Front Cover
 Title Page
 Table of Contents
 The context of change
 Changing phases in agricultural...
 A vision for the future
 The role of governments and state...
 Non governmental organizations
 International agricultural research...
 Local institutions
 Educational and learning organ...
 Institutional and policy implications...
 Back Cover

Group Title: Discussion paper Institute of Development Studies
Title: Towards a learning paradigm
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00089558/00001
 Material Information
Title: Towards a learning paradigm new professionalism and institutions for agriculture
Physical Description: iv, 68 p. : ill. ;
Language: English
Creator: Pretty, Jules N.
Chambers, Robert, 1932-
University of Sussex -- Institute of Development Studies
Publisher: Institute of Development Studies
Place of Publication: Brighton, England
Publication Date: 1993
Copyright Date: 1993
Subject: Agriculture, plant and veterinary sciences   ( sigle )
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references (p. 52-68).
General Note: "December 1993."
Statement of Responsibility: Jules N. Pretty and Robert Chambers.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00089558
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 31859996
isbn - 1858640016
issn - 0308-5864 ;

Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front Cover
    Title Page
        Title Page
    Table of Contents
        Page i
        Page ii
        Page iii
        Page iv
    The context of change
        Page 1
    Changing phases in agricultural research, extension and development
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
    A vision for the future
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
    The role of governments and state institutions
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
        Page 23
        Page 24
    Non governmental organizations
        Page 25
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page 28
        Page 29
        Page 30
    International agricultural research and the CGIAR
        Page 31
        Page 32
        Page 33
        Page 34
        Page 35
        Page 36
    Local institutions
        Page 37
        Page 38
        Page 39
        Page 40
    Educational and learning organizations
        Page 41
        Page 42
        Page 43
        Page 44
        Page 45
    Institutional and policy implications for the new professionalism
        Page 46
        Page 47
        Page 48
        Page 49
        Page 50
        Page 51
        Page 52
        Page 53
        Page 54
        Page 55
        Page 56
        Page 57
        Page 58
        Page 59
        Page 60
        Page 61
        Page 62
        Page 63
        Page 64
        Page 65
        Page 66
        Page 67
        Page 68
    Back Cover
        Page 69
        Page 70
Full Text

D3b .

Towards a Learn P digmn
New Professionaism and
Institutions for Agrii re,

:. :. ........?I
i.. .r ti

Preliminary material and interim research results circulated to stimulate
discussion and critical comment
..... ": '. .Peimnr'm:a ainteri r~h ,r~~IIlig~ircaiatoclJ to stle -
dicsso and o"ticL com ent :l

,[-..,:.:-. .. . . .. .... . : . - .. ,i :,




Jules N Pretty and Robert Chambers

DP 334

December 1993

An earlier version of this paper was presented at the IIED/IDS Beyond
Farmer First: Rural People's Knowledge, Agricultural Research and
Extension Practice Workshop, Institute of Development Studies, University
of Sussex, UK, 27-29 October 1992. Support for IED's Beyond Farmer First
Programme and the workshop were made possible by generous grants from
the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA), the Swedish
Agency for Cooperation with Developing Countries (SAREC), the UK
Overseas Development Agency (ODA), the Technical Centre for
Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) and various regional offices of
the Ford Foundation and the International Development Research Centre
(IDRC). This paper has also been included in IIED's Sustainable
Agricultural Programme Research Series (Vol 1, No 1-4, 1993), along with a
number of other overview papers and detailed case studies from Africa,
Asia and Latin America. In addition, Intermediate Technology Publications
Ltd. will publish a comprehensive book containing a range of material
produced for the research programme and the workshop in Spring 1994.

Jules Pretty is Director of the Sustainable Agriculture Programme,
International Institute for Environment and Development, 3 Endsleigh
Street, London WC1H ODD

Robert Chambers is a Fellow at the Institute of Development Studies,
University of Sussex, Falmer, Brighton BN1 9RE


ISBN 1 85864 001 6

Themes: agriculture and rural problems; education; environment; political
economy; international issues

Six years ago, the Farmer First workshop marked the growing strength of a
new world view in agriculture. Put farmers needs and views first and the
potential for growth and regeneration in complex, diverse and risk prone
areas is far greater than previously supposed. To do this on a large scale,
though, was to require great changes in professionals and the institutions in
which they work.

In the past six years, there have been parallel and supportive changes in
paradigmatic theory, in learning environments, and in participatory
methodology. Experience has been gained with change in government
organizations, NGOs, the CGIAR, local organizations, and agricultural
universities. National agricultural research and extension organizations
have the most comprehensive coverage, but are often underfunded,
hierarchical and given to standardized packages. NGOs are often
innovative, close to farmers, and flexible, but uneven in their quality and
coverage. The CGIAR is set in the old mould, but with a fringe of staff
influential beyond their numbers. Local institutions, including as they do
farmers' groups and organizations, are of growing importance. Some
movement has begun in some agricultural universities. Decentralized,
participatory approaches and methods are gradually ceasing to be seen as
marginal, and the professional rewards of their adoption are rising
compared with the risks.

For change now to be rapid and sustained requires the mutual
reinforcement of participatory methods, new learning environments, and
institutional support. These conditions have been most favourable in a few
NGOs which have also been centres of innovation, while a few government
organizations, groups in universities and individuals in IARCs have also
pioneered and adopted new approaches. The scale and speed of change fall
far short of need and opportunity, but rapid dissemination could also fail.
A sound strategy is steady lateral spread through alliances, mutual support,
networking, training and sharing, stressing not only methods and learning
environments, but also personal behaviour and attitudes.


















An earlier draft of this paper was one of three overview papers for the
IIED/IDS Beyond Farmer First workshop, 27-29 October 1992. The Beyond
Farmer First: Rural People's Knowledge, Agricultural Research and
Extension Practice project is a three year programme of research support
and institutional collaboration between the Sustainable Agriculture
Programme of IIED and 14 partner institutions in Asia, Africa, Latin
America and Europe. Through detailed case studies on the theoretical,
methodological and institutional issues surrounding agricultural
knowledge construction, transmission and application, this programme has
sought to assess wider lessons and consolidate advances made since the
Farmer First workshop (1987) and book (1989) set out new directions for
agricultural research and extension.

We are grateful to John Thompson, lan Scoones and David Gibbon for
helpful comments on an earlier drafts of this paper. The paper also
benefited from a wide range of comments and discussions by participants at
the IIED/IDS Beyond Farmer First: Rural People's Knowledge,
Agricultural Research and Extension Practice Workshop, which was held
at the Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex, UK, 27-29
October 1992.


AEA Agroecosystem Analysis
CGIAR (CG) Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research
DELTA Development Education Leadership Teams
DRR Diagnostico Rural Rapido
FPR Farmer Participatory Research
FSR Farming Systems Research
GRAAP Groupe de Recherche et d'Appui pour l'Autopromotion
IARC International Agricultural Research Centre
ICLARM International Centre for Living Aquatic Resources
ISNAR International Servive for National Agricultural Research
NAES National Agricultural Extension System
NARS National Agricultural Research System
NGO Neo-Government Organisation
PALM Participatory Learning Method
PAR Participatory Action Research
PRA Participatory Rural Appraisal
PRAP Participatory Rural Appraisal and Planning
RAP Rapid Assessment Procedures
RESA Rapid Food Security Assessment
ROA Rapid Organisational Assessment
SB Samuhik Brahman (Joint Trek)
TAC The Technical Advisory Committee of the CGIAR
TFD Theatre for Development
TFT Training for Transformation



Recent years have seen the growing strength of a new world view in
agriculture. The transfer of technology approach for agricultural research
and extension which has served for industrial and green revolution
agriculture has been recognized to fit poorly many of the conditions and
needs of complex, diverse and risk-prone agriculture. In the transfer of
technology paradigm, research decisions are made by scientists and
technology is developed on research stations and in laboratories, and then
handed over to extension to pass on to farmers. In the complementary
farmer-first paradigm, farmers' needs and priorities are put first, and
farmers participate in research and extension. When this is done, the
potential of the 'resource-poor' becomes greater than previously supposed.
But to achieve true participation, putting farmers' priorities first, facilitating
their analysis, and supporting their experimentation, requires changes
which are personal, professional and institutional.

The new and complementary paradigm1 for agricultural research,
development and extension has emerged both from a recognition of the
failures of current approaches and from advances in other domains. The
dominant positivist and modernist frameworks have singularly failed to
help poor people and reduce inequity. Reductionist science and transfer of
technology remain strong in controlled, predictable and simplified
conditions, and at the microscopic level; but their limitations are now
clearer. They have missed local complexity; determinist causality has failed
to account for uncertainties, variability and the adaptive performances of
farmers; technologies successful in one context have been applied
irrespective of context, with widespread failure; and professionals and
institutions have engaged in self-deception as a defence against having to
learn the lessons of failure (Kuhn 1962; Lincoln and Guba 1985; Habermas
1987; Chambers et al. 1989; Harvey 1989; Russell and Ison 1991; Porter et al.
1991; Wynne 1991; 1992).

In parallel, advances in a wide range of disciplines and fields of
investigation are providing insights for an emerging learning paradigm.2
Together, these insights challenge assumptions underlying modernization
and rationalist thought. They have several themes at their core, namely:

* the affirmation of individuals and their differences, and the necessary
coexistence with these multiple perspectives;

a pluralist stance giving voice to individuals and groups so as to
participate in decision-making;

knowledge and associated technology are seen as contextual in time
and space, and so limited in their transferability, while ways of
learning have wider validity;

the future is recognized as uncertain and indeterminate, with a
sensitive dependence on current and contextual conditions.

These paradigmatic themes underpin and resonate with farmer first and
participatory approaches. Expressed in practical terms, the components of
this new paradigm imply a new professionalism and new institutional
settings. The core challenge is how best to proceed in a context of
uncertainty, indeterminacy, diversity, mutual causality, increasing
complexity, and often accelerating change.


Robert Rhoades' (1989) historical review of 40 years of agricultural research
.and development helps to clarify the nature of the challenge. He
characterizes four overlapping periods of steadily shifting emphases. These
stages are:

* Production stage (roughly 1950-1975), in which the pioneering
disciplines were breeding and genetics, and farmers were seen as
recipients of technology;

Economic stage (roughly 1975-1985), in which Farming Systems
Research was pioneered by economists and agronomists, and farmers
were seen as sources of information for technology design;

Ecological stage (roughly 1985-1995), in which anthropology,
agroecology and geography are pioneers, and farmers contribute their
indigenous knowledge, and are seen both as victims and cause of
unsustainable development;

Institutional stage (roughly 1995 onwards), in which the pioneering
disciplines will be management specialists, psychologists,
organisational sociologists, political scientists, training specialists and
educators; in which farmers will be full collaborators in research and
extension; and in which alliances will be developed between different

Even though each wave of enthusiasm for a new approach has grown out of
antecedents, there has been a tendency for those who pioneer and embrace
each new direction to play down the accomplishments of earlier
approaches, and so 'the "old" always argue that the "new" is not so new ("we
were doing it all along") while the "new" fiercely defends what it perceives
to be the wave of the future' (Rhoades 1989). This distracts from the new
potential, as these four stages are, of course, not mutually exclusive, and
should be seen as overlapping dimensions of a single interdisciplinary
whole. Precisely how the new disciplines and skills will play a role in
building effective programmes in national and international programmes is
as yet unclear, but as Rhoades put it: 'this should not be a cause for alarm,
given that early in every new stage no one was able to appreciate the vast
bodies of methods and theories available in disciplines still marginal to the
agricultural research and development establishment'. We may
additionally read farmers and their capabilities for new disciplines, as closer
collaboration between farmers and professionals will bring more
understanding of complex realities.

Any vision for a future institutional phase will best be grounded in
experience. Two domains of recent innovation are relevant: new learning
environments; and participatory approaches and methods. These in turn
imply new institutional settings for much agricultural research and
development in order to support a new professionalism.


The central concept of the new paradigm is that it enshrines new ways of
learning about the world. Teaching and learning, though, are not the same
thing. Learning does not necessarily result from teaching. Teaching implies
the transfer of knowledge from someone who knows to someone who does
not know. Teaching is the normal mode in curricula; it underpins the
transfer of technology model of research; and it is central to many
organizational structures (Ison 1990). Universities and other agricultural

institutions reinforce the teaching paradigm by giving the impression that
they are custodians of knowledge which can be dispensed or given (usually
by lecture) to a recipient (a student).

Teaching can impede learning. Gibbs (1981) has put it that the
'preoccupation with teaching has ... actually constrained the effectiveness of
higher education and limited its abilities to meet society's demands ... We
might say that we are now beginning to perceive that the purpose of
education is learning. And we are beginning to realize that frequently
teaching interferes with learning'. Professionals who are to work with local
complexity, diversity and uncertainty need to engage in sensitive learning
about the particular conditions of rapid change. Where teaching does not
include a focus on self-development and enhancing the ability to learn,
'teaching threatens sustainable agriculture' (Ison 1990).

There is little experience of institutional reform that has put learning
approaches at the core of education. One example is Hawkesbury Collegel
in Australia. For its first 80 years, Hawkesbury Agricultural College
functioned as an all-male, fully residential vocational institution, filling the
technological tier of a three-tiered State system of agricultural research
(Bawden et al. 1984; Bawden 1992). It was transformed in the late 1970s into
a multi-purpose college of agricultural education, and radical reform closely
followed. The shift to experimental curricula, away from lectures and
towards field-based problem solving, led quickly to about half the
incumbent staff leaving. Five key concepts dominate the current
educational framework. These are adult learning; experiential learning;
systemic and contingency approaches to problem solving; action research;
and scientific method and group theory. Bawden (1992) has put the aim of
the approach as 'to create learning systems which are able to retain their
abilities to be influenced by, as well as have a positive influence on, the
circumstances which surround them'.

A move from a teaching to a learning style has profound implications.
Everyone involved in agriculture, including farmers, trainers, educators,
researchers, extensionists, and administrators becomes important, as do
their interactions. The focus is then less on what we learn, and more on
how we learn. Institutions will need to provide creative learning
environments, conditions in which learning can take place through
experience, through open and equal interactions, and through personal
exploration and experimentation. The pedagogic goals become self-
strengthening for people and groups through self-learning and self-
teaching. Russell and Ison (1991) have distinguished between first-order

R&D, and second-order R&D in which 'the role and action of the researcher
is very much a part of the interactions being studied'. Responsibility then
replaces objectivity as an ethic, and perception and action are based on the
individual's experiential world.


In recent years, there has been a blossoming of participatory approaches in
government and non-government research, extension, planning institutions
(Table 1). Some focus more on problem diagnosis, such as AEA, DRR, RAP,
ROA, RRA, GRAAP. Others are more oriented to community
empowerment, such as DELTA, PAR, TFD. Some concentrate more on
facilitating on-farm or farmer-led research, such as FPR and FSR. Others are
approaches designed to get professionals in the field listening to farmers,
such as SB. Some have been developed in the health context, such as RAP;
some for watershed development, such as PALM; and some for food
security assessment, such as RFSA. Some have been developed in
government extension institutions, such as RCA; and others in NGOs, such
as PRAP. This diversity is of names, applications and owners is a sign of
strength. It implies that each variation is to some extent dependent on
contexts and problem situations specific to locations and institutions.
However, common principles underpin most of them (Pretty et al. 1993a; b).
These are as follows:

* A defined methodology and systematic learning process the focus
is on cumulative learning, and given the nature of these approaches as
systems of inquiry, their use has to be participative.

* Multiple perspectives a central objective is to seek diversity, rather
than characterize complexity in terms of average values. The
assumption is that different individuals and groups make different
evaluations of situations, which lead to different actions. All views of
activity or purpose are heavy with interpretation, bias and prejudice,
and this implies that there are multiple possible descriptions of any
named real-world purposeful action.

Group inquiry process all involve the recognition that the
complexity of the world will only be revealed through group inquiry.
This implies three types of mix, namely multidisciplinary;
multisectoral; and mixes of outsiders (professionals) and insiders
(local people, farmers etc).

Table 1: A selection of participatory approaches and
methodologies of the 1980s-1990s (In alphabetical order)

AEA Agroecosystem Analysis
BA Beneficiary Assessment
DELTA Development Education Leadership Teams
D&D Diagnosis and Design
DRR Diagnostico Rural Rapido
FPR Farmer Participatory Research
FSR Farming Systems Research
GRAAP Groupe de Recherche et d'Appui pour
l'Auto-promotion Paysanne
MARP Methode Accelere de Recherche Participative
PALM Participatory Learning Method
PAR Participatory Action Research
PD Process Documentation
PRA Participatory Rural Appraisal
PRAP Participatory Rural Appraisal and Planning
PRM Participatory Research Methods
PTD Participatory Technology Development
RA Rapid Appraisal
RAAKS Rapid Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge
RAP Rapid Assessment Procedures
RAT Rapid Assessment Techniques
RCA Rapid Catchment Analysis
REA Rapid Ethnographic Assessment
RFSA Rapid Food Security Assessment
RMA Rapid Multi-perspective Appraisal
ROA Rapid Organisational Assessment
RRA Rapid Rural Appraisal
SB Samuhik Brahman (Joint trek)
SSM Soft Systems Methodology
TFD Theatre for Development
TFT Training for Transformation

Context specific each application is flexible enough to be adapted
and changed to suit each new set of conditions and actors, and so
there are multiple variants.

* Facilitating experts the methodology is used to try to bring about
changes in a real problem situation which people involved regard as
improvements. The role of the 'expert' is best thought of as helping
the people in their situation carry out their own study.

* Leading to action the inquiry process leads to debate about change,
and debate changes the perceptions of the actors and their readiness
to contemplate action. Action is agreed, and implementable changes
will therefore represent an accommodation between the different
conflicting views. The debate and/or analysis both defines changes
which would bring about improvement and seeks to motivate people
to take action to implement the defined changes.

These new approaches and methods imply shifts of initiative, responsibility
and action downwards in hierarchies, and especially to farmers and rural
people themselves. Earlier investigations which were extractive, with
researchers collecting data and taking it away for processing, are
superseded by investigation and analysis more by farmers themselves, who
share their knowledge and insights with outsiders. Methods such as
participatory mapping, analysis of aerial photographs, matrix scoring and
ranking, flow and linkage diagramming, seasonal analysis, and trend
diagramming are not just means for farmers to inform outsiders, but
methods for farmers' own analysis, conducting, in effect, their own farming
systems research (Chambers 1992c). Farmers' groups have come into
prominence, and more and more design and conduct their own trials and
evaluations (Ashby et al. 1989; Norman et al. 1989; Heinrich et al. 1991).
Farmers using these methods have shown a greater capacity to observe,
diagram and analyse than most outsiders have expected, and are also
proving good facilitators for other farmers (Shah et al. 1991). Participatory
approaches and methods have proved increasingly popular and powerful,
and are spreading, taking different forms in different places.


Many current agricultural institutions, whether universities, research
organizations, or extension agencies are characterized by restrictive
bureaucracy. They have centralized hierarchical authority, specialized
disciplinary departments, standardized procedures, and uniform packaged
outputs provided in a mode of supply-push to farmers. Personal promotion
and institutional survival depend less on external achievement, such as
farmers adopting the products of research, and more on internal criteria,

such as performance according to professional norms and bureaucratic
public relations with funding sources. Such institutions are stable partly
through self-deception: they are sustained by modes of learning which
present misleading feedback from the peripheries, giving falsely favourable
impressions of the impact of their packages and programmes.

Institutions that respond better to open learning environments and
participatory methods must be decentralized and heterarchical, with an
open multidisciplinarity, flexible teams, and heterogeneous outputs
responding to demand-pull from farmers. In these conditions, personal
promotion and institutional survival should depend more on external
achievement, such as responding to farmers' diverse expressed needs. The
new institutions will be learning organizations (Senge 1990), with realistic
and rapid feedback flows for adaptive responses to change. Multiple
realities will be understood through multiple linkages and alliances, with
continuous dialogue and participation (Table 2).


The new roles of farmers, the new participatory approaches and methods,
and the new learning environments, all imply new roles for agricultural
scientists and extensionists. Scientists must and will continue their normal
science, in laboratories and on research stations, in support. But in addition,
through these participatory means they are now better able to learn from
and with farmers, and so to serve diverse and complex conditions and
farming systems, and also to enable farmers to learn for themselves. The
new roles for outsider professionals include convenor for groups; catalyst
and consultant to stimulate, support and advise; facilitator of farmers' own
analysis; searcher and supplier for materials, principles and practices for
farmers to try; and travel agent and tour operator to enable farmers to learn
laterally from each other (Chambers 1992c; 1993). These new roles require a
new professionalism with new concepts, values, methods and behaviour.

To characterize an old and a new professionalism is to risk polarized
caricature between the bad and the good. A distinction is needed here
between the strengths of traditional science as bodies of knowledge,
principles and methods, and the weaknesses of the beliefs, behaviour and
attitudes which often go with it. It is mainly the beliefs, behaviour and
attitudes which present problems and opportunities, and which the new
professionalism seeks to change.

Table 2: Comparison between old and new institutional settings

From the old

To the new

Mode of decision

Mode of planning
and delivery of
technologies or

Response to external

Mode of field learning

How those in
institutions, especially
at the top, learn

Linkages and alliances

Centralized and

Static design, fixed
packages, supply-push

Collect more data
before acting

Field learning by 'rural
development tourism'
and questionnaire
surveys; error concealed
or ignored

misleading feedback
from peripheries give
falsely favourable
impressions of impact

Institutions work in

Decentralized and
adapted to context

Evolving design,
wide choice,

Act immediately,
and monitor

Learning by
dialogue and
inquiry and
methods; error

Learning through
feedback and
feedforward; for
adaptive and
iterative processes

Institutions linked
formally and
informally to each

The contrasts stand out. Typically, old professionals are single-disciplinary,
work largely or only on research stations, are insensitive to diversity of
context, and are concerned with themselves generating and transferring
technologies. Their beliefs about farmers' conditions and priorities often

differ from farmers' own views. These differences are the subject of many
anecdotes, and deserve more systematic study similar to that of Dove (1992)
on foresters' beliefs about farmers in Pakistan. The new professionals, in
contrast, are either multidisciplinary or work closely with other disciplines,
are not intimidated by the complexities of close dialogue with farmers and
rural people, and are continually aware of the context of inquiry and
development (see Table 3).

Table 3: Changing professionalism from the old to the new

From the old

Assumptions about

Scientific method

Strategy and context of

Assumption of
singular, tangible

Scientific method is
reductionist and
positivist; complex
world split into
independent variables
and cause-effect
relationships; researchers'
categories and
perceptions are central

Investigators know what
they want; pre-specified
research plan or design.
Information is extracted
from respondents or
derived from controlled
experiments; context
is independent and

To the new

Assumption of
multiple realities
that are socially

Scientific method
holistic and post-
positivist; local
categories and
perceptions are
central; subject-
object and method-
data distinctions
are blurred

Investigators do not
know where
research will lead; it
is an open-ended
learning process.
Understanding and
focus emerges
through interaction;
context of inquiry is


Carried forward from page 10..../

From the old

Who sets priorities?

Relationship between
all actors in the process

Mode of working

Technology or services

Professionals set

Professionals control and
motivate clients from a
distance; they tend not
to trust people (farmers,
rural people etc) who
are simply the object of

Single disciplinary -
working alone

Rejected technology or
service assumed to be
fault of local people or
local conditions. Careers
are inwards and
upwards as practitioners
get better, they become
promoted and take on
more administration

To the new

Local people and
professionals set
priorities together

Professionals enable
and empower in
close dialogue; they
attempt to build
trust through joint
analyses and
negotiation; under-
standing arises
through this
resulting in
between the
investigator and the
'objects' of research

Multidisciplinary -
working in groups

Rejected technology
or service is a failed
technology or
service. Careers
include outward
and downward
movement -
professionals stay in
touch with action at
all levels


This vision for the future, in which the new professionalism becomes the
norm in new institutional structures and partnerships, has already been
achieved in certain places. There are, for example, an increasing number of
well understood environmental and economic successes in complex, diverse
and risk-prone areas, where agricultural regeneration has been achieved.
Local groups supported by new professionals (in state organizations and
NGOs) working in enabling institutions have increased yields, reduced
environmental impacts, built capacities and resilience, reduced
dependencies and so on. As yet, these are relatively localized in impact.
The major challenge for the Beyond Farmer First vision is to point to the
ways of scaling up these successes.

For this vision, recent empirical evidence suggests there are three essential
areas to tackle. These are:

1 New methodologies for partnerships, dialogue, participatory analysis
and sharing;

2 New learning environments for professionals and rural people to
develop capacities;

3 New institutional environments, including improved linkages within
and between institutions.

These three areas for action are shown in Figure 1 as intersecting circles.
From our empirical experience of the successes and failures, the most
sustainable solutions lie in the overlapping central sector. The following
assumptions underlie this conceptual framework:

participatory approaches and methods support local innovation and
adaptation, accommodate and augment diversity and complexity,
enhance local capabilities, and so are more likely to generate
sustainable processes and practices. These are represented by the
ECAB circle, and include participatory approaches and methods such
as participatory rural appraisal (PRA) (e.g. RRA Notes, passim;
Mascarenhas et al. 1991; Chambers 1992b), participatory technology
development (PTD) (ILEIA 1988; Haverkort et al. 1990; Jiggins and de
Zeeuw 1992), farmer participatory research (Farrington and Martin
1988; Amanor 1989), and others represented in farmer first and people
first (Burkey 1993) approaches.

Figure 1: Conceptual framework for a new learning paradigm


* an interactive learning environment encourages participatory
attitudes, excites interest and commitment, and so contributes to
jointly negotiated courses of action. This is represented by the GBAD
circle, and includes adult education and new learning (Rogers 1985;
Bawden 1992), training for transformation (Hope et al. 1984), and
other training for development (Lynton and Pareek 1990).

* institutional support encourages the spread between and within
institutions of participatory methods, and so gives innovators the
freedom to act and share. This is represented by the FDAC circle,
which includes where a whole organization shifts towards
participatory methods and management, as with AKRSP (India),
MYRADA, SPEECH and some other NGOs, and where there are
informal and formal linkages between different organizations.

The hypothesis is that participatory practices are least strong and least
sustainable at the peripheries of the circles, with gradients to the central
overlap where the best, most sustainable, and most spreading participatory
practices are to be found. In this perspective, sectors G, F and E represent
starting points and preconditions, but none is likely to take root, be
sustained or spread well unless it receives support by moving into D, C or
B, and then into A.

Thus G on its own, a creative and participatory learning environment
without institutional support or participatory field methods, is typically
marginal, vulnerable, and short-lived. Such environments tend to rely on
one person or a small group, and to disappear when the person or group
moves or is moved out.

Where there is institutional support for participatory modes, as in F, it is
liable to remain only rhetoric and intent unless expressed through a
participatory learning environment and/or the use of participatory field
methods. Examples are known where a director or director-general has
been convinced of the value of participatory methods but staff, wedded to
top-down teaching and traditional approaches and methods of field
investigation, have resisted reform; and where, in consequence, nothing
much has changed. Institutional support can exist for multidisciplinary,
participatory and systems modes of research and extension, but without the
use of participatory methods in the field, and with learning only by
conventional classroom teaching. Examples can be found with some FSR
efforts in agricultural research, including some in India. In such cases there

can be adequate external support in resources, but problems of poor
linkages with NGOs and farmers' groups, a formal learning environment,
departmental separatism, obstacles to the formation of multidisciplinary
teams, and behaviour and attitudes inimical to participatory interaction.

Similarly, participatory field methods, as in E, are likely to be abandoned or
never even tried, unless there is institutional support or a learning
environment. This has been a recurrent experience with field training
workshops in PRA. Those who have taken part may be convinced, and
wish to introduce PRA methods into their organizations, but find they
cannot do this alone and without support. Partly they may lack confidence
or clout, but also their colleagues may be sceptical or hostile, and unwilling
to give participatory modes a fair trial. An example comes from the Upland
Agricultural Conservation Project, Indonesia, where there was much
interest in methods for data gathering and multidisciplinary analysis, but
without strong support from the top, with little follow up by participants on
their own, and with no links with other institutions such as NGOs (Pretty et
al. 1988).

Sectors D, C and B permit some mutual reinforcement, but in each case with
one crucial element missing. D represents a self-contained or inbred
environment, with interactive teaching and training, and good institutional
support, but no participatory work in the field. C represents institutional
support and participatory field methods, but with a traditional top-down
teaching environment. B has strong interaction between learning
environment and participatory field methods, but remains marginal and
vulnerable through lack of institutional support, and change is only
temporary (see e.g. Pretty and Scoones 1989; Lynton and Pareek 1990).

When the institutional environment worsens, a national NGO can slide
from C to E and then out of the circles altogether, abandoning participatory
field practices on the way. When the learning environment remains top-
down, formal, and based on detailed manuals, even though there is
institutional support, field methods may not become truly participatory:
this problem is indicated where training takes extended periods in the
classroom rather than the field. When participatory field methods are not
known or practised, reinforcement through popular enthusiasm does not
occur, and appraisal and action are more laborious and less easily sustained.
In these various conditions, programmes tend to be either weak and
threatened within their institutions, or to sink into repetitive ruts. In both
cases, the withdrawal of external support is a danger, as occurred in the
1980s with some farming systems research programmes.

The commonness and instability of D, C and B conditions reflects the
considerable challenge and importance of moving to the overlapping sector
A, where all three conditions can mutually reinforce and sustain each other.

In this sector A, support within institutions exists at the top. Authority is
decentralized, and local diversity supported. There are incentives and
encouragement to conduct participatory work. Linkages and sharing are
encouraged with other institutions, whether NGO, government or local
organizations. Spread is lateral, through sharing between and within
organizations, and through participants becoming trainers. The learning
environment focuses on problem-solving, and is interactive and field-based.
Error is embraced in the learning process. Responsibility is personal more
than procedural, relying more on discretion and judgement and less on
rules and manuals. Behaviour and attitudes are democratic, stressing
listening and facilitation, not didactic teaching. Methods and approaches
are participatory and enabling, and seek to enhance capabilities. Local
groups and organizations are supported, and encouraged to conduct their
own experiments and extension, to manage themselves and to make
demands on the system. Rapid adaptation to change occurs through
devolved responsibility, local learning, and the responsive generation of a
range of options.

Examples of these conditions, or conditions moving close to them, can now
be found in many countries and contexts: Kenya for soil and water
conservation (see Box 1); Sri Lanka for irrigation (see Box 2) (Wijayaratna
1985; Uphoff 1992a, b and c); India for watershed development (Shah 1992;
Devavaram 1993; Mascarenhas et al. 1991; Pretty and Shah, forthcoming);
India for tank rehabilitation (CWR 1990-91; Mosse 1992); Philippines for
irrigation (de los Reyes and Jopillo 1986; Bagadion and Korten 1991); Nepal
and India for credit groups (Rahman 1984; Uphoff 1990; Ramaprasad and
Ramachandran 1989; Fernandez 1992); Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Ethiopia for
community development (Thompson and Nott 1992; ActionAid/IIED 1989);
Botswana, Zambia and Ethiopia for farmers' research (Heinrich et al. 1991;
Sikana 1992; Drinkwater 1992; FARM Africa/IIED 1991); Burkina Faso for
soil and water conservation (Critchley 1991). There are many others which
are not in this list.

Box 1: A success from Kenya: the soil and water conservation
branch, Ministry of Agriculture

In 1974, the National Soil Conservation Programme was established in
the Ministry of Agriculture. During the first ten years, emphasis was
placed on the construction of mechanical protection works, mainly
various forms of terracing. The extension services targeted those
individual farmers who were willing and able to accept technical
assistance. During the 1980s it became increasingly apparent that this
individual approach to extension was not supporting sufficient soil and
water conservation measures. Erosion was outstripping conservation,
despite the financial incentives and subsidies.

As a result, in 1987 the Ministry adopted the catchment approach. This
concentrates resources and efforts within a specified area for a limited
period of time. A team with extension officers from different ministries
works together for a week in a catchment area using Participatory Rural
Appraisal methods for the catchment planning. They work with local
people to analyse local ecological and social conditions, produce
inventories of local knowledge and practices, and develop an action plan.
This is discussed at an open meeting, or baraza, where farmers are able to
comment and express their needs. A catchment committee of local
people is elected, and this local organization co-ordinates soil and water
conservation within the catchment area.

This group approach to extension planning has increased the credibility
of extension staff as they are seen to be listening and learning from local
people. It does not make use of subsidies. Instead, it has mobilized
communities around a productive interest. It has changed attitudes in
both local and outside people. The approach has resulted in significant
environmental and economic regeneration, with sustained increases in
agricultural yields, resource conservation, and strength of local groups.

Sources: Ministry of Agriculture, Kenya, passim; Pretty et al., 1993c

Box 2: A success from Sri Lanka: irrigation and groups in Gal Oya

After involvement of the farmers in groups for the rehabilitation of
25,000 ha of agricultural land:

water use efficiency increased, and farmers increased the cropping
intensity and crop production;

the number of complaints about water distribution dropped nearly
to zero as adjustments 'were worked out amicably with field-level
staff; and

the problem of broken gates disappeared (formerly they were
broken 80 per cent of time).

Cooperation among farmers and with officials was catalysed within a
few months despite a 30 year legacy of conflict and non-cooperation. As
officials were involved in measuring the impacts of these groups, and
saw the positive results, their support grew and became more active.
The conditions for success included continuity of personnel, strong
government support at high levels, and the right kind of leadership in
communities. One impact was that 'government personnel started
working more conscientiously and effectively once they came to know
the real conditions at village level through the systematic monitoring and
evaluation system'.

Sources: Uphoff, 1992b and c



There is growing acceptance that participatory apparatus can contribute to
the development of technologies by and for resource-poor farmers, and to
community management of natural resources. But this potential is unlikely
to be realized until participatory approaches are adopted by National
Agricultural Research and Extension Systems (NARSs and NAESs) and by
Government field organizations and then applied on a sustained basis and

on a broad scale. Such participatory research and extension requires that
farmers and communities be regarded as partners in the research, extension
and institutional development process, rather than as clients.

Government organizations are limited in their ability to conduct and
facilitate systems-based participatory agricultural research and
development (Bebbington and Farrington 1992; Gibbon 1992). This is
accounted for by well-known factors at the macro, institutional and
individual levels. At the macroeconomic level, in many countries, tight
limits are set by debt burdens, structural adjustment, low revenue and
budget deficits. At the institutional level, centralization, inflexible
management, and standardized programmes misfit diverse local conditions,
and generate often misleadingly favourable feedback based on centrally
determined criteria. Lack of funds and inflexible budgets preclude
responses to new opportunities. Government field agencies with the
deadlines of financial years often concentrate on physical construction to
meet targets to the neglect of community and farmer participation. In
consequence, attempts to scale up NGO successes frequently founder (Box
3). At the individual level, agricultural researchers are deterred from
working in the field and with farmers by their conditioned attitudes and
behaviour, by reward systems based on scientific papers derived from on-
station research, and by sheer lack of physical and financial means such as
transport and travel allowances.

Many problems, as well as strengths, were brought to light by ISNAR's
study of nine NARSs4 that had been conducting on-farm client-oriented
research for at least five years. The study found that the hardest role of on-
farm research to institutionalize was feedback from clients to affect research
priorities (Merrill-Sands et al. 1991). As Merrill-Sands and Collion (1992)
have put it: 'This finding is particularly disturbing given that we were
looking at relatively mature FSR efforts that had had time to train
researchers in FSR methods'.

Extension also thoroughly embodies the teaching, positivist paradigm.
Extension means extending knowledge from a centre of learning to those
presumed to be in need of that knowledge. Researchers have the
prestigious role of being the source of new technologies, whilst farmers are
passive recipients. The erroneous assumptions underpinning much
extension and transfer of technology are shown in Box 4.

Box 3: The case of the Hill Resource Management Program of
Haryana, India

External institutions find social change much less easy to promote than
technical and economic change. In this programme, users' groups for
natural resource management have been established to fill the gap left by
the decline and near disappearance of indigenous management systems.
The project began in Sukhomajri and Nada where prolonged and patient
interaction between professionals of both government and non-
government agencies and villagers led to the equitable distribution of
irrigation and water from small anti-erosion dams and to 'social fencing'
through which degraded forest land was protected by villagers from
grazing and grew fibre and fodder grasses as well as trees. The impact
was remarkable: rope-making from the fibre grass yield which rose 400-
800 per cent, stall-fed livestock with a ninefold increase in milk sales, and
crop yields which rose 100-400 per cent.

The Haryana Forest Department became the lead agency for extension of
the approach. But physical development preceded and outpaced social
organization. At the time when 57 dams had been built, in only 30 per
cent of the 39 communities involved had the Department established
management societies. The programme was vulnerable to local people
becoming less and less involved in planning and management.

Sources: Mishra and Sarin 1988; Poffenberger 1990

Box 4: Erroneous assumptions underpinning much agricultural
research and extension
(Russell et al. 1989; Chambers et al. 1989; Ison 1990; Moris

* real knowledge is the sole domain of the researcher;
* the farmer is a passive and malleable recipient of information;
* the initiative for disseminating information rests exclusively with
the communicator;
* increased production is the main criterion for farming improvement;
* farmers' information needs are technical research results, rather than
in the area of management of their livelihood systems.

This approach to formal extension is exemplified by the Training and Visit
system (Benor et al. 1984). In this system, extension agents receive regular
training to enhance their technical skills, which they then pass on to farmers
through regular contact with the selected contact farmers. This technical
advice and knowledge then diffuses from the contact farmers to other non-
contact farmers. The secondary transfer of the messages, though, has been
less successful than predicted, and adoption rates have commonly been low
amongst non-contact farmers (Chapman 1988; Mullen 1989). In Somalia, for
example, only one non-contact farmer adopted a high input package for
each contact farmer (Mullen 1989). This was despite the fact that over
several years maize and sorghum yields were 40-45 per cent greater on
contact farmers' fields (Chapman 1988). Farmers who choose not to adopt
are then liable to be labelled as 'laggards with attitudinal barriers' (Russell et
al. 1989).

An alternative to this kind of extension is group-based approaches that,
when analysed carefully, look nothing like extension as conceptualized and
defined above. Extension becomes facilitation, through using and
developing farmers' knowledge, teaching observational skills, and using
adult education methods to develop joint decision making skills (Roling
1992). Russell and Ison (1991) have suggested that: 'it is time to abandon
the term extension altogether because of what it has come to mean in
practice and the network of faulty assumptions which are at its core.'


Despite these constraints, there are a growing number of successful
innovations in national agricultural research and extension systems. Some
were in existence at the time of the 1987 Farmer First conference (Chambers
et al. 1989). Others have arisen and developed more recently. A selection

* Working groups, research teams and joint interdisciplinary treks
based in Lumle and Pakhribas Agricultural Centres, Nepal (Chand
and Gurung 1991; Mathema and Galt 1989);

* Catchment approach to participatory planning and implementation of
soil and water conservation, Ministry of Agriculture, Kenya (Kiara et
al. 1990; Pretty 1990a; Pretty et al. 1993c; MoA, Kenya, passim);

* Adaptive Research Planning Teams and village research groups,
Ministry of Agriculture, Zambia (Sikana 1992; Drinkwater 1992)

* Farmer groups for technology research and extension in the Ministry
of Agriculture, Botswana (see Box 5) (Heinrich et al. 1991; Norman et
al. 1989);

* Innovator workshops in Bangladesh (Abedin and Haque 1989);

* Farmer groups for Landcare, Australia (Campbell 1992; Roling 1992);

* Policy analysis network of universities in Nepal, coordinated by
Winrock International (Gill 1993);

* Participatory planning and research design, Pakistan-Swiss Potato
Development Project, Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (Guijt
and Pretty 1992);

* Participatory research teams, Tamil Nadu Agricultural University,
India (Paliniswamy et al. 1992; Vijayraghavan et al. 1992);

* Farmer groups for technology adaptation and extension, Narendra
Deva University of Agriculture and Technology, Faisabad, Andhra
Pradesh (Maurya 1989).These cases were successes because progress
was made in several areas. There were incentives for change, and a
recognition that past approaches had failed. These incentives came in
certain cases from external sources, including donors. There were
enabling management structures, with support from senior staff
giving the space to innovators who, in turn, were often charismatic
individuals able to promote and achieve change. Smaller,
autonomous groups within the larger bureaucracies innovated, and
then became a model for the rest. Participatory methods were used
not just for information gathering, but to establish new dialogues,
change behaviour and empower local people. In Uphoffs (1992b)
words: 'The precision of data is not as important as people's
participation in its acquisition and assessment, since the real goal is
changing behaviour (towards more productive processes)'.

Box 5: Agricultural Technology Improvement Project
(ATIP), Ministry of Agriculture, Botswana

In the ATII', technologies are tested under farmer-managed, farmer-
implemented conditions. The key component of the approach is local
groups, referred to as Research-Oriented and Extension-Oriented Farmer
Groups (ROFGs and EOFGs), which have become powerful tool for
examining the potential of a range of technologies under farmer
management. Some 90 per cent of the farmers attending meetings are
women. The process involves researchers presenting a wide range of
options gathered from many sources to farmers in villages. Selection is
according to personal interest and specific resource constraints. Sub-
groups of farmers selecting the same options conduct trials, meet
monthly to discuss progress and observations. As harvest approaches,
field days are held to share interesting results with farmers outside the

The strong and sustained dialogue between farmers and researchers has:

* given greater flexibility to the research process, as technology
options can easily be moved into the testing phase, and researchers
respond rapidly to needs and interests of farmers;
* increased the range of topics under joint examination, so increased
diversity of options open to farmers;
* led to attitude change in scientists, as they appreciated the benefits
to all that could be achieved and enjoyed the personal success;
* developed improved linkages between on-station commodity
researchers and FSR teams, as demand for their technologies and
feedback from farmers grew;
* increased the total research capacity beyond the available research
* increased linkages with NGOs, as they became involved in the
ROFGs and EOFGs;
* led to significant increases in grain (sorghum and millet) yields with
low external input technologies increases over 3 years 71 per cent
for double ploughing, 23 per cent for rowplanting, and 56 per cent
for small applications of phosphorus (20kg/ha).

Sources: Heinrich et al. 1991; Norman et al. 1989


The last question is to what extent these successes are replicable. Three
types of issues stand out, concerning: second order problems arising from
the approaches themselves; national policies; and international factors.

First, the most pressing new problems arising from the approaches
themselves include:

* sustaining feedback from farmers: Feedback and learning from
farmers experiences are essential for further improvement of
technologies and for sustained dialogue between scientists and
farmers, but these have proved difficult to sustain on a large scale. In
Botswana, feedback has been effective, but on a small scale, from
farmer groups in one region. In Nepal, field staff could not devote
sufficient time to supervision or collection of feedback, because of the
large number of on-farm activities (Chand and Gurung 1991).

* creating new reward systems: these are needed for agricultural
scientists, to reduce emphasis on controlled on-station
experimentation and the publication of conventional scientific papers,
to give incentives to encourage and support researchers' working in
the field and to develop new publication outlets for accounts of
participatory research;

* successful groups become a threat: empowered local groups could
be seen as a threat to state institutions, or themselves want to threaten

overexpansion: the desire to scale up programmes too fast to too
large a scale can result in the sacrifice of quality;

political takeovers: political patronage and hijacking can occur when
successes are seen as vehicles for achieving other aims.

Second, the national policy environment has a major bearing, but is not
directly addressed by these positive examples. For wider impact, attention
has also to be paid to factors which impede the spread of locally-led
successes, such as macro-economic policies (subsidies for inputs; food
pricing policies; food for work schemes); regulatory policies (lack of land
title for tenurial arrangements; lack of legal title for local groups); financial

constraints; and the desire by politicians to maintain political control and
direction of actions at all levels.

Third, international influences largely outside the control of states and of
government organizations also present constraints. These include structural
adjustment policies which reduce the capacity of the state; uncertainties
over future development assistance policies and flows; imponderables
concerning trade imbalances and agreements (for example GATT); and the
difficulties of working in war-torn regions (see Fre 1992 for Eritrea).

Given these problems, and the scale of the challenges and opportunity, it is
evident that governments cannot and should not try to go it alone. There is
then a compelling case for partnerships and alliances with NGOs, local
groups and international organizations.


The scale, scope and influence of NGOs concerned with development has
grown enormously in recent years (Korten 1990; Edwards and Hulme 1992;
Farrington and Biggs 1990; Farrington et al. 1993; Fowler 1992). In the
South, there are perhaps some 10-20,000 development NGOs, and in the
OECD countries a further 4,000. Their activities are now very diverse. In
some of the poorest areas and countries, they perform many of the service
roles elsewhere carried out by government. Activities include not only
relief, welfare, community development, and agricultural research and
extension, but also advocacy and lobbying, development education, legal
reform, training, alliance building, and national and international
networking. These varied functions and roles mean they are both critical
actors in their own right, as well as potential partners for government and
international institutions.

Like state organizations and NARSs, NGOs have undertaken a range of
activities relating to agricultural research, extension and development. In
some countries or parts of countries, the coverage by farmers' groups and
NGOs in extension, training and input supply is more extensive than that
provided by the public sector, as in Ecuador (Bebbington 1991); in eastern
Bolivia (see Table 4); and in northern Ghana, where there are three times as
many extension agents operating from church-based agricultural stations as
from the public sector (Farrington and Biggs 1990).

Elsewhere, NGOs have trained government staff, particularly in India.
There, NGOs such as the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme (India),
Activists for Social Alternatives, MYRADA, OUTREACH, Seva Bharati, and
SPEECH have been at the forefront of training agricultural researchers,
extensionists, and officials in participatory approaches and methods
(Mascarenhas et al. 1991; Shah 1992). When federated into higher level
organizations, they can be more effective in influencing policies and
presenting the local case, as in the Philippines (Constantino-David 1992;
Morales 1992) and Bolivia and Colombia (Bebbington 1991). Federations
and networks also create the opportunity for more efficient and more
effective disbursement of funds by donors, with lower administrative costs
(Pretty and Scoones 1991).

Table 4: Professional agricultural staff in Santa Cruz department,
Eastern Bolivia
(Farrington and Biggs 1990; Thiele etal. 1988)

Degree Level Technicians Local

Farmers' organizations 30 26
NGOs 48 26 140
Public sector 35 20

A number of strengths of NGOs, often but not always found, constitute to
their relative success:

flexibility to choose the subject area and sources of information;

freedom to develop their own incentives for professionals;

capacity to struggle to get things right, and so more ability at the local
level to question, puzzle, change and learn;

* strength in supporting community level initiatives, and helping to
organize federations and caucuses;

* ability to work on longer time horizons, as they are less affected by
the time and target-bound 'project' culture.


The scale of operation and range of activities of NGOs have raised new
challenges and problems. As Farrington and Biggs (1990) have put it:
'whilst challenging certain misconceptions, ... evidence on the scale of
voluntary agencies' operations leaves unaddressed important questions
regarding their uneven distribution among and within countries, how the
orientation and content of their programmes are chosen, their strengths and
weaknesses, and the degree of collaboration among voluntary agencies and
between them and government'. Another issue is accountability. NGOs are
not elected and are not accountable to citizens and the public. Like any
other organization, they can lose touch with local views. And where the
public sector is weak or non-existent, there can be a growing 'statism' of
NGOs as they create structures which perform what are normally functions
of the state but without feedback or responsibility to government.


NGOs which operate on a very large scale, like the Bangladesh Rural
Advancement Committee, are the exception. Most NGOs are quite small,
though quite often conspicuous. They can then appear to be doing a lot, but
the observer is easily misled. Coverage by NGOs as a whole is usually
patchy and small compared with that of government field organizations. If
governments adopt a good approach and methods, even if quality is
diluted, the total wider impact can be enormous. Once again, the challenge
is to find the means to scale up, or widen, the impact of the successful
actions of NGOs. Three types of strategy have been identified by Edwards
and Hulme (1992):

* additive: NGOs increase their size and expand operations.

* multiplicative: NGOs achieve impact through deliberate influence,
networking, policy and legal reform, or training

* diffusive: NGOs achieve impact through informal and spontaneous
spread of ideas, approaches and methods

The additive strategy is widespread as donors' interest and support has
fostered a operational and organizational expansion. But it has dangers.
Some of the comparative advantage of NGOs is liable to be lost when they
expand. Close relationships with farmers, the capacity to experiment, and

the ability to be flexible to local contexts may all be weakened. Korten's
(1990) description of the growth of IPPF as an evolution to 'an expensive
and lethargic international bureaucracy' may be an extreme case, but the
dangers of size are real. Another problem is that internal organizational
objectives may come to dominate and displace development objectives
(Fowler 1992). Success in the provision of services by NGOs may be also
cited to support an ideological case for reducing the scale of service delivery
by the public sector.

The multiplicative strategy can take many forms. Intermediary NGOs, for
example in Latin America and West Africa, have provided stimulus,
resources and technical assistance for the formation and functioning of
community-based organizations. NGOs in these cases can act as
intermediaries, channelling financial and technical resources from other
agencies to community-based organizations instead of using those resources
themselves (Mitlin and Satterthwaite 1992).

The diffusive strategy entails developing and spreading ideas, approaches
and methods which others pick up, and which have a capacity to spread on
their own. Examples include various forms of self-help savings and credit,
such as that of the Grameen Bank, the very ideas of which may encourage
others to try similar approaches, and the approaches and methods of
participatory rural appraisal (PRA) (Mascarenhas et al. 1991; Chambers


Much of the multiplicative strategy involves working with governments.
The size of human capital and resources locked up in government
institutions usually represents a huge underutilized potential.
Opportunities for innovative work to catalyse change within governments
do exist, particularly under conditions of increased decentralisation.
Collaboration between NGOs and governments to realize more of the
potential and exploit more of the opportunities implies working together in
a mutually independent fashion (Bebbington and Farrington 1992).

Some NGOs choose to work alone, as when, in their opinion, there is little of
relevance in the public sector R&D programmes to their clientele. These
include some community based organizations, such as World Neighbors in
Honduras (Bunch 1990); and organic agriculture movements, such as
IFOAM in Germany (IFOAM 1990-2). Increasingly, though they see a case

for collaborative partnerships between NGOs and the public sector. As
Roche (1991) has put it: 'NGOs need to identify how best they might
support but not substitute for what exists'. There is often a case for working
with, not necessarily for, governments in long-term partnership: since the
pace of reform is usually slow and subject to reverses (Edwards and Hulme
1992), the chances of achieving an impact on government policy and
practice are enhanced when NGOs are prepared to work with government
in a constructive dialogue over a long term.

The primary objective can be, thus, to foster change from within
government. This can often be pursued best through supporting and
working with innovative individuals and programmes. Personalities and
relationships are a vital element in successful partnerships. NGOs working
in this mode do well to enlist commitment at all levels of the system,
particularly amongst higher level administrators and politicians. All need
to understand and appreciate the demands of the new approaches and to be
aware of the potential benefits.

Many types of relationships have developed between NGOs and
governments in agriculture (for a full review and analysis of case studies see
publications study Farrington et al. 1993; Bebbington and Thiele 1993;
Farrington and Lewis 1993; Wellard and Copestake 1993). These main types

* Support for marginalized regional administrations, e.g. ACORD in
Mali (Roche 1991);

* Training of government and NGO staff and farmers in participatory
methods (see Box 6 for AKRSP in India);

* Development of alliances during training courses, e.g. Tamil Nadu
Agricultural University (Paliniswamy et al. 1992), leading to increased
job satisfaction on part of government staff, e.g. in Guatemala
(Guttierrez, in Farrington and Biggs 1990), in India (Mascarenhas et al.
1991), and in Kenya (MoA, passim);

Research and research dissemination. In frequency of occurrence in
case studies in three continents, the ODI study (Farrington et al. 1993)
found it least common for NGOs to generate technology which
government disseminated, more common for NGOs to disseminate
results of research conducted by NARSs, and most common of all for
NGOs and NARSs to conduct research jointly. In this mode the

NGOs generally operate in a more obviously, and often on-farm,
'adaptive' mode than the NARSs. This is partly attributed to NGOs'
frequent practice of adapting and scaling down technologies
originally developed by NARSs for resource-rich farmers.

Box 6: The case of Aga Khan Rural Support Programme (India),

The NGO AKRSP(I) fully involves villagers in the process of planning
and implementing watershed development and management. AKRSP(I)
acts as a facilitator in this process, which has resulted in environmental
and economic change led by local institutions. AKRSP(I) identified
village training needs, and this training was provided by government in
formal style (in classrooms). But farmers said they learnt little in this
environment; so AKRSP(D developed an alternative participative and
interactive training strategy. Government staff came to observe and
participate. Farmers themselves became extension volunteers (EVs) and
trainers, and were more effective and efficient in training other farmers.

This cadre of EVs now conduct their own participatory planning using
PRA methods. In February 1992, at the time of an International PRA
Roving Workshop in Kabripathar village, Bharuch District, Gujarat, a
non-literate woman, Raiben, acted as facilitator for other women to carry
out a village census on cards, to show people, assets and livestock. Other
village volunteers facilitated the mapping of degraded forest, sampling
with 20m by 20m quadrats, counting and measuring standing trees and
rootstock, and making decisions about numbers needed of different
species. Village volunteers have even told AKRSP(I) staff that they need
not bother to turn up when a PRA is to be conducted. Some of the
volunteers are also being requested to come as consultants to help other
villages conduct PRAs. The approach and methods seem, then, in this
instance, to be self-spreading.

Sources: Shah et al. 1991; Shah 1992; Apoorva Oza pers. comm.

Consortia of government, NGO and farmers' organizations for joint
planning and coordination. In Ecuador, such collaboration has been
planned to lead to regional agricultural technology development
committees, in which government organizations, NGOs and farmers'
organizations would all have voting power (Cardoso et al. 1991, in

Bebbington and Farrington 1992). In South Nyanza, Kenya, NGOs
concerned with agroforestry are coordinating action with local
government offices (Musyoka et al. 1991);

These new state-society relations have significant implications (see Curtis
1991). There are benefits, from synergism, from greater efficiency of
resource use, and from NGOs and farmer organizations becoming more
accountable. There are also costs and dangers. The state's capabilities may
be weakened in two ways: through NGOs substituting for government
activities; and through a brain drain to NGOs, as increasingly NGOs are
able to attract skilled people away from the public sector (Farrington and
Biggs 1990), even though this may enrich NGOs with professionals who
understand government bureaucracies.

This raises questions about the dividing line between what the state can and
should provide, and what can and should be provided by organizations
outside government; of how to negotiate appropriate deals between
government and NGOs; and of the allocation of resources to achieve an
optimal balance between incentives, personal rewards and the costs faced
by different parties.



The IARCs (International Agricultural Research Centres) of the CGIAR
(Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research) have a
professional influence out of all proportion to their size and budgets. In
1988, the IARCs expenditure of US$ 250 million was less than 6 per cent of
the global expenditure on agricultural research (Ravnborg 1992).
Nevertheless, agricultural scientists worldwide see the IARCs as centres
which embody and set standards of professional excellence. Through their
training of national scientists, their international networking of research
programmes, their publications, and their prestige, the IARCs spread and
sustain the dominant concepts, values, methods and behaviour of
agricultural science. Still basking in the afterglow of the green revolution,
they still in 1993 predominantly accept and propagate the transfer of
technology paradigm.

The rhetoric of past IARC mission statements has been criticized for hiding
weaknesses and distortions (see Gibbon 1992; Ravnborg 1992). Those about
poverty and sustainability stand out.

First, it can be argued that the poverty focus has had less substance than
claimed. Early critics of the green revolution pointed out that the new
technologies were not scale-neutral, that the larger and better endowed
farmer areas and farmers gained most, that others often lost, and that
income disparities were often accentuated (see e.g. Hewitt de Alcantara
1976 for Mexico; Palmer 1976 for Indonesia, Philippines and Thailand; and
more recently Kydd 1989 for Malawi). While subsequent studies showed
increasing spread of HYVs and benefits among smaller farmers in green
revolution areas where they had access to irrigation (e.g. Hazell and
Ramasamy 1991), disparities remained, and perhaps more significantly, the
third, complex, diverse and risk-prone agriculture remained poorly served
by the transfer of technology approach. The Technical Advisory Committee
(TAC 1985) of the CGIAR put it that 'all the commodities researched by the
CGIAR Centres are relevant for the low-income group, since they comprise
their basic foods.' But choice of commodity does not in itself ensure benefits
to the poorer. Whether research leads to adoption, who adopts and where,
and who gains and who loses women, men, the better off, the poorer,
producers, consumers... these are pertinent questions not answered simply
by the choice of crop. The centralized technology transfer approach
practised and propagated by the CG centres, rhetoric notwithstanding, has
tended to be insensitive to local contexts and to the needs and interests of
their poorer clients.

A second weakness can be seen in the claim of a focus on sustainability.
The TAC view has been that traditional production systems provide limited
opportunities for intensification since they use only small amounts of
external resources (TAC 1988). In this view, it would appear that external
inputs have to play a major part in relieving the pressure on natural
resources and ensuring sustainable agricultural development. The 1988
review of the CG centres (TAC 1988), describing the CG Centres'
contribution to research related to sustainability, states that 'none of the
concepts described are new, nor call for work that is qualitatively different
from a great deal of work that has been done in the past', and cites all the
centres for their efforts in regard to low-input farming. However, the
equivalent of 5 per cent of the system's total budget was expended on
research on inorganic fertilisers, with much less on research on organic
fertilisers (Ravnborg 1992). This imbalance undervalues low external input
farming, and overlooks the striking potential for intensification through

labour and through adding and interrelating biological resources and
enterprises to diversify and complicate farming systems (for rationale and
examples see e.g. Altieri and Anderson 1986; Altieri 1987; Mollison 1990;
Cleveland and Solieri 1991; Reijntjes et al. 1992; Lightfoot and Noble 1992;
Pretty et al. 1992; Shah 1992; Cheatle and Njoroge 1993).

The CGIAR system has responded to the increasing priority attached to the
environment, the management of natural resources, and sustainability in
agriculture. Following the Brundtland Report (WCED 1987) it set up a
committee on sustainability. The shortcomings of commodity-based
research have been increasingly recognized and much discussion has
focused on an ecoregional approach to research in the CGIAR to
complement or replace it. In a 1993 Report (TAC 1993), a second green
revolution is seen to be needed to double food supplies in the next 25-40
years. For this the challenge is: 'to develop food production systems on
existing farm land that will double present output levels without degrading
the natural resource base on which sustained production depends, without
negative effects on environmental quality, and with positive effects on the
welfare of rural and urban communities' (TAC 1993).

The new approach proposed seeks to achieve this by focusing on
ecoregions, by better and more equal collaboration with NARSs, and by
cooperation between IARCs. In sum, no single organizational model is
foreseen, but there are a valuable set of organizational principles. The new
approach will:

operate on a regional basis; focus on an important
agroecological zone with a serious degradation problem;
combine natural resources management and production
objectives; employ a multidisciplinary approach; include both
natural and social sciences; involve national research
institutions and other partners in a synergistic way; adopt
flexible systems of governance and priority setting; and ensure
global coherence and flexible funding mechanisms.

(TAC 1993)

These would 'provide a pragmatic, non-overlapping set of coordinated
programs, and a new dimension to the CGIAR' (TAC 1993).

At face value the ecoregional approach appears good. The rhetoric,
however, masks some likely problems. The ecoregional approach appears

to shift attention upwards and away from people, farmers and the farm-
level. It is recognized that it will require an unprecedented level of
collaboration, negotiation and coordination, particularly between IARCs
themselves and between IARCs and NARSs. This will involve transaction
costs. Especially, it will draw and hold scientists away from farm-level
realities; coordination traps scientists in offices and meetings and keeps
them from farmers. Combined with GIS, dynamic modelling and other
aspects of the computer revolutions, the ecoregional approach is liable to
raise even higher the ratio of time scientists spend in the company of
computers to that spent in the company of farmers. It is perhaps in honest
recognition of this that farmer participation is not listed among the
organizational principles for the ecoregional approach.

There is a powerful case, though, that a second green revolution can only be
achieved through decentralization, farmer participation, and diversification,
and through scientists coming closer to farmers. The CGIAR exists to fill
global gaps. Yet it does little, as a whole, about two major gaps the filling of
which, we would argue, are basic for a second green revolution.

The first gap is the development and dissemination of methods for analysis
conducted by farmers themselves. The assumption has been that farming
systems research has to be done by professionals. Yet recent experiences
with participatory rural appraisal (PRA), including innovations by
ICLARM, indicate that farmers have a far greater ability than agricultural or
other professionals have supposed to conduct their own appraisal, analysis,
experimentation, monitoring and evaluation (Shah et al. 1991; Guijt and
Pretty 1992; Paliniswamy et al. 1992; Vijayraghavan et al. 1992; Lightfoot et
al. 1992; Chambers 1992c; Ofori et al. 1993).

The second gap is approaches and methods for changing the behaviour,
attitudes and beliefs of scientists. A striking finding of recent experience
with participatory methods is how powerfully inhibiting is the normally
dominant behaviour of professionals with farmers lecturing, criticizing,
advising, interrupting, 'holding the stick', and 'wagging the finger'. The
astonishing time it has taken to realize the analytical capabilities of farmers
can be attributed to this almost universal tendency of outsiders. The gap,
then, is experiential training approaches and methods to enable scientists to
change. The CIAT video of the IPRA method (Ashby c.1989) stands out as a
contribution, but is far from being in the mainstream of CGIAR work.

Since these two gaps remain largely unrecognized and neglected by the
CGIAR, they are liable to persist as major impediments to a second green

revolution. The danger is that those who are already pioneering the new
paradigm within the system will remain marginal, and others will be
discouraged from joining them or starting up on their own. If this occurs,
the prestige and influence of the CG system will have an adverse
conservative effect, inhibiting change, and discouraging innovation. On the
other hand, if the IARCs were to take a lead in developing and
disseminating the new participatory approaches, their impact could be vast,
and could both support and gain from those in national systems and in
those NGOs which are working in the same direction.

To support the development and dissemination of participatory approaches
and methods within and outside the CC system, there is a need to form new
alliances and to strengthen those that already exist.


Groups of professionals within some IARCs have already been conducting
successful participatory research in partnership with other organizations
and groups. These include or have included:

* Post-harvest potato technology research with Peruvian farmers, from
CIP (Rhoades and Booth 1982);

* Bean research with Bolivian, Colombian and Rwandan farmers and
NGOs, from CIAT (Ashby et al. 1989; Bebbington and Farrington 1992;
Sperling 1989);

* Aquaculture systems research and development with Malawian and
Filipino farmers, from ICLARM (Lightfoot and Noble 1992);

* Women in rice systems programme, from IRRI (Paris and Del Rosario

* Upland conservation research and development in the Philippines
and elsewhere, from IRRI (Fujisaka 1989; 1991);

* Pigeonpea research with women farmers in Andhra Pradesh
(Pimbert, 1991) and pearl millet research in Rajasthan (pers. comm.
Eva Weltzien Rattunde), from ICRISAT;

* Soil and water conservation research with Indian NGOs and farmers,
from ICRISAT (Kerr and Sanghi 1992);

* Countrywide network for potato research in Philippines, UPWARD
(User's Perspective with Agricultural Research and Development) at
CIP (UPWARD 1990);

* Continent-wide network for farmer participatory research for alley
farming and agroforestry, AFNETA (Alley Farming Network for
Tropical Africa), supported by IITA, ILCA and ICRAF (AFNETA

These programmes are, however, not the norm. Those individuals who
have succeeded in developing and using participatory approaches have
tended to be isolated and marginalized within their institutions. Given the
few female scientists in the system, it is especially striking how many of the
pioneers are women. At least until recently, they have been more
recognized and respected in the outside world than by their colleagues.

The neglect of the need and opportunity to adopt, develop and spread
participatory approaches and methods can be interpreted in terms of earlier
CG strategy. The IARCs have engaged primarily in basic and strategic
research (to generate new understanding and to identify solutions for
specific research problems), and applied research (to create new
technology); while the related role of NARSs has been to undertake
adaptive research (designed to adjust technology to the specific needs of
particular environments). The TAC Review of 1985 (TAC 1985) argued in
favour of maintaining this as a status quo, opposing the prevailing view
that decentralization was important. But since then much has happened.
Enhancing the role of farmers in local analysis, in setting priorities, in
experimentation, and in other research and extension activities, is now
widely recognized as a prime professional challenge and methodological

Solutions could be sought through working more closely with field
organizations which are closer to farmers. This coincides with donors'
pressure for the IARCs to work more with NARSs and NGOs (Ravnborg
1992). This raises two questions about the institutional culture and setting,
and the willingness to be open to learning.

First, is there a danger that IARCs with their greater prestige, will pass on
an inappropriate culture of behaviour and attitudes, or even stifle national

or local participatory initiatives? There is perhaps not much risk of a
repetition at the institutional level of the cost of creating the antecedent
organization to CIMMYT, which effectively suffocated a national institution
that had been conducting participatory research in the 1930s (Hewitt de
Alcantara 1976). But where behaviour, attitudes and personal interactions
are so critical, care will be needed in the selection and training of IARC staff
who work on participatory approaches, to ensure that they have a positive,
not negative, influence.

Second, how willing will IARC staff be to learn from others? Often to date
(though with exceptions such as those listed above) it has been the NARSs,
and even more so NGOs, that have been in the lead methodologically with
participatory approaches, and with training. These have been pioneered in
Bharati and other NGOs, and by agricultural universities, such as the
Narendra Deva University of Agriculture and Technology, and the Tamil
Nadu Agricultural University; in Kenya by CARE, World Neighbors,
ActionAid and other NGOs, and by the Ministry of Agriculture; and in the
Philippines by the University of the Philippines, Los Banos and the
University of the Visayas. Initially, most IARC staff will have more to learn
than to pass on. Sharing and partnership are called for. The question is
whether the CGIAR system as a whole, and the IARCs individually, will
embrace participatory approaches and methods, their development,
dissemination and use, as core professional activities, or whether these will
remain on the fringe. The opportunity is large, but in our view unlikely to
be seized (a prediction we invite the IARCs to prove to be self-invalidating).



The range of local institutions includes local governments, users
associations, service associations, and local groups. They can be found at
three levels: locality, at which sets of communities have kinship, marketing
or other connections; community or village or town; and group, which are
self-identified sets of people with a common interest. The uniting factor is
that 'these have in common the prevalence of face-to-face interpersonal
relationships, which are naturally more frequent and intense within groups
and communities than within localities' (Uphoff 1992b). Local institutions
function in a wide range of ways (see Box 7).

Box 7: Functions of local institutions

* organize labour resources to help produce more;

* mobilize material resources to help produce more (credit,
savings, marketing);

assist some groups to gain new access to productive resources;

secure sustainability in natural resource use;

provide social infrastructure at village level;

influence policy institutions that affect them;

improve access of rural populations to information;

improve flow of information to government and NGOs;

improve social cohesion;

provide a framework for cooperative action;

help organize people to use their own knowledge and research to
advocate their own rights;

mediate access to resources for a select group of people.

Sources: Uphoff 1992a, b; Cernea 1987; 1991; Curtis 1991; Norton 1992

Of the variety of local institutions, five types of local group are directly
relevant to the new agenda for agricultural research and development:

* Community development groups, such as for hill resource
management in India (Poffenberger 1990) and agricultural
development in Nepal (Rahman 1984);

* Farmer experimental and village research groups, such as in Zambia
(Sikana 1992; Drinkwater 1992), Botswana (Heinrich et al. 1991),

Ecuador and Colombia (Ashby et al. 1989; Bebbington 1991), and in
Britain during the agricultural revolution of the 18-19th centuries
(Pretty 1991);

* Farmer to farmer extension groups, such as for soil regeneration in
Honduras (Bunch 1990) and for irrigation management in Nepal
(Pradan and Yoder 1989);

* Natural resource management groups, such as for local forests, for
irrigation tank management in India (CWR 1990-91; Mosse 1992), for
soil and water conservation in Kenya (MoA, passim), for irrigation in
the Philippines (Bagadion and Korten 1991), and for land
rehabilitation and soil and water conservation in Australia (Campbell
1992; Roling 1992);

* Credit management groups, such as in MYRADA groups in India
(Ramaprasad and Ramachandran 1989; Fernandez 1992), Grameen
Bank groups in Bangladesh and Small Farmer Development
Programme groups in Nepal (Conroy and Litvinoff 1989; Rahman

Local groups and other institutions have been relatively neglected in
agricultural research, extension and development. This is another symptom
of agricultural development that focuses on technology rather than on the
organizational and institutional setting. Yet all the positive experiences in
Sector A of the conceptual model (Figure 1) have built upon existing
institutions or helped to develop new ones. Local institutions can have
many positive effects. Besides those listed in Box 7, these include enhancing
local capabilities, attracting and developing local leadership, with
increasing responsibilities through growth, and diversification into more
activities. In AKRSP(I) experience, groups established for research
management purposes took on new functions as extension volunteers were
elected to local democratic bodies (Shah 1992). The potential of local groups
still remains largely unrealized.


These local groups do have shortcomings. There will be difficulties
incorporating their strengths into agricultural research and development for
Beyond Farmer First.

First, initial or existing conditions may lead to or perpetuate inequity.
Groups of women or of the poorer are easily overlooked. Some community
level institutions establish and legitimize securely unequal access to natural
resources, as with tank management and water allocation in Tamil Nadu
during times of water scarcity (Mosse 1992), and the court leet in the
common field system in medieval Britain (Pretty 1990b). Also, if only one
institution is present in the community, with powers to refuse membership,
then as with farmers' clubs in Malawi the poor and women are liable to be
excluded (Kydd 1989).

Second, external interventions can create problems. They are liable to warp
and weaken local institutions. There are dangers that the state will
suffocate local initiative and responsibility, or capture and harness local
initiatives and resources for other purposes. Local politicians may also seek
to take over local successes or gain reflected glory from them.

Third, problems arise during the evolution of groups. Growth in size can
threaten effectiveness: too large groups can allow social hierarchies to
dominate, such as in Kenya (Huby 1990). Groups are sometimes more
effective in their early years: as they grow in size, confidence and
prominence, their power and position can bring them into new conflicts;
and the original leaders may not build up secondary leadership, creating an
internal vacuum. A diversity of local institutions can also lead to
factionalism and conflict unless attention is paid to articulation between
groups and federation to higher level bodies.


These problems have been largely overcome by the supporting
organizations involved in the successful cases listed above. Caution is
needed in drawing general lessons from experience, and Moris' (1990)
warning has to be borne in mind that advice on effective group organization
depends on the normative beliefs of the analyst. Since interventions can
threaten local institutions' operations, so there may also be dangers in the
cooption of local institutions as a general strategy (Uphoff 1992a). Some
precepts can, however, be suggested from comparative experience
(including from Uphoff 1992a and Curtis 1991) for reliable local institutions
that act on their own and also exercise demand for the research and
extension they require.

* Where there has been little spontaneous local organization, external
agents can play a positive role in change, often by concentrating first
on rural context rather than content. They may mobilize resources
and act as a broker between interest groups, as in a Tamil Nadu case
(Mosse 1992); or they may create demand for local institutions by
beginning with awareness and articulation of local needs and
interests, as in cases in Ecuador and Bolivia, where issues of land
tenure and marketing were addressed before planning research and
extension activities (Bebbington 1991).

* Responsible leadership is crucial. It is encouraged where groups
select their own members and make their own rules, as with
MYRADA credit groups (Fernandez 1992). Good leaders need
adequate rewards to guard against unofficial or corrupt practices.

* Training, where it is involved, is best to help people gain new
problem solving skills. This is more useful than technical training
(Bebbington 1992). Local people can then take on the roles of
researcher and extensionist, and by so doing increase efficiency and
effectiveness through horizontal diffusion by farmer-to-farmer
training and extension.

* Perhaps the most important strategy is to find ways of helping local
institutions to come together and federate, with small groups at the
base (e.g. extended kin groups) represented by wider and stronger
institutions at higher levels.



Universities and their agricultural faculties are often the most conservative
of agricultural organizations. They have been slow to adopt innovative
ideas, methods and staff development activities. They remain in the
conceptual strait-jacket of positivism and modernization, arising partly out
of the functional and practical demarcation of research and teaching, and
the focus on teaching rather than learning (Pearson and Ison 1990).
Agricultural universities, thus, have a poor record in training professionals
to be problem solvers. Most have developed structures that reflect the
proliferation of disciplines which have emerged over the past 30 years. An

innovative field or area of study is usually accommodated by adding on a
new sector, without basic restructuring. Most Farming Systems Research
(FSR) courses, for example, have implied the creation of new courses or
departments, so treating FSR as another discipline or commodity (Gibbon
1992). New ideas have hardly ever stimulated radical rethinking or

The structure of agricultural universities and faculties creates biases hugely
in favour of the teaching paradigm, with significant implications for
Beyond Farmer First (Box 8).

Box 8: The biased structures of agricultural universities and
faculties (Ison 1990)

they are frequently organized along authoritarian rather than
participatory management lines;

management positions are often held on basis of seniority rather
than management skills;

creative and eccentric innovation is rarely tolerated;

institutional rewards, particularly senior authorship of papers,
promotes individual and isolated research making many
institutions lonely places;

organizations become introspective and resistant to new ideas,
processes and changing environmental circumstances;

staff development, if it exists, is frequently in the form of refresher
training, where content (new facts) is the primary input, rather than
a balance between content and the development of new
management or learning skills;

explicit or implicit status divisions become set in stone, e.g.
researcher versus extensionist, natural versus social scientist.

The most fundamental need is to enable universities to evolve into
communities of participatory learners. Academics must become involved in
learning, learning about learning, facilitating the development of learners,
and exploring new ways of understanding their own and others' realities.

Participatory learning implies mutual learning from farmers, from
students' own learning, and from academics. There are some researchers in
agricultural universities who do work closely with farmers in a
participatory mode. But these participatory approaches in the field with
farmers have had only slow and slight influence on the style of teaching and
learning in universities with students. More radical change is required. The
education system does not need patching and repairing; it needs

The strategic implications for learning are threefold (see Ison 1990). The
first is greater learning autonomy for students. The aim is to enhance, not
stifle, their responsibility, leadership and creativity. This requires the
development of flexible, learner-centred curricula. The second is more
focus on applying concepts to real problem situations. The aim is a
problem-determined learning system. This requires working to reach
agreement in identifying the existence and nature of the problem, with the
participation of all concerned, including the student learner. And the last is
devolving more responsibility and power to students. The aim is to enable
them to learn how to understand realities better. This requires assessment
procedures which encourage them to pursue independent enquiry, rather
than just to pass examinations.

As a result, it is necessary to 'think about things in a quite different way for
what we do in the world reflects what we know about it, and what we
know depends on how we go about knowing, or in other words when
thinking about change we should start by thinking about thinking' (Bawden
and Macadam 1988, quoted in Ison 1990).

The change suggested here is very rare in universities, an exception being
Hawkesbury College in Australia (Bawden 1992). It is more common in
small agricultural colleges and in training institutions linked less to the
mass production of graduates, and more to the development of capable
professionals (see Lynton and Pareek 1990; Lynton 1960); and in some adult
education institutions (see Rogers 1985). An unresolved question is how
these agricultural education institutions can be reformed.

One example of how educational institutions can take on a new role for
sustainable agriculture comes from Honduras. Since 1988, scientists at a
small agricultural college in El Zamorano, Escuela Agricola Paramericana,
have been working to build the capacity of small farmers to control pests
without pesticides (Bentley 1992; Bentley and Melara 1991). This is done by
teaching a short course for farmers to fill in key gaps in their knowledge.

Farmers' knowledge is already profound, but there are aspects of pest
control they do not know about. They know about, for example, many
aspects of the devastating disease maize ear rot, but not about the details of
fungal fruiting bodies and spore production. Farmers have many words to
describe social wasps, but do not know that solitary parasitic wasps exist.
They do know that pesticides are toxic, but equate smell with toxic strength
and so have no means of perceiving chronic toxicity: 'they generally apply
pesticides with no protective gear, often early and smoking, clearing
stopped up nozzles with their mouths allowing pesticide from the backpack
sprayer to drip down their backs. Farmers think that because they don't get
ill as they spray, they must be building up resistance to the agrochemicals'
(Bentley 1992).

The successful new learning is based on the collaboration between farmers
and scientists (Box 9). Small-scale farmers help to set scientists' formal
research agendas. Collaborative work results in the development of better
technologies than either University staff or farmers could invent alone. As
Bentley and Melama (1991) put it: 'we depend on farmers to help tell us
what to study and to work with us carrying out the experiments in their
fields, fine tuning the technologies to their conditions'.


Because of the widespread failure of the formal educational sector to
provide the necessary learning environments for the development of new
professionals, it has been other institutions which have led the way. These
have chiefly been NGOs from both the North and the South. Enlightened
individuals in government organizations, NARSs, and CG institutes, and
also farmers have played their part. The investment is not in knowledge, in
the formal sense, but in attitudes, behavioral changes and facilitation skills.
Training is centred on learning by doing and bringing scientists,
extensionists and farmers together to negotiate and learn from each other on
personal level. The impact on attitudes can be significant.

There is growing experience in this informal sector in farmer-to-farmer
extension, visitation and peer-training. These take many forms. Most
common are farmer exchange visits, in which farmers are brought to the site
of a successful innovation or useful practice, where they can discuss and
observe benefits and costs with adopting farmers. Professionals play the
role of bringing interested groups together and facilitating the process of
information exchange. During the visits, participants are stimulated by the

discussions and observations, and many will be provoked into trying the
technologies for themselves. For farmers 'seeing is believing', and the best
educators of farmers are other farmers themselves (Jintrawet et al. 1985).
Such farmer to farmer extension-has resulted in the spread of Leucaena
contour hedgerows in the Philippines (Fujisaka 1989); peanuts after and
sesame before rice in NE Thailand (Jintrawet et al. 1985); management
innovations for irrigation systems in Nepal (Pradan and Yoder 1989);
agroforestry trees in Kenya (Huby 1990); velvetbeans for green manuring in
Honduras (Bunch 1990); and a range of watershed protection technologies
in India and Kenya (Mascarenhas et al. 1991; Shah et al. 1991; Shah 1992;
MoA, passim).

Box 9: Learning about pest control without pesticides in Honduras

The key to the collaboration is the participatory mode of teaching and
experimentation. Farmers are taught by scientists using local
terminology; they observe fungi under microscopes; they collect insects
from the field and watch parasitoids emerge; they observe wasps
returning to nests with insect prey; they put caterpillars on maize plants
and watch ants carry them off within minutes. Scientists from the
college have documented a wide range of experiments that farmers have
conducted after courses:

one farmer intercropped amaranth among intercropped vegetables
to encourage predators;

one farmer noticed worms in his stored potatoes and so placed the
box on an ant nest; the ants cleaned the pests out, and he then
transplanted ant nests to his farm;

one farmer described taking parasitic wasp cocoons found on his
farm to a neighbour's farm to increase the spread of wasps.

Follow up to the course is coordinated with local NGOs and the groups
of farmer extensionists, who are visited regularly by college scientists.
These visits also mean that information on farmers needs is taken back to
the Crop Protection Department at El Zamorano. Small-scale farmers are
thus helping to set scientists' formal research agendas, as well as learning
more sustainable farming practices.

Sources: Bentley 1992; Bentley and Melara 1991

As local people develop the capacity to learn from and to teach each other,
so they develop further their own capacity to conduct their own research.
There are many recent innovations in farmers' own analyses that point the
way to innovative learning and self-spreading (Chambers 1992b; Guijt and
Pretty 1992; Lightfoot and Noble 1992). In India, villagers who have been
trained as extension volunteers by AKRSP(I are now training the staff of
other NGOs in participatory and interactive learning methods. Farmers
also work on the radio as broadcasters in Niger and Peru (McCorkle et al.
1988; AED 1991); and monitor research and conduct surveys (Jiggins and de
Zeeuw 1992; Gaventa and Lewis 1991).

These approaches all build the capacity of local people to conduct their own
investigations and solve their own problems. All have shown that such
informal learning is a low cost method of enabling farmer groups to adapt,
choose and improve their farming systems. They also provide leadership
experience for villagers and present role models that they can aspire to


Some of the practical implications for support and spread for the new
agricultural professionalism are well known and have been described
elsewhere (e.g. Merrill-Sands et al. 1991; Chambers et al. 1989). The personal
and institutional changes envisaged must be supported by the adoption of
new incentives, structures and linkages. Some of these can be taken on by
individual institutions; others will require more coordinated action at policy


Scientists, extensionists, teachers and trainers need the physical and
financial means to travel and to stay in villages often enough and long
enough for good participatory interactions. Support is needed for field
training experiences, and opportunities to share experience and innovations
laterally, within regions, within countries, and globally.


Far from being marginal in institutions, those who work as new
professionals in a participatory mode deserve and should receive
recognition as pioneers. This is occurring with the rise in international,
donor and government interest in participatory approaches, but requires
backing also from theory, books, prestigious journals, academic and
international prizes and awards, and sustained funding by governments,
foundations and donor agencies.


Much of the research and evaluation conducted by ISNAR on institutional
aspects of on-farm client-oriented research (Merrill-Sands et al. 1991) is
relevant, directly or by analogy, as is the ODI coordinated research on
NGOs and agriculture (Farrington et al. 1993). However, much remains
unknown about sequences and elements of change as agriculture-related
organizations adopt and develop participatory styles, approaches and
methods. Such studies could now make a key contribution to
understanding, and to the improvement of strategies for change.


Personal behaviour and attitudes remain the great blind spot of agricultural
research and extension. In participation, the quality and sensitivity of
personal interactions are critical. In PRA training, it has been found that
listening, learning and low-key facilitation are more important than the
methods. Methodologically, a major frontier for institutional change is how
first to enable individuals to change, for personal change will often have to
precede as well as accompany changes in the cultures of organizations.


Consistent and strong support from the upper levels of organizations can
provide space and security for innovation, even when a whole organization
does not change. Familiarization of senior managers and administrators
with the new professionalism has to be one part of a strategy for spread.


Even with strong leadership, whole institutions will rarely turn over the
new leaf at once. So much has to change, and change together.
Bridgeheads and salients of experimentation and new behaviour can be
established and protected, and supported and reinforced through alliances
both within and outside organizations. In PRA, sharing experience through
inviting participants in field training workshops from a range of
organizations has proved effective. Friendships develop, and mutual
support can take place afterwards. The crucial time is often shortly after
returning from a field training experience to the parent organization.
Professionals then often need support in order effectively to share their
experience with colleagues.


Demand for training in new professional apparatus and methods far
exceeds the supply of good trainers. The careful and strategic use of
trainers and training opportunities therefore matters. Key factors include
selecting participants for field workshops who are likely to be able to spread
the participatory approaches and methods, and themselves become trainers
later; inviting at least two from the same organization so that they can
provide mutual support on their return; ensuring that sharing and critical
self-awareness are built into participatory approaches from the start; and
support and dissemination through producing and sending materials to
targeted individuals. These materials can include slide packs, reports on
applications of methods and on innovations; local networking; and notes on
'how-to-do-it' for methods of learning, rather than rote manuals and
cookbooks which are liable to inhibit self-development and self-learning.


Which organizations are best to provide learning experiences remains an
unresolved question. To date, NGOs, both local and international, have
been in the lead. Some of the best trainers have left their NGOs in order to
devote more of their time to this. NGOs in India such as ActionAid,
AKRSP, MYRADA, OUTREACH, Sera Bharati, and SPEECH are now
providing learning experiences in PRA on a wider scale, having to varying
degrees defined or redefined their mission to emphasis this. No type of

organization can be ruled out, and there are cases of effective action in
government and in universities. But early indications are that permanent
and pensionable staff in government training institutes and in universities
have more difficulty espousing and providing field-based learning
experiences than, for example, the staff of field NGOs.


The history of agricultural policy, particularly for soil and water
conservation, rangeland management, irrigation, and modern variety
dissemination shows a common pattern: technical prescriptions are derived
from controlled and uniform conditions, supported by limited cases of
success, and then applied widely with little or no regard for diverse local
needs and conditions. Differences in receiving environments and
livelihoods then often make the technologies unworkable and unacceptable.
When they are rejected locally, policies shift to seeking success through the
manipulation of social, economic and ecological environments and through
enforcement (Pretty and Shah 1993; Benhke and Scoones 1992; Chambers
1992a; Russell and Ison 1991; Wynne 1991; Palmer 1976).

Such economic, regulatory and administrative policies have long reinforced
a modernization approach of direct intervention in agricultural and rural
development. These interventions have focused mainly on external
solutions to farmers' problems and needs. The relationship has been of
governments setting the conditions for farmers, and farmers responding.
This leaves decision makers cocooned in a 'self-defined world where they
blame the low rates of service utilization upon farmers' apparent apathy
and "conservatism" (Moris 1990). Most have actively encouraged
dependency on external inputs, even when they are financially more costly,
environmentally damaging, and therefore economically inefficient
compared with resource conserving options (Faeth et al. 1990; Dobbs et al.

For sustainable and Beyond Farmer First agriculture to succeed, these
mistakes must not be repeated. Instead, policy and practice need a new,
enabling orientation. With this, conditions would be created for
sustainable development based more on locally available resources and
local skills and knowledge. Policy makers and field practitioners would
establish closer dialogues and alliances with other actors, seen as equals in
defining multiple realities. Farmers' and poor people's own analysis would
be facilitated and their organized demands articulated. Dialogue and

interaction would give rapid feedback, allowing policies to be adapted
iteratively. Agricultural policies could then focus in a more practical
manner on enabling people and professionals to make the most of available
social and biological resources.


The new agricultural professionalism of Beyond Farmer First places
responsibility on the individual as well as on institutions. Each person can
contribute to or constrain its spread. Each person can, through critical self-
awareness and embracing error, learn and improve, so that the new
professionalism grows and gets better.

The intention and will to adopt new values, approaches and practices, are
prerequisities for change, and cannot be assumed. But even when they
exist, both institutions and individuals face difficulties. In institutions,
standardization, simplification and speed stand out as recurrent dangers,
pursued in the interests of wider and more rapid application. As Sumberg
(1991) has put it: 'it would appear absolutely essential to avoid the
temptation of a rapid institutionalization of farmer-participatory research.
It was this ... that eventually limited the overall impact of farming systems
research ... There is a strong irony in the tendency for approaches that have
developed out of a need to deal with diversity, variability, complexity etc, to
become institutionalized in such a way that whatever positive contribution
they might have been able to make is effectively marginalized.'

For individuals, too, there are problems, especially for those trapped in
conventional organizations. In outlining the new professionalism, we do
not wish to discourage those for whom, in their current institutional
context, there may seem so little room for manoeuvre that it is out of reach.
There are many pathways, and many small steps that can be taken towards
it. Nor should the new professionalism be seen as an alternative,
completely to replace the old. It is, rather, a complement and corrective.
The old and the new have mutual strengths. For the new, both drive and
restraint can be exercised so that its spread can be sure, sustained and self-
improving. Each setting will have its own best sequence and strategy for
change. Learning how to evolve and spread the new professionalism must
itself be a slow and sensitive learning process.


1 We take paradigm to mean a coherent and mutually supporting
pattern of concepts, values, methods and action, amenable to wide

2 The principal critiques, analyses and advances have come from the
field of naturalistic enquiry (Lincoln and Cuba 1985); from non-
linear science of chaos and fractals (Gleick 1987); from historical
contingency and linear uncertainty (Gould 1989; Wynne 1991,
1992); open systems contextual science (Bawden 1992; Russell and
Ison 1991; Checkland 1981, 1991); from quantum physics (such as
from the theories of Heisenberg and Schrodinger); from the
philosophy of symbiosis (Kurokawa 1991); from post-modernism
(Harvey 1989); from a new pedagogy (Freire 1968; Lynton and
Pareek 1990); from historical sociology (Abrams 1982); from
adaptive management in development (Holling 1978; Norgaard
1989; Mearns 1991; Pretty and Scoones 1991; Uphoff 1992c); from
action science and reflection-in-action (Schon 1983; Argyris et al.,
1985; Schon, 1987) and from organizational management theories
and practice (Peters and Waterman 1982; Peters 1987; Handy 1989;
Senge 1990).

3 Hawkesbury College is now part of the University of Western
Sydney, Richmond, New South Wales

4 The NARSs were in Bangladesh, Ecuador, Guatemala, Indonesia,
Nepal, Panama, Senegal, Zambia and Zimbabwe.


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