Participatory agricultural research in CGIAR: Challenges and opportunities


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Presented by Beth Cullen and Katherine Snyder at the Expert meeting on participatory agricultural research: Approaches, design and evaluation, Oxford, 9-13 December 2013

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Participatory agricultural research in CGIAR: Challenges and opportunities

  1. 1. Participatory agricultural research in CGIAR Challenges and opportunities Beth Cullen and Katherine Snyder Expert meeting on participatory agricultural research: Approaches, design and evaluation, Oxford, 9-13 December 2013
  2. 2. Participatory Agricultural Research Derived from Participatory Action Research – but focused on agriculture. An approach to research not a method. Involves people who are concerned about or affected by an issue taking a leading role in producing and using knowledge about it. • Driven by participants who have a stake in the issue being researched • Democratic knowledge sharing: all participants can contribute, produce, own and use knowledge, • Collaborative at every stage, involving discussion, pooling skills and working together • Intended to result in action, change or improvement • Iterative- action and critical reflection takes place throughout.
  3. 3. History • Agricultural research seen primarily as research in plant, animal and soil science that affects crop production. • The social, economic, and political bases of crop production and land management have most often taken a back seat to the design of technical interventions. • Farming systems research and Chambers work on „putting farmers first‟ created an impact but these approaches still marginal within agronomic research.
  4. 4. CG Reform Process • New opportunities but how to sustain? • New models of partnership and collaboration coming out of the Challenge Programs. • Yet partnerships with private sector can have their implications on what gets researched. • Trend in funding leading to short-term versus long-term research but CG reform supposed to address. • “Demand-driven research that tackles global development challenges”.
  5. 5. Fundamental Divisions in Agronomic Research • Epistemological divides over what is knowledge and what is science. • Contestations over who frames the research problem and how it is carried out and the results presented. • While a narrative for collaborative and interdisciplinary research is prominent, practice is often very different. • Focus on product results rather than process results.
  6. 6. Reflection • Why PAR has not become more central to agronomic research within the CGIAR system. • Opportunity to develop clearer research agenda on what PAR is and what it can achieve: a means to identify problems, risks and possibilities for improved livelihoods. • New generation of researchers engaged in PAR and developing and designing new approaches – where can these take us?
  7. 7. Surveymonkey responses 7
  8. 8. Dominance of narrow ‘scientific’ paradigm • Preoccupation with „objective‟ or „neutral‟ data: PAR perceived as subjective, „soft‟ or anecdotal. • Whose knowledge counts? „Researcher‟ versus „farmer‟. • Lack of acknowledgement of social and political dynamics due to concerns with „objectivity‟.
  9. 9. Research versus development PAR, researching „process‟; behavioural and institutional change: not recognised as research. • Concern with research outputs (data collection, analysis and publishing) rather than development outcomes. • Short-term targets versus long-term goals. • Reward/incentive system based on scientific publications. •
  10. 10. Dominance of research-driven technologies/solutions • Over-emphasis on development of technologies. • Researcher driven „solutions‟ rather than farmer demand. • Assumptions regarding adoption of scientific/tech solutions. • Low consideration of socio, economic, political and environmental barriers to implementing technologies.
  11. 11. Disciplinary boundaries • Little truly inter-disciplinary research. • Disciplinary boundaries between scientists, lack of common language. • Mutual skepticism between biophysical and social scientists. • Uncertainty regarding added value/impact of participatory approaches/tools.
  12. 12. Methodological issues • Lack of integration between PAR methods & difficulties integrating data/knowledge generated by different methods. • Lack of triangulation and validation of data. • Perception that participatory approaches lack methodological rigor. • Difficulties ensuring information from participatory approaches informs broader socioeconomic/biophysical research.
  13. 13. Methodological Issues cont’d. • Lack of clear conceptual framework and systematic use of participatory approaches/tools. • Multiple objectives (more effective research; coproduction of knowledge, technology selection and validation; empowerment). • Heterogeneity of results generated by participatory research methods. • Difficulty in scaling results from participatory research methods.
  14. 14. Operational Constraints • Time and resource intensive. • Lack of resources/funding for participatory approaches. • Requires good facilitation skills. • Little staff training/skill/capacity/experience. • Few experts in participatory approaches. • Lack of collaboration with partner organizations who specialize in participatory approaches.
  15. 15. Communication • Poor communication of results. • Lack of concrete evidence/examples/proof of the results from participatory methods. • Difficulties publishing results generated by participatory approaches. • Lack of information/awareness among researchers about participatory agricultural research approaches.
  16. 16. So what’s new? • Review of past suggests continuing themes and issues: Collinson (1992) Becker (2000); Social Science STRIPE Review (2009). How do we move forward? • First generation to second generation tools: scale; integration of social and biophysical; quantitative and qualitative; power and politics (understanding power dynamics versus addressing power differences); outcome orientation.
  17. 17. And what’s still missing? • Better agenda setting: both research topic (demand driven) and the way research is done (iterative) and outcomes/outputs are reported. • Research framework that makes PAR central. • Mechanisms for better integration across centers and disciplines. • Integration of methods and scales. • Institutional reform. • Incentives for change.
  18. 18. New Opportunities • Emphasis on outcomes provides new space for PAR. • New tools emerging. • Potential for partnerships. • Innovation thinking: recognition of the need for multi-stakeholder processes and to move beyond „tech fixes‟. • Systems thinking: incorporating broader context and scale. • Narratives about food security; sustainability; livelihoods; equity; gender.
  19. 19. This workshop • From tools to broader context: „thorny issues‟. • How can we demonstrate that PAR can produce better outcomes? • Identification of research agenda: gaps, opportunities, frameworks. • Community of practice: sharing knowledge and experiences but also working for change. • Better engagement of CG with other research partners. • Concrete steps: products to address workshop agenda.
  20. 20. Workshop objectives • Take stock of and review tools and approaches used in participatory • • • agricultural research (with particular focus on certain newly emerging tools and approaches). Discuss the ways in which the tools and their use could be improved. Identify „thorny issues‟ hindering the use of participatory research approaches/tools within the CGIAR and suggestions for addressing these issues. Develop a community of practice to advocate for greater incorporation of participatory and social science approaches in CGIAR research activities. For days 4 and 5, we expect to build on the first three days, working towards: • Produce statements/think pieces/advocacy materials/evidence around the • • importance of participatory research and recommendations for ways forward. Produce an initial participatory methods inventory/toolbox and guidelines to inform upcoming research by CGIAR institutes and partners. Explore and document some ideas for novel and neglected interdisciplinary and participatory research within the agricultural development sector that could contribute to better outcomes.