Towards farmer-led research: a guidebookby Fioret C, Johnson K, Lam S, Thompson M & Hargreaves SK (2018)
The 24-page booklet Towards farmer-led research: a guidebook, published in 2018 by the Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario (EFAO), is a guide to working together with farmers in research. It synthesises literature on farmer-led research from around the world, with a focus on the North American context, and shares EFAO’s experiences and lessons from its Farmer-led Research (FLR) programme.
The authors define “farmer-led research” (which they also call “farmer participatory research”) as an approach that empowers farmers to collect data for their own farms while collaborating with scientists. EFAO’s programme puts the focus on being farmer-driven, from the formulation of research questions and design to data collection and dissemination of results. FLR often leads to innovation, builds local capacity and supports livelihoods through better productivity, nutrition and household income.
Lessons learned thus far by EFAO’s FLR programme include:
- Programme support, including scientific support and support for the farmer-researchers to connect with each other, is critical to farmer engagement with research.
- Farmers are inherently curious but research is new to most of them. Multi-year grants are essential to building capacity and farmer involvement in FLR programmes.
- A mechanism for adaptive management is needed to meet the dynamic needs of farmer-researchers (e.g. workshopping and utilisation-focused evaluation).
- Focus on farmer-led! This includes farmer-led research priorities, project selection, project design and execution, and dissemination of results.
- A model/mentor programme is invaluable for advice and support.