Can Agricultural Research Be More Effective for the Rural Poor of Asia
When the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) commenced research in Asia,
in the early 1980s, the initial focus was on germplasm improvement in cassava and forages for
livestock. Significant improvements were realized, through the introduction of new germplasm
and through breeding, but real successes, in terms of impact on the livelihoods of poor farmers
were not realized until more social or people-centric methods were introduced. CIAT worked to
link local researchers, extension services, traders, processors, industry, and government to
achieve what none could achieve alone; the identification and development of improved farming
techniques that were modified as they were adopted by the target communities. This process
allowed for the necessary innovation to match the biophysical requirements and constraints of
the land with the broad social, economic, and political landscapes in which the marginalized
poor farmers of Asia exist.
This paper discusses options for linking participatory research activities, which by necessity
are conducted at specific project sites, with the wider development sector to ensure that
successful research results are used by development practitioners and policy makers, and so
achieve widespread impact. Two case studies will be presented and lessons learnt from these
studies will be discussed.
CASE STUDY 1: Developing smallholder cattle enterprises in Daklak, Vietnam
This case study examines an on-going research program that investigates avenues for
improving livelihoods of smallholder farmers in Ea Kar district, Daklak province of Vietnam by
facilitating the change from traditional low-output cattle raising to a market-oriented beef
production system. The program commenced with a simple research partnership between CIAT,
Tay Nguyen University and the Ea Kar district extension office in Daklak, and the National
Institute of Animal Husbandry in 2000.
Initially, the program worked with a small number of farmers using farmer participatory
approaches. With time, the program extended activities geographically to more villages, and
evolved thematically from the introduction of forages to animal nutrition, year-round feeding
systems, animal husbandry and breeding, cattle marketing and the policy environment for cattle
development. Correspondingly, the project grew in complexity and involved more and more
stakeholders such as district government and commune leaders, commune extension workers,
farmer and women’s union leaders, livestock traders, and agricultural banks. By 2008, more
than 2,400 smallholder households had adopted improved cattle production technologies, the cattle population in Ea Kar had more than doubled and the number of cattle sold for slaughter
had quadrupled (Khanh et al., 2009).
Many stakeholders contributed to the successful outcome. The stakeholder matrix grew in
both number and complexity as the project moved from simple on-farm research to livestock
development and scaling out. Researchers contributed significantly to the development but their
role and influence diminished with time; by 2008 researchers were one among many
stakeholders who influenced the final outcome but they were instrumental in starting the process
by identifying the key constraints and working with farmers and other stakeholders to identify,
introduce, and evaluate solutions. They provided the ‘engine’ that drove cattle development but,
had they worked in isolation, they would not have been successful. Key factors contributing to
this success were the long-term commitment of researchers, the effective and dynamic
partnership with key development stakeholders, linking social with bio-physical research (e.g.
linking farmers to markets), and identifying technical solutions that enabled smallholder farmers
to compete successfully in the beef market in Vietnam.
CASE STUDY 2: Pig systems learning alliance in Lao PDR
CIAT, together with the National Agriculture and Forestry Research Institute, are evaluating
the potential of forage legumes as a feed supplement to improve village pig production in Laos
over the period from 2006 to 2010. Village pig production is severely constrained by a lack of
protein in pig diets. Early results have shown that supplementing village pigs with the forage
legume Stylosanthes guianensis (Stylo 184) doubled daily weight gains of growing pigs and
reduced women’s labor requirements for feeding pigs by at least one hour each day. While
continuing research on legume supplementation, CIAT and NAFRI were looking for ways of
extending these promising results from the small number of research sites to a large number of
farmers in northern Laos.
Linking only with government extension services was not an option, except at limited
project research sites, as the extension services were severely constrained by funding and a lack
of skilled staff. The project explored alternative ways of scaling out successful research outputs
and decided to facilitate a multi-stakeholder learning alliance on pig production in northern
Laos. The project identified NGOs and development projects interested in livestock
development and invited these and any other interested projects to participate in the alliance
which had the objective of improving village pig production. The project facilitated two
workshops each year, held at different locations, to discuss progress and share experiences with
the introduction of improved pig feeding and husbandry practices, arrange training on issues
requested by alliance partners, provide access to information material and germplasm, establish
linkages between experienced extension workers and less experienced alliance partners, and
generally to act as a hub for pig production research and development.
Participation in the alliance increased from 9 NGO staff in 2006 to 25 alliance partner staff
in 2008. By then, legume supplementation had been adopted by more than 1,200 households in
120 villages in 16 districts in 8 provinces in northern Laos (St?r et al, 2009). The alliance of researchers and development workers benefitted all partners. Development projects and their
staff received training in improved pig production technologies and participatory extension
methods, gained access to information and research results, and became part of an informal
network of professionals that ensured continued access to information and experiences.
Researchers were able to empower development practitioners to scale out research results and
thus achieve impact, and they benefited by receiving feedback from multiple development
partners on implementation of research findings.
Agricultural development is influenced and determined by the interaction of multiple
stakeholders including researchers, extension workers, local government leaders and policy
makers, farmer leaders, and traders. Researchers have an important and essential role in this
‘innovation system’ but are only one group among many stakeholders. Effective and dynamic
partnerships between researchers and development stakeholders are essential for agricultural
development and for gaining the maximum impact from research outputs. Partnerships need to
be based on sound partnership principles, and provide an avenue for adaptive scaling out of
research results. In both case studies presented in this paper, successful biophysical research
outputs (i.e. new livestock technologies) stimulated stakeholder interest and excitement in
livestock development; they could see the gains that could be made by adopting new
technologies. This enthusiasm was followed by the development of strong information sharing
and support mechanisms that fostered innovation and drove the extension, adoption, and
expansion processes that led to real impact for marginalized farmers.
There is an essential and interdependent role for both social and biophysical scientists in
achieving high-impact agricultural research. Social researcher have much to contribute and
bring skills and tools such as stakeholder analysis and actor linkage maps to identify key
stakeholders in the innovation system, value chain approaches for targeting research needs, and
a whole systems perspective.
|Date of issued||2009-11-04|
|Creator||Werner St?r and Rod Lefroy|
|Publisher||Japan International Research Center for Agricultural Sciences|
|Rights||Japan International Research Center for Agricultural Sciences|