agricultural, Forest and Food Sciences, Switzerland. As an example, she described an Indo-Swiss collaboration to develop biopesticides that took 12 years before deciding to ask local farmers what technologieswould be suitable for them.
 
“Too many researchers are still convinced that they know everything and can do all the steps without the farmers,” Herrman told SciDev.Net after the session.
 
Attitudes among researchers are slowly improving, but this shift must be supported by longer funding cycles, as multi-stakeholder projects often take longer to complete than the four or five years of an average grant, she added.
 
Patrick Caron, director-general of research and strategy at French research centre Agricultural Research for Development, says projects often seek farmer involvement only to “tick a box” and without making real efforts to integrate their knowledge.
 
But he adds that individual or small groups of farmers can only provide information on specific local issues.
 
Without representative regional and national farm organisations to engage with, researchers will struggle to tailor systems-level research to farmers’ needs, Caron tells SciDev.Net
 
It is here that efforts must be focused, he says, as farm organisations are still too weak in most developing countries to give the collective voice that farmers need to influence the research agenda.
 
Improving the governance structures and leadership capacities of farm organisations and fostering their dialogue with government agriculture agencies are important steps that some countries, such as Brazil, have already taken, says Caron.

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of the Thomson Reuters Foundation. For more information see our Acceptable Use Policy.

comments powered by Disqus