Farmer Led Innovations

From WikiEducator
Jump to: navigation, search

SLMtitle.png Farmer Led Innovations

Chapter Outline

  1. Introduction
  2. Objectives
  3. Farmer Led Innovations: Meaning and Concept
    1. Condition necessitate farmer led innovations
  4. Challenges of Innovation
  5. Strategy to Enhance Innovation Process
  6. Importance of Farmers’ Innovation
  7. Participatory Innovation Development
    1. Stakeholder of PID
    2. Principles and Significance
    3. PID Implementation process
    4. Underlying assumptions of PID
    5. Farmers' capacity for experimentation
    6. Characteristics of PID
  8. Let Us Sum Up
  9. References and further readings
  10. Glossary
  11. Answers to Self Assessment Questions

SLMinto.png Introduction

Development of agricultural sector is driven by innovation at all levels. The type of innovations that ultimately makes the difference is what farmers decide to do. Until recently, little attention was given to the new technologies, management practices and institutions that farmers and farming communities have developed themselves over time within a local setting incorporating both learning from the experience of earlier generations and knowledge and doing. Farming has been the main occupation of Indians for over 5000 years. In the course of time, farmers have come out with numerous innovations, which brought them good returns and made farming a sustainable practice. A number of farm implements were designed to increase farm efficiency. The lift irrigation system, the pitcher irrigation and khadin cultivation in Thar desert are some examples of such innovations. Over the years, farmers also selected several varieties that had higher productivity and better quality. Farmers have also developed new and low cost technologies to preserve, process and package various farm products both for increased shelf life and better market opportunities. Despite these, the innovations made by farmers have not received the recognition, which they deserve. Also the propriety rights on the innovations made by the farmers have often been ignored. In order to promote development of farmers led skills as well as protect their rights, it is necessary that we recognize and further promote these innovations. It is also desirable to blend the existing traditional wisdom with the modern scientific knowledge for ensuring sustainable agriculture.

SLMobj.png Learning Objectives
After reading this chapter, you are expected to learn about:
  • describe innovations and innovation process;
  • state the challenges for farmer led innovation;
  • describe the strategies to enhance innovation process;
  • explain the importance of farmer innovation;
  • state the stakeholders of participatory innovation development; and
  • explain the process of participatory innovation development.

Farmer Led Innovations: Meaning and Concept

Farmer led innovation in agriculture is the process through which individuals or groups within a given locality discover or develop and apply improved ways of managing the available resources, building on and expanding the boundaries of their indigenous knowledge. According to Prolinnova (2004) and the World Bank (2004), local (farmer) innovation refers to the dynamics of indigenous knowledge i.e., knowledge that grows within a social group, incorporating learning from own experience over generations, but also external knowledge internalized within the local ways of thinking and doing. The outcome of this process are farmer innovations, for example, farming techniques or ways of organising work that are new for that particular locality. All farmer led innovations are not of a technical nature but rather are socio-economic and institutional innovations. The concept of farmer innovation is applied to agriculture technology processes that aim to improve rural livelihoods for sustainable development while ensuring inter-institutional and farmer learning. The driving forces for emergence of the farmer led innovation paradigm are constraints to crop and animal production, e.g. pest and disease infestation and soil fertility depletion to which agricultural production is highly sensitive; increased population pressure while the natural resource base remains constant; weak interactions among stakeholders such as research links, community-policy links, private-public links; economic globalization and market incentives through liberalized trade; and climate change. This situation ignited the farmers to take initiatives at their own capabilities to solve their problems. The results of farmers’ innovation processes are inexpensive, easily accessible, locally appropriate and already tested in real farm practice. They are therefore more rapidly accepted by other farmers than are the results of formal research. Through informal trials with ideas from multiple sources, farmers make technology fit their own reality and often improve its effectiveness, efficiency, productivity, profitability, durability, marketability, palatability, sustainability etc. Farmer innovation is also a way of life for poor farmers who are being challenged by the ever-changing environmental, policy and market situations in the country. For them, innovation is not academic work or an extracurricular activity. Rather, it is an inherent characteristic of those who are striving to make a living out of the difficult situation they are in. Almost every single farmer who is living in such challenging circumstances has to innovate in order to survive. Farmers, especially resource-poor ones, continuously experiment, adopt and innovate (Chambers et al., 1989). Farmer innovations are a product of farmers’ informal experimentation. Whether we provide them the support or not, farmers are always trying out something new. Another important dimension of the concept of farmer innovation is that it embraces not only technological innovation, but also new ways of managing livelihood in general. This may include new ways farmers do networking, communication, institution building, information management, marketing, planning, accessing resources, etc in view of improving their agricultural and natural resource management activities. In short, this means, farmer innovation is all about new ways of doing agriculture and natural resource management.


Schematic presentation to explain the conceptual framework of farmer innovation
Source: Prolinnova- Ethiopia (2006)

Condition necessitate farmer led innovation

Followings are conditions that necessitate farmer led innovation
I. Diversity requires locally-specific practices: Farmers live and work under a wide range of ecological, climatic, economic and socio-cultural conditions, and the range of farming systems is similarly diverse, not just across regions or countries but also within districts and even localities. Each farming system has its own dynamics, strengths, challenges and opportunities. In respect to this diversity, there are very few research scientists and there is simply no way that they can generate the variety of innovations and adaptations required. In the face of this farming diversity, it is wasted effort to try to develop perfected technologies for blanket-like application. Local adaptation and locally specific development of options need to be key elements in any agricultural research and development strategy. If scientists recognize and accept this, then they need not spend so much time and money on perfecting technologies and can spend more time on enhancing farmers’ ongoing efforts to adapt extension recommendations to fit local realities.
II. Rapidly changing conditions require local capacities to adapt quickly: No innovations are permanent. Conditions for farmers are constantly changing. This is especially not the case for those who are practicing agriculture under very diverse, complex and risk-prone conditions only, but also for everyone affected by the emergence of new pests and diseases, effects of climate change, and for those who see new opportunities opening up. The key to sustainability in farming lies in farmers’ capacities to adapt. The farmers have to adapt more quickly than in the past. Recognizing farmers’ innovation is a step towards encouraging this process and helping farmers find ways to adapt more quickly to ever changing bio-physical, socio-economic environment.

Challenges of Innovations

Although farmers are sources of diverse innovations but their potential could not be realized to the extent possible, because of several confounding challenges.
Farmers' Perspective
I. Lack of accommodative attitude of outsiders: Lack of accommodative attitude of outsiders including extension organizations, research organizations, policy makers to farmers’ knowledge, perceptions and values is a major challenge that slows down farmers innovation process. An attitude that acknowledges farmers as having immense potential to change their own world is seriously lacking. The conventional development thinking is based on the assumption that farmers are resource poor, illiterate and ignorant and, therefore, the formally trained people have to take care of all their development agendas. Failure of outsiders to have an attitude of appreciation and recognition of the knowledge and value systems of the farmers, as a source of innovation and inspiration, has resulted in policies and programs that have insignificant impacts to unlock and release the potentials of the farmers.
II. Lack of adequate opportunity for farmers to decide on research priorities: Participation of farmers in decision making on matters that affect their lives and farming. It is also an important dimension of knowledge management. The success of research initiatives depends largely on the extent that drivers of the initiatives try to accommodate and utilize the knowledge, interest, convictions, concerns, priorities and resources of the farmers. To a larger extent, the experience shows that research agendas have been identified by researchers and experts and approved by peer groups. Farmers’ roles have been and still are very passive in technology generation in the formal system.
III. Lack of financial support: Despite their great interest and enthusiasm to try new things, many farmers are constrained with resource limitations, apparently not able to take risks and carry out experiments with their meager resources. Farmers have natural tendency and talent to try new things. Such talents may remain dormant if resources and enabling environment are not their.
Lack of financial support to promote and encourage farmers innovation processes has constrained the development of the local practices. Traditionally, farmers do not claim for financial or material support from the government and/or aid agencies to improve their innovations. This is mainly because of the long-standing paternalistic tradition of agencies, which have consequently made many farmers undervalue their knowledge and innovations and remain dependant on outsiders' knowledge and technology. Resources that are directed to research and extension programs are entirely controlled by the formal institutions. Funds are provided only to research projects that can meet scientific standards that smallholder farmers cannot come up with.
IV. Lack of peers support: Many of the innovative farmers agree that it is not easy to get accepted by fellow farmers and the community in general. No one expects poor farmers to be sources of innovation that may change the lives of others too. According to the innovative farmers, many people have the tendency to believe that it is only the literate and intellectual people (like the extension workers) who could bring something new and important to the farmers. Because of this reason, many people do not only provide no support but also discourage the innovative farmers, considering them some one wasting time for no good reasons.
V. Illiteracy: Illiteracy is another challenge to farmers. There are many works involved in innovation process requires understanding measurement. Many of farmers are illiterate particularly in technical aspects and no one is helping them how to make precise measurements. Because of this reason farmers being forced to do it by trial and error and that made them commit mistakes and redo things again and again.
Researchers' Perspective
I. Some researchers, although they are interested to work with innovative farmers, found the data generated from the participatory works where farmers are taking the lead, difficult to use it in the conventional statistical methods of analysis. On the other hand, it is equally, if not more difficult for them to use easy language to communicate with the farmers on statistical jargons and concepts.
II. Many researchers are not familiar with the concept of farmer innovation. They don't have the trust and confidence that farmers could innovate. Because of this reason, many are neither motivated to discover innovative farmers and establish partnership with them nor recognize their works.
III. Some researchers comment, although the concept of participatory innovation development is fascinating, the methods, tools and operational guidelines are not adequately developed, in a sense that it could accommodate the interests and perspectives of diverse actors with different professional background, including formal researchers. Most importantly the approach do not have a particular tool to narrow the gap between the creative thoughts and findings of innovative farmers and the classical statistical approach- which is widely accepted by scientists. Because of this reasons researchers are forced to verify farmer innovations in their own way of doing researcher, before they recommend it for further use through the formal system
IV. It is some times frustrating for those researchers who may show interest to work with innovative farmers but have limited knowledge on the concept.
V. Identification of innovative farmers is not an easy task for many researchers. It requires a different approach than the traditional survey method. It also requires time, patience and commitment to travel long distances some times in a harsh environment. On the other hand, it is much easier for them to do research on problems identified through the formal survey. That is the comfort zone for many researchers. Therefore some are not ready to pay extra efforts to wok with innovative farmers as long as they can do research and publish results in recognized journals with less time and energy.

SLMsaq.gif Self-Assessment Questions (SAQs) -1

(i) Write your answer in the space provided.
(ii) Five your answer in about 50 words.
(iii) Compare your answer with those given at the end of the unit.

(a) How do you define the farmer led innovation?

(b) What are the conditions necessitate farmer led innovation?

(c) Enlist challenges of farmer led innovations?

Strategy to Enhance Innovation Process

Although farmers’ innovation has always been happening but quite slowly and has seldom been recognized by communities itself and the scientist also. It so, because of the key actors innovation process are not working closely with each other. The innovation process at farmers could be speeded up giving opportunity to bring in their ideas and skills. The capacities and potential contributions the farmers must be valued. Recognizing the innovativeness of farmers creates fertile ground for their collaboration with other actors in innovation systems. The farmer-led innovation could be encouraged in several ways:
I. Creating access to resources for innovative farmers: Farmers innovate in a very similar way the modern scientists do. They begin with analyzing the problem situation, put some hypothesis, design experiments, try it out, evaluate the outcome, repeat the experiment if necessary and finally put it to work (Fetien, 1998). The innovativeness of farmers is not only the outcomes of formal education system but it is inherent characteristics, which may be developed upon getting attention. When innovative farmers are identified, recognized stimulated and supported; experiences have thought us that there is a huge opportunity for them to develop technologies appropriate and relevant to their own realities. Some times farmers may even come up with spectacular types of innovations that could revolutionize agricultural development of their domain. This however was not evidenced and realized adequately, because most remained unknown due to lack of attention and appreciation of extension workers, researchers, policy makers etc. Farmers, with the support of the facilitators, could develop their own mechanisms of identifying, prioritizing and reviewing the farmer innovations in their domain and then make decisions to work on selected cases for further development.
II. Crafting the cutting edge in the formal innovation system: The existing experience suggests that the formal innovation system is trying to get linked with farmer innovation system, with out consciously recognizing it. It is evident that whenever there are innovations born by farmers, no matter how much they are relevant and effective to the smallholder farmers, are not often accepted by the formal researchers. They put it in to the so-called verification trial, which may end up some times with a result contrary to the practical benefits farmers are already enjoying. The farmer led participatory innovation development process is therefore important to reduce the cost of verification and improve the confidence of scientists, as it provides a space for them to work with the innovator farmers from the start. Therefore this approach provides a chance to harmonize and link the value systems of farmers and scientists at equal footing. Technologies developed with out consulting and involving the end users are not often realistic and not responding to the needs of farmers. Some times it may happen complicated and even unaffordable in terms of cost. Above all, small holder farmers are running divers and complex agriculture, which the research organizations are not even able to respond to every single problem of the small holder farmers. These criticisms have made many of the researchers in the formal system to learn more about farmer participatory research approaches. It is therefore important to learn closely about the building blocks of the participatory approaches for research so that to find out what exactly are the missing link between the formal and farmer innovation systems.
III. Conducting study on system interface and policy discourses: There is a steady progress in the formal innovation system to adopt and work with participatory approaches for research. This implies that there are lots of opportunities in the formal research system that helps to accommodate the idea of farmer innovation approach. Identifying and examining the WHYs and HOWs of the interface of the farmer and formal innovation systems would therefore create a very good intervention ground to make a rational use of resources and knowledge for development. There are a number of comprehensive and well though policies that have been issued by the authorities to support farmers led innovation process in the country in general. Upon making critical examination of some of the key policy documents and practices, there is a possibility of finding out and explain those policy elements, that pertains to farmer innovation and indigenous knowledge, which are not yet realized for many reasons.
IV. Other ways through farmers innovation process could be enhanced are as follows:

  • Creating opportunities for farmers to share their innovations, as these provide ideas for other farmers to try out.
  • Offering alternatives to compare with current practices or local innovations.
  • Improving farmers’ experimental design through stimulating farmers to examine their informal experimentation methods and helping them explore more systematic forms of experimentation.
  • Filling local knowledge gaps through increasing farmers’ awareness of resource management principles and providing information on phenomena that farmers cannot observe on their own so that farmers can develop local ways of applying the principles in farming practice.
  • Facilitating mutual learning through creating opportunities for groups of farmers to analyze critically both local and external ideas for improving agriculture and NRM, to assess the results of farmer-led participatory research, e.g. through farmer learning groups or exchange visits.

SLMsaq.gif Self-Assessment Questions (SAQs) -2


(i) Read following statement carefully.
(ii) Write whether these statements are TRUE or FALSE.
(iii) Compare your answer with those given at the end of the unit.

(a). Farmers’ innovation has always been happening very rapidly. (_________)
(b). The innovation process at farmers could be speeded up giving opportunity to bring in their ideas and skills. (_________)
(c). Farmer led participatory innovation development process provides a chance to harmonize and link the value systems of farmers and scientists at equal footing. (_________)
(d). There are lots of opportunities in the formal research system that helps to accommodate the idea of farmer innovation approach. (_________)

Importance of Farmer Innovations

The benefits of farmer innovation systems include building on local knowledge and resources, leading to ownership and continuity of initiatives, while addressing the priority needs of beneficiaries or communities for improved livelihoods. Prolinnova (2004) argues that the key ingredients for livelihood improvement are not external inputs but rather labour, knowledge and local management capacities that enable people to manipulate skillfully the local resources for their own benefits. Most rural development efforts have failed to mobilise and enhance these internal inputs.
I. Helping resource poor farmers: It quite apparent that all farmers in India were not visibly aided by the green revolution. The transfer-of-technology (T.O.T) approach of conventional research had been quite effective in regions that are relatively homogeneous in terms of agroeconomics as well as socioeconomics (Jiggins, 1989). The problem, however, is that transfer-of-technology leaves much to be desired in areas that are unstable or highly diverse, variable or complex; often areas with many small farms. In these areas, knowledge of localized conditions or special needs is imperative (Jiggins, 1989).
II. Necessary for localized success: Though researchers usually have the depth of educational background to devise comprehensive programs based in scientific or technological information, they often lack the intense knowledge of specific problems or conditions that are very real and unique to a given farming situation. This is where farmers have been able to step in, as scientists and extension workers in developing nations have increasingly realized the value of farmers’ knowledge.
Early studies focused on the idea that farmers in many places have already developed functional systems of classification as well as sound farming practices (de Boef et al., 1993). This is a logical conclusion considering that farmers are almost always the individuals most closely in contact with the land or agricultural system in question. Being flexible about decisions regarding cropping patterns, cultivation practices and varietal selections will make all the difference in terms of success (Jiggins, 1989).
III. Farmers as innovators: An important realization for researchers to make is that farmers too carry out their own form of research and that they have already acquired an immense amount of knowledge that could benefit researchers (Chambers). It is imperative that researchers overcome the common misconception that farmers in resource-poor areas have little to contribute in the way of advancement, whether scientific or technological. Quite the contrary is actually the case. When farmers are strapped for resources and trying to make ends meet, they are often pushed to their creative peak (Chambers). These farmers excel in experimentation, adaptation and innovation because they must and because they have little to lose by taking on a new risk. The amount of innovativeness that can be accredited to small farmers, especially those that are thought of as traditional or old-fashioned, is endless.
IV. Increases success of programs: Another factor supporting the inclusion of farmers in policy making or in designing programs is that farmers are more likely to adopt newly-designed systems if they feel they have had a hand in the design process. Farmers will remain invested in programs if they understand that they have a predominant role in future extension and research policy (Arora, 1997) and trial management is better as well when farmers have an increased stake in the outcome (Jiggins). The other benefit of including farmers is that their concerns will be addressed first and foremost, again leading to the acceptance of newly developed programs by farmers. This is practical for two reasons; the first being that, if farmers feel their concerns have been taken into account they will be more likely to feel that development projects are addressing real problems they have. Farmers have a better understanding of what real problems exist in their locality.
V. Social learning: The farmer innovation system approach allows for interactions and integration between stakeholders, resulting in social learning. This enables the stakeholders to identify and recognize their experimentation efforts, responsibilities, strengths and weaknesses, thereby strengthening participation and community innovation processes. Consequently, there is higher adaptation of technologies by farmers. Conversely, the other research actors also learn from the farmers about their farming systems, and about the actual constraints and potentials of the communities.
VI. Effective communication: By ensuring that open dialogue exists between farmers and researchers, extension agents can promote the sharing of knowledge between the two groups. The pre-existing knowledge and innovations of farmers are often overlooked by researchers, but are in fact immeasurably useful and functional. By learning what farmers have already done, researchers can help design programs that better fit a specific locale or conditions. Incorporating farmers in the design and implementation of programs will also reassure farmers that their concerns are being met, and will give them a feeling of vested interest in the outcome of their programs, again increasing success rates. In short, the successful design and implementation of programs for farmers depends on the open communication and cooperation between farmers and researchers.

SLMsaq.gif Self-Assessment Questions (SAQs) -3


(i) Answer the following question below by filling up the blanks.
(ii) Compare your answer with those given at the end of the unit.

(a). The transfer-of-technology approach of conventional research had been quite effective in regions that are relatively ___________ in terms of _______________ as well as __________.
(b). Farmers are more likely to _________ newly-designed systems if they feel they have had a hand in the _________process.
(c). The farmer innovation system approach allows for _________ between stakeholders, resulting in __________learning.

Participatory Innovation Development

Experimentation by farmers cannot entirely replace conventional scientific research and conventional scientific research cannot replace farmers' on-farm research. There is a need for an approach that favors a symbiotic relationship between the two. The result is the incorporation of the most important and valuable aspects of each into a new system which will both benefit the small resource-poor farmer and contribute to the scientific knowledge base. This realization has provoked the scientists to think about the concept of Participatory Innovation Development.
The extension functionary has been primarily channels for one-way communication from researchers, who knew little about farmers’ situations. In recent years, researchers in India and other countries of world began to experiment with Farmer Participatory Research (FPR) and Participatory Technology Development (PTD) approaches. Participatory Innovation Development (PID) is a further step in this direction. It uses farmers’ innovations as entry points for farmer-led participatory Research. This kind of participatory research starts with confident farmers as genuine partners, because it starts with recognition of their knowledge and creativity. In PID, first of all scientists are encouraged to document farmers’ innovation and informal experimentation so that they begin to see what farmers are already doing to solve their problems. It is not just documenting indigenous knowledge (IK); rather, it is recognising the dynamics in the farmers’ knowledge system and linking it with scientific knowledge. By giving value to farmers’ innovation, a PID approach encourages farmers to share their knowledge with each other and with PID facilitators and scientists. It strengthens the relationships between these major actors in agricultural research, because it gives them an opportunity to get to know and respect each other. The sharing of knowledge and innovations can provide ideas and inspiration for further innovation through farmers’ experimentation and farmer-led participatory research also in other farming areas. The results of formal research, conducted in a specific place, cannot be applied in all of the diverse agro-ecologies and situations in the country like India. Farmers need to adapt the ideas flexibly to their own situation, and they do this through informal experimentation. PID recognizes and strengthens this process. Scientists become facilitators of farmer-led experimentation with local and external ideas, and help in recording the outcomes to be able to give ideas to other farmers. They also link farmers with other sources of information, including formal researchers. These, in turn, can bring in their own ideas and can help improve the design of farmer experiments so that the farmers and scientists can be more confident in the local validity of the results. Using a PID approach, extension services strengthen farmers’ capacity to adjust to changing conditions.

Stakeholder of PID

Participatory Innovation Development is an interactive process combining farmer's experience, knowledge, skill with researchers and extensionists meeting local needs and aspirations through the initiatives of farmers utilizing locally available resources. It should include and equally benefit both male and female. Their involvement would definitely enhance the PID process and research. Basically PID has three major stakeholders: farmers, facilitators and researchers.

Stkh.jpg Major stakeholders of PID
(Source: Anonymous, 2006)

Principles and Significance

The very basic principle of PID is that the local, situational, often more intuitive knowledge of farmers and the formal knowledge of scientists (researchers or other subject matter specialists) are combined to experiment on innovations. PID is governed by important principles that are summarized as follows:
I. Start from what farmers have developed or are developing on their own and build on it.
II. Prevent adverse effects of PID on others/environment.
III. Respect knowledge and experience of all producers and apply as appropriate.
IV. Disseminate findings by sharing through appropriate media.
V. Process has to be context specific.
VI. Farmers/ local people take the lead in the process.
VII. Idea of replicating within the community.

PID uses farmer innovation, as a strategy to converge different actions and actors. Local innovation through self organized planning, implementation and evaluation of systematic experiments fosters self-respect and self-confidence in the rural communities involved and the process is closely linked with a process of social change. Farmers innovate due to necessity, changing conditions and curiosity, doing informal experiments on new ideas either from their own and/or learned from other farmers, researchers, extensionists and/or other information sources like the mass media. However, research and extension pay little attention to the importance of farmer innovation for agricultural development. The benefits of technological advances have not been able to reach the marginal and resource poor farmers. In this context, promotion of farmer innovation becomes extremely important to bridge the gap as well as capacitate the innovators against external threats. PID also lays emphasis on the aspect of local democracy in the control of innovation. Benefits are maximized and sustained when farming communities are allowed to choose and decide on the technologies and processes they prefer as per the their context and eventually gain control over it

PID Implementation Process

Participatory Innovation Development process is a cyclic process comprising five major steps that encompasses three stages as diagnosis, implementation or the action research stage and the sustainability stage. The monitoring and evaluation stage is a continuous process contributing towards strengthening the whole process. The steps are described as in figure shown below.


(Source: Rai and Shrestha, 2006)
I. Diagnosis stage: The diagnosis stage in the PID ensures that the local situation of the community is analysed and needs assessment carried out to identify potential interventions for the promotion of farmer innovations. As such, needs assessments using participatory tools and techniques are undertaken at the level of individual innovators, the community level and the institutional level in order to understand their capacities and make appropriate interventions. In this process, local Innovations are identified, documented and prioritized as well. But Innovations can also be documented outside the diagnosis stage by looking directly at innovative adaptations and solutions that are already in practice. This provides a broader scope of entering into the PID process.
II. Implementation/Action research stage: The implementation or action research stage includes practical steps of joint action on the basis of prioritized innovations. In this process it is important to ensure that farmers and stakeholders are directly involved. This is explained in simple steps below: 1. Brainstorming or discussing with the community to explore and document and try new things with innovations that already exists and recording the selected Innovations in idea sheets. This step also requires field verification by relevant PID practitioners in terms of the selection criteria. 2. Prioritizing and selecting the Innovations to experiment with. This step is carried out in with the involvement of farmers, government stakeholders (service providers) and local organizations such as farmer group/s, CBOs and NGOs. 3. Develop Experiment Sheets. This step involves closely working with the innovators and should cover detail aspects of the experimentation - what, why, how by whom and when. An Activity Sheet is prepared on the basis of the Experiment Sheet. 4. The fourth step is the actual implementation stage where joint experimentation takes place. This step may not always be in terms of technical interventions or process, or even in terms of financial supports and rather may simply mean promoting an innovation through its replication or information dissemination. Simultaneously, individual and institutional capacity building measures are undertaken in the form of training as well as non-training interventions, following the results of the needs assessment made and the innovations prioritized by the farmers. Ideal steps in Action Research that has been found to be effective are as follows:

  • Focus group discussion
  • Innovation verification / Validation of Farmers Innovations
  • Implementation as per experimentation plan (value addition and resource supports)
  • Scaling up (value addition and resource supports)
  • Monitoring and technical backstopping
  • Replication and promotional activities
  • Evaluation

III. Sustainability stage: This stage comprises of activities meant to make the results (in terms of process, capacity, and outputs) more sustainable. It can include sharing and dissemination of the whole process through exhibition and fairs, replication of best practices, producing and disseminating special publications, farmer to farmer extension and exposures visits, commercialization of commercial products or creating market, establishment of innovation fund mobilized or managed by communities themselves, etc.
Institutionalization literary means influencing the current policies, practices and norms of institutions or organizations to adopt new ways or modify what is available. The Local Innovation Support Fund (LISF) could be one alternative approach to sustain the promotion and sustainability of farmer innovations by mobilizing the fund through a community managed system. This would also ensure a continuous flow of incentive for farmers’ innovation for its development and promotion.
Participatory Monitoring and Evaluation (PME) is followed in the PID process. Ideally, the Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) process is followed in each steps of the PID cycle which cross cuts in all the stages. M&E system is at the core of PID process that indicates PID is also a continuous process of collecting feedbacks and lesson learning. The experimental processes led by farmers require monitoring on regular basis. The monitoring is done by the farmers themselves with the involvement and support of external stakeholders. The joint participatory monitoring and evaluation system thus established helps in systematizing the experiences. Monitoring and evaluation is therefore a documentation and information system that allows the individual innovators and stakeholders to know and understand the progress being undertaken in the field and to learn from it for further experimentation and future tasks. The monitoring of PID process must be easy to follow and carried out. It should also provide a documentation of the whole process, not only allowing discussion on a particular experiment being monitored but also encouraging the sharing and promotion of the similar experiment in other contexts. The PME approach in all the stages of PID will help evaluate the whole PID process in order to obtain feedback and lessons learnt to further strengthen the approaches.

Underlying Assumptions of PID

One of the principal tenets underlying PID is that farmers act rationally in using resources available to achieve their production needs. Farmers manage a complex set of biological processes which transform these resources into useful products, either for home consumption or for sale.
Decisions about crop and livestock production, and the methods and timing of cultivation, husbandry and harvesting are determined not only by physical and biological constraints but also by economic, socio-political, infrastructural and policy factors that make up the larger milieu within which farmers operate.
It is assumed that farmer possess indigenous knowledge of their farming systems and their environment and have a capacity for experimentation that must be used and strengthened for technology development.

Farmers' Capacity for Experimentation

Farmers' capacity for research and experimentation is generally not acknowledged by agricultural researchers and society at large. However, with the growing recognition of the value and usefulness of indigenous knowledge (IK) systems, scientists are increasingly aware of farmers' capacity for experimentation resulting in the evolution and adaptation of indigenous knowledge systems to production needs.
For 10,000 years, farmers have been experimenting to develop their farming systems which has had an evolutionary impact on plants, animals and the land. Aside from experiments to increase production, they also looked into processing and storage as well. Here, the farmer is an active actor in the process: selecting, consciously observing, and manipulating and experimenting with plants, animals, tools, and the environment to improve production output (Rhoades, 1987).
Farmers experiment in order to adjust to changing circumstances. This experimentation has led to the development of productive and sustainable farming systems well suited to their needs, environment, and resources. Examples: domestication of wild species; and selection/breeding for desirable qualities of a species.
Major breakthroughs in technology generated by scientists in experimental stations have been based on experiments conducted by farmers. Examples: invention of diffuse light storage in Peru; introduction of paddy rice production in the Amazon basin; rice production in Bangladesh and wheat in Mexico; and farmers' successful adaptations of high-yield varieties of wheat in India and Bangladesh in the 1960s and 1970s. The emphasis on improving farmers' inherent capacity for experimentation is an important element in the sustainability of agricultural development programs. When an organization withdraws from a region, farmers continue to conduct experiments and share information with members of farmers' groups and organizations.
The three interrelated types of information generated by farmers' informal research are: technical and organizational innovations that use scarce resources efficiently; signposts for new research that scientists in formal research and development systems might start to work on; and methods for conducting cost-effective research and classifying knowledge, with the farmer as principal researcher.

Characteristics of Participatory Innovation Development

I. The main goal of farmer participatory research is to develop appropriate agricultural technology to meet the production needs of the small, resource-poor farmers.

  • It is the reverse of the transfer of technology paradigm.
  • It involves small, resource-poor farmers to generate or adapt appropriate technology on-farm.
  • It includes farmers in the decision-making process. It wants to find out which aspect of an agriculture practice or technology the farmer would like to work on to improve.

II. Farmers participate actively in the entire farmer participatory research process.

  • Farmers become the researchers, experimenters and evaluators in this process. They actively participate in the identification of problems, needs, opportunities and priorities, in the design and implementation of experiments, and in the evaluation of results to ensure that the research will focus on their needs.
  • Indigenous knowledge and the capacity for experimentation facilitate the generation of technology. Farmers' knowledge of their own farming systems, including climate and soils, and the social, institutional and economic environment, is vital to the development of appropriate technologies.
  • Both farmers' and researchers' knowledge are crucial in coming up with technologies that fit local environment and circumstances.

III. Research is conducted in farmers' fields.

  • The research is conducted on-farm as this is where production occurs and farmers make their major production decisions.
  • Technologies developed in real conditions reflect the objectives and criteria of farmers based on their access to resources and inputs, agronomic constraints, marketing possibilities and so on. Appropriate technology is more likely to be developed.
  • Since farmer participatory research is location-specific, research must be conducted on farms representative of those in other areas so the technology developed can be more broadly disseminated.

IV. The scientist is an investigator, colleague and advisor.

  • Scientists learn and work with farmers, facilitating and providing support. Together they set the research agenda, and experiment with and evaluate technologies.
  • The scientist is a colleague and advisor who brings new ideas and/or unknown technologies to the community. He or she can also facilitate analysis of the farming system to identify potential areas for improvement and support the informal agricultural research of farmers.

V. Based on a systems perspective.

  • A farm is a system composed of interacting subsystems that include land, labor, capital, crop and animal production, off-farm income, social and economic components, physical and biological components, etc.
  • Farmer participatory researchers emphasize the importance of understanding the entire system. The research effort focuses on solving an agricultural technology problem in order to benefit the farm as a whole.
  • Farmer participatory research promotes gradual, adaptive changes in the farming system rather than the abrupt transformation of the system.

VI. Requires interdisciplinary collaboration between researchers and farmers.

  • Interdisciplinary analysis of the farming system is imperative for successful farmer participatory research. This involves collaboration between farmers and agricultural and social scientists. The research agenda must be established and the entire process focused on farmers' real needs. Dialogue between scientists and farmers is essential.
  • Interaction between farmers and scientists can be contractual, consultative, collaborative or collegial. Ideally, this is a relationship between legitimate colleagues and partners working as equals.
  • Direct interaction between researchers and farmers increases the researchers' understanding of the farmers' decision-making criteria and of the conditions in which they work. Researchers have to make sure that solutions emerge from a holistic analysis by farmers and researchers together.

VII. Promotes innovative methodologies and flexibility.

  • Proponents of farmer participatory research encourage the use of different innovative methods. Creative methodologies are necessary in developing appropriate technologies for resource-poor farmers working under very different conditions.
  • Participatory research promotes low cost technologies and a minimum of external inputs by using locally-available resources and strengthening the farmer's experimental capacity. These features aim at sustainable and environmentally-sound development.
  • Because this approach is broad, flexible and adaptive, scientists and farmers must be in continuous contact to agree on research procedures, monitor trials and respond to unexpected changes along the way. Because initial assumptions, hypotheses, needs and local conditions may change over time, flexibility facilitates adaptation to new circumstances.

SLMsaq.gif Self-Assessment Questions (SAQs) -4


(i) Write your answer in the space provided.
(ii) Answer the questions below as instructed.
(ii) Compare your answer with the one given in the end of the Unit.
Fill up the blanks
(a). Participatory Innovation Development process is a __________ process.
(b). Basically PID has three major stakeholders: ________, _______ and _________.
(c). Farmers innovate due to ________,_____________ and _________.
Answer the following True or False question
(d). Farmers' capacity for research and experimentation is generally not acknowledged by agricultural researchers and society at large. (___________)
(e). Farmers experiment in order to adjust to static circumstances. (___________)
(f). Farmers' knowledge of their own farming systems is vital to the development of appropriate technologies. (___________)
Write a short note on the following question in about 50 words in given space.
(g). explain PID Implementation Process

(h). list out Characteristics of Participatory Innovation Development

SLMsum.png Results

Technological change has been the basis for increasing agricultural productivity and promoting agricultural development. The historical focus of research on improved technologies has undeniably been successful. But these strategies have had limited impacts on the intended beneficiaries, as the complexity of their livelihood and farming systems is ignored. Until recently, little attention was given to the new technologies, management practices and institutions that farmers and farming communities have developed themselves over time within a local setting. Over the years, farmers also selected several varieties that had higher productivity and better quality. Farmers have also developed new and low cost technologies to preserve, process and package various farm products both for increased shelf life and better market opportunities. Despite these, the innovations made by farmers have not received the recognition, which they deserve. The significance of farmers' innovations however ranges from being useful only to the individual farmer, some times even limited to specific circumstances to a wider range of application that can be used by many farmers. In diverse agro-ecologies and situations, promotion of farmers’ innovative thoughts and actions would contribute significantly towards the sustainable development of agriculture. Participatory Innovation Development (PID) is a further step in this direction. It is recognize the dynamics in the farmers’ knowledge system and linking it with scientific knowledge. Using a PID approach, extension services strengthen farmers’ capacity to adjust to changing conditions.

SLMgloss1.png Glossary

Agriculture - The science of cultivating the soil, producing crops and raising livestock.
Evaluation - It is systematic process of determination of merit, worth, and significance of something or someone using criteria against a set of standards.
Livelihood - A means of living, especially of earning enough money to feed oneself etc.
Monitoring - It is the measurement through time that indicates the movement toward the objective or away from it.
On-farm research - It is an approach of adaptive research conducted on farmers’ field with their farming systems perspective in view under their management and with their active participation. The objective of on farm research is to develop technologies which might help solve problems of farmers in a defined study area. This is a essentially a problem solving research.
Paradigm - A pattern or example. A way of thinking and doing; a generally accepted comprehension.
Stakeholder - People who will be affected by any action or can influence it.
Technology - Any information, package of practice, technique, tool or method of doing or making which has some practical utility for the users. A technology has two components : hardware and software. Hardware refers to material or physical aspect and software refers to the information base for the physical aspect.

SLMfeedb.png Answers to SAQs

SAQ - 1
(a) How do you define the farmer led innovation?
Feedback: Farmer led innovation is the process through which individuals or groups living within a given locality discover/develop and apply improved ways of managing the available resources. It is a way of life for poor farmers who are being challenged by the ever-changing biophysical and socioeconomic situations in the country.
(b) What are the conditions necessitate farmer led innovation?
Feedback: There are two conditions that compel the farmer for their innovations: a) prevailing wide diversity in ecological, climatic, economic and socio-cultural conditions, and divers farming systems within districts and even localities and b) Rapid changes is ecological, climatic, economic and socio-cultural conditions of farmers.
(c) Enlist challenges of farmer led innovations?
Feedback: Although farmers are sources of diverse innovations but their potential could not be realized to the extent possible, because of lack of accommodative attitude of outsiders, lack of adequate opportunity for farmers to decide on research priorities, lack of financial support, lack of peers support and illiteracy.
SAQ - 2
(a) False
(b) True
(c) True
(d) True
SAQ - 3
(a) homogeneous, agroeconomics & socioeconomics
(b) adopt & design
(c) interactions & social

SAQ – 4
(a) cyclic
(b) farmers, facilitators and researchers
(c) necessity, changing conditions and curiosity
(d) True
(e) False
(f) True
(g) explain PID Implementation Process
Feedback: Participatory Innovation Development process is a cyclic process comprising five major steps that encompasses three stages as diagnosis, implementation or the action research stage and the sustainability stage. The monitoring and evaluation stage is a continuous process contributing towards strengthening the whole process.
(h) list out Characteristics of Participatory Innovation Development
I. Develop appropriate agricultural technology. II. Farmers participate actively in the entire farmer participatory research process. III. Research is conducted in farmers' fields. IV. The scientist is an investigator, colleague and advisor. V. Based on a systems perspective. VI. Requires interdisciplinary collaboration between researchers and farmers. VII. Promotes innovative methodologies and flexibility.

SLMref.png References and Further Readings

Anonymous 2006. Report on participatory innovation development (PID) training workshop. PROLINNOVA Nepal Programme, Nepal.

Arora, S.K. 1997. Farmers’ Participation in Agricultural Research and Extension Systems. New Delhi: Concept Publishing Company.

Chambers, R.; Pacey, A. and Thrupp, L. 1989. Farmer First: Farmer Innovation and Agricultural Research. Intermediate Technology Publications: London.

De Boef, W.; Amanor, K.; Wellard, K. and Bebbington, A.1993. Cultivating Knowledge: Genetic Diversity, Farmer Experimentation and Crop Research. London: Intermediate Technology Publications.

Fan, S., L. Zhang, and X. Zhang. 2002. Growth Inequality and Poverty in Rural China: The Role of Public Investments. IFPRI Research Report 125. Washington DC: International Food Research Institute (IFPRI).

Fan, S., P. Hazell and S. Thorat. 1999. Linkages Between Government Spending, Growth and Poverty in Rural India. IFPRI Research Report No. 110. Washington DC: International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

Fetien Abay. 1998. PID manual

Jiggins, J. 1989. Farmer Participatory Research and Technology Development. Department of Rural Extension Studies. University of Guelph. Guelph, Ontario, Canada.

Lanyon, L. E. 1994. Participatory assistance: An alternative to transfer of technology for promoting change on farms. American Journal of Alternative Agriculture, 9 (3), 136-142.

Prolinnova- Ethiopia progress report 2006. Unpublished report Prolinnova. 2004. Annual Report. Leusden: Prolinnova Secretariat.

Rai, S. and Shrestha, P. K. 2006. Guidelines to participatory innovation development. PROLINNOVA Nepal Programme, Nepal.

Rhoades, R.E. 1987. Farmers and Experimentation. Agricultural Administration (Research and Extension) Network. Discussion Paper No. 21. Overseas Development Unit (ODI): London, UK. Paper presented at the Workshop on Farmers and Agricultural Research: Complementary Methods, 27-31 July 1987. IDS, University of Sussex, Brighton, England as "The Role of Farmers in the Creation and Continuing Development of Agri-Technology and Systems".

Thirtle, C., L. Lin, and J. Piesse. 2003. “The Impact of Research Led Agriculture Productivity Growth on Poverty Reduction in Africa, Asia and Latin America.” World Development, 31(12): 1959-75.

World Bank. 2004. Promoting local innovation: enhancing IK dynamics and links with scientific knowledge. IK Notes 76 (