Study on impacts of farmer-led research supported by civil society organizations

Study on impacts of farmer-led research supported by civil society organizations.
Wettasinha C, Waters-Bayer A, van Veldhuizen L, Quiroga G and Swaans K.
2014. Penang, Malaysia: CGIAR Research Program on Aquatic Agricultural Systems.
Working Paper: AAS-2014-40. 178pp.

Related PAEPARD blog posts:
a) 23/09/2014 Tropentag 2014 International Conference
b) 28/10/2014 CGIAR WorldFish podcast: Farmer-led innovation key to lasting change

This publication is fairly long (178 pages), as it includes the tables of over 100 cases and the 11 case studies in the annex, but the essence in terms of lessons learnt from the review can be found in the (PPT and 4-page paper) presented at the Tropentag in Prague, Czech Republic, in September 2014

Many of the efforts to transform scientific knowledge into sustainable agriculture and natural resource management (NRM) have brought only limited benefits to smallholder farmers, including fishers, livestock-keepers and other resource users. Donors, policymakers and civil-society organisations (CSOs) are urging the formal agricultural research and development (ARD) sector to make its research more directly useful to smallholders. Several ARD institutions are seeking ways to engage more closely with smallholders and supporting organisations in the field in order to conduct research that is more relevant for and accessible to them. These institutions are open to learn from examples of ARD driven and co-managed by smallholders in processes facilitated by CSOs outside of the formal ARD sector, in what could be called “informal” ARD.

The CGIAR Research Program (CRP) Aquatic Agricultural Systems (AAS) is taking an approach that seeks to embed research in development processes and thus strengthen capacities of stakeholders to innovate and adapt. Similarly, the CRP Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) seeks to translate knowledge into action for change through social-learning processes. AAS and CCAFS have linked up with Prolinnova to explore the approaches, experiences, outcomes and impacts of “informal” ARD in the CSO sector.

The first output of this initiative is a desk study on impacts of farmer-led research supported by CSOs. Based on 11 case studies from Africa, Asia and Latin America selected from over 100 cases identified through Prolinnova’s various networks and a Web search, the study team assessed the extent to which farmer- or community-managed processes of research and innovation in agriculture and NRM led to improvements in rural livelihoods. It analysed the impact in terms of food security, ecological sustainability, economic empowerment, gender relations, local capacity to innovate and adapt, and influence on “formal” and “informal” ARD institutions. It then drew lessons related to:

  • the process of FL-ARD and supporting it;
  • sharing and spreading results of FL-ARD;
  • scaling out the FL-ARD process;
  • scaling up FL-ARD as an approach;
  • gender and other equity issues; roles of formal research, advisory services and education;
  • roles of CSOs; and
  • roles of funding agencies.

The cases suggest profound, self-reinforcing and long-lasting change as a result of FL-ARD that conventional impact evaluation, when done at all, does not pick up. The lessons provide guidance for better integration of “formal” and “informal” research in rural development by smallholder communities.

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