Nieuws - 29 maart 2001

Research on farmer participation processes attracts 4.5 million guilders

Research on farmer participation processes attracts 4.5 million guilders

Participation of farmers in technology development has long been an issue and stumbling block in development cooperation. It is often regarded as a prerequisite for the success of a project. Now a new four-year research project worth over 4.5 million guilders will focus on the process of participation itself.

The notion of integrated pest management was first introduced into projects about a decade ago. Farmers' experience and knowledge was integrated with scientific insights to enable farmers to develop their own ways of controlling pests in crops. This turned the farmer from the 'lowest civil servants' into active and self-confident experts. However, the question still remains how exactly farmers, policy makers and both technical and social scientists can come together and reach a joint understanding of the what the problems are. A new research project called 'Convergence of sciences' will focus on this methodological question in the west African countries of Ghana and Benin.

This is one of five new North-South research projects that has been granted funds from the INREF programme of Wageningen UR. Additional funds are also coming from the FAO and a request has been submitted to the Dutch ministry of development cooperation. Depending on the final amount of money available, there will be room for four to eight PhD students. The project will combine various disciplines including plant sciences, entomology, communication studies and agrarian technology.

Professor Martin Kropff of the Crop and Weed Ecology Group and director of the C.T. de Wit Graduate School of Production Ecology and Resource Conservation calls the new project a breakthrough in interdisciplinary research. "This is the first time technical and social researchers are working so closely together in a big research project. Technical and economic researchers are easier to bring together because both think in quantitative terms. Bringing technical and social scientists together requires that both sides learn a whole new set of jargon. This project is a fascinating challenge for all of us." A workshop has already been held in Accra, Ghana to discuss the project with local partners. These will be the universities in Ghana and Benin, as well as various local non-governmental organisations.

Joris Tielens