From research to innovation

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From research to innovation
Farrington, John.
Marianne Schmink
Sustainable Agriculture Programme of the International Institute for Environment and Development,
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Published by the Sustainable Agriculture Programme of the
International Institute for Environment and Development

From Research to
Innovation: Getting
the Most from
Interaction with
NGOs in Farming
Systems Research
and Extension

John Farrington
Anthony Bebbington


7s Cf

The Gatekeeper Series of the Sustainable Agriculture Programme is produced by the
International Institute for Environment and Development to highlight key topics in the field
of sustainable agriculture. The Series is aimed at policy makers, researchers, planners and
extension workers in government and non-government organizations worldwide. Each paper
reviews a selected issue of contemporary importance and draws preliminary conclusions of
relevance to development activities. References are provided to important sources and
background material. The Swedish International Development Authority and the Ford
Foundation fund the series.

John Farrington is a Research Fellow and Anthony J Bebbington is a Research Fellow and
Coordinator of the Agricultural Research and Extension Network at the Overseas Develop-
ment Institute, Regent's College, Regent's Park, London NW1 4NS. An earlier version of this
paper was presented at the the joint IIED/IDS "Beyond Farmer First: Rural People's
Knowledge, Agricultural Research and Extension Practice" workshop, Institute ofDevelop-
ment Studies, University of Sussex, October 27-29, 1992.






Over recent years, many people have suggested that agricultural and rural development
strategies would benefit from increased collaboration between government and non-govern-
mental development organizations, hereafter called GOs and NGOs respectively (Carroll,
1992; de Janvry et al., 1989; Jordan, 1989; Korten, 1987). Donors, in particular, have begun
to call for more NGO involvement in programmes that have traditionally been implemented
through the public sector (World Bank, 1991a, b; Farnworth, 1991).

These advocates of closer NGO-GO collaboration have tended to under-emphasised:

the wide range of interaction that currently exists not all of it collaborative: much
involves pressure by one side or the other;

* the limitations facing efforts to work together;

* the preconditions for successful collaboration; in particular, the prior informal contacts
necessary to build up mutual trust;

* the limitations as well as the successes of NGO action;

* the extent to which certain functions will remain more cost-effectively performed by
the public sector than by NGOs. Analysis of how GOs might work with NGOs must
be accompanied by continuing attention to ways of improving public sector manage-
ment, an area in which structural adjustment reforms have not had the success

It is also important to note that these calls for collaboration come from different points across
the ideological spectrum, including NGO activists (Clark, 1991; Jordan, 1989), radical
economists (de Janvry et al., 1989), and multilateral institutions. This may be cause for
celebration; but it is also cause for circumspection. It suggests that different actors are seeking
differing outcomes of such collaboration, and have divergent views on how much responsi-
bility the state ought to continue to assume, and which subsidies to which social groups ought
to be maintained.


This paper draws preliminary findings from a study (2) across Africa, Asia and Latin America
of the potential for closer links between NGOs and government agricultural research and
extension services in the development and dissemination of agriculture-related technologies
and management practices. Whilst at a practical level concerned with the functions that the
respective organizations might jointly or separately undertake, the study also sought to locate
potential actions in the wider political and economic context in order to prevent attempts to
generalise 'success stories' into inappropriate contexts. The central methodology of the study
was to generate a substantial number (over 70) of case studies prepared in collaboration with
the NGO or government practitioners who had been involved in them. These were
supplemented by country or area-based overviews of wider NGO-state relations.

Features of the NGOs Studied

Our concern is mainly with the stronger of the South-based NGOs that provide services either
directly to the rural poor or to grassroots membership organizations, although examples are
also drawn from some North-based NGOs, and from some of their offices located in the South
which operate with varying degrees of autonomy. Most of the NGOs considered pursue
livelihood enhancement in a participatory fashion and in the context of wider value-driven
objectives including group formation and conscientisation. However, a wide range of NGO
philosophies and approaches do exist, including some that are 'top-down' and those which
have become narrowly tied to government contracts for service delivery.

Our particular interest in the more empowering approaches has been in their objective of
setting up local institutions and mechanisms capable of sustaining processes of innovation -
either within communities themselves, or through a capacity for 'demand-pull' on govern-
ment services. In addition, the potential of these approaches within and beyond the context
of agriculture for generating institutional pluralism and so strengthening democratic process-
es has not gone unnoticed (Clark, 1991; Lehmann, 1990).

The origins of NGOs vary widely, and are likely to have a strong bearing on the type and extent
of potential NGO-GO collaboration. Some were formed in opposition to governments which
discriminated against the rural poor, others as a reaction to government support for, or
indifference to, prevailing patterns of corruption, patronage or authoritarianism.

Many NGOs were formed by left-leaning professionals formerly employed in universities or
in the public sector. Their intellectual calibre has generally been high, but they were often
socially and ethnically distinct from the rural poor. In the early stages of their formation,
almost all NGOs were characterized by small size, institutional flexibility, horizontal
structure and short lines of communication. Many have found these characteristics conducive
to a quick response to clients' needs and to changing circumstances and a work ethic conducive
to generating sustainable processes and impacts, and so have sought to retain them well
beyond the initial establishment period. But the smallness and the political origins and
orientation of NGOs are also their 'Achilles' heel' since:


(i) NGO projects rarely address wider scale structural factors that underlie rural poverty;

(ii) NGOs have limited capacities for agricultural technology development and dissem-
ination, and limited awareness of how to create effective demand-pull on government
research services;

(iii) the activities of different NGOs remain uncoordinated, and information exchange is
poor especially among small NGOs where transaction costs are high.

These strengths and weaknesses of NGOs, and their implications for NGO-GO relations, are
discussed in more detail below, and illustrated by examples from Africa, Asia and Latin

Successes and Failures of NGO Technology Development

There are five main areas in which NGOs have been innovative and relatively successful.

Diagnostic and Technology Development Methods

Conventional public sector approaches to agricultural technology development have difficul-
ty in coping with the wide range of agro-ecological and socio-economic conditions charac-
teristic of the complex, diverse and risk-prone areas in which many of the rural poor live
(Chambers et al., 1989; Richards, 1985). In such areas, agricultural technology development
must not merely be on-farm and farmer-managed, but participatory in order to draw on local
knowledge and to meet farmers' needs, opportunities, constraints and aspirations. The
approaches introduced in GOs have frequently been expensive and time consuming, and often
not participatory (Biggs, 1989a). Some NGOs, on the other hand, have been innovative in
developing more parsimonious approaches.

For instance:

* In Kenya, the Diagnosis and Design methodology practised by ICRAF partly grew out
of the development of methods by CARE and Mazingira in the early 1980s to elicit
rapid farmer assessment of tree species (Buck, 1993).

* In Chile, NGOs were responsible for the elaboration of farming systems perspectives,
and their subsequent teaching to other institutions (Sotomayor, 1991).

* In India, Myrada has been instrumental in developing participatory rapid appraisal
methods and training for both other NGOs and government staff in their implemen-
tation (Fernandez, 1993; Mascarenhas et al, 1991).


NGOs have also introduced systems approaches to agricultural technology development
which go beyond conventional FSR. First, several have used food systems perspectives. For

* In Chile, AGRARIA is experimenting with means of commercialising small farmer
grain, which a government department is now considering scaling up (Aguirre and
Namdar-Irani, 1992).

* In Bangladesh, some 1000 ha of soya production is now based on varietal, processing
and market research conducted by the Mennonite Central Committee (Buckland and
Graham, 1990).

* In the Gambia, production of sesame introduced by Catholic Relief Services at its peak
reached 8000 ha owing in part to the simultaneous introduction of oil extraction
technology (Gilbert, 1990).

NGOs have also been instrumental in introducing a social organisational and management
dimension into the testing and subsequent adoption of certain technologies, which govern-
ment services typically find difficult to introduce. For instance:

* In India, Action for World Solidarity and a consortium of GROs in Andhra Pradesh
devised a strategy for integrated pest management of Amsacta caterpillars on castor
together with government research institutes, and then helped to organise farmers to
take certain action simultaneously in order to achieve maximum impact (Satish et al.,

* In the Gambia, and Ethiopia, NGOs have helped farmers to organise local informal
seed production in ways designed to avoid undesirable cross-pollination (Henderson
and Singh, 1990).

* In Bangladesh, NGOs have helped to organise landless labourers to acquire and operate
'lumpy' irrigation technology (Mustafa et al., 1993), and have organised groups
(mainly of women) to interact both among themselves and with government services
in chicken rearing (Khan et al., 1993).

Innovations in Technologies and Management Practices

While funding constraints make long-term agricultural technology development difficult for
NGOs, several have done work which has had far-reaching implications. For instance:

* In India, the Bharatiya Agro-Industries Foundation pioneered research into frozen
semen technology in India, and, through its 500 field programmes in six states, has been
responsible for producing around 10% of the country's cross-bred dairy herd.


* Similarly, the Southern Mindanao Baptist Rural Life Centre (Philippines) has identi-
fied integrated methods of managing hillslopes using Sloping Agricultural Land
Technologies (Watson and Laquihon, 1993).

Most NGO research efforts are, however, at the adaptive end of the spectrum. For instance:

* In India, PRADAN has scaled down technologies developed by government institutes
for mushroom and raw silk production, and for leather processing and, in the case of
the latter, has devised integrated schemes of credit and marketing (Vasimalai, 1993).

* In East Africa, NGOs have been testing new crop varieties in Zambia and in Zimbabwe,
and have been adapting tree managementpractices in Zimbabwe, and Kenya (Copestake,
1990; Mung'ala and Arum, 1991; Ndiweni et al., 1991).

Dissemination Methods

In general NGOs have sought to develop participatory dissemination methods. For instance:

* In Thailand, the Appropriate Technology Association developed farmer-to-farmer
methods of disseminating rice-fish farming technologies which have subsequently
been adapted by the Department of Agriculture (Sollows, et al., 1991).

* In Ecuador, CESA has developed systems for farmer-managed seed multiplication and
distribution (CESA, 1991).

Training Activities and Methods

A number of NGOs train both members of other NGOs and of GOs in participatory methods,
(Fernandez, 1993; Chakraborty et al., 1993; Berdegue, 1990). A recently emerging role for
NGOs is that of intermediary. For instance:

* In Gujarat, India, the Aga Khan Rural Support Project (AKRSP) identified village
training needs through discussions with farmer groups (Shah and Mane, 1993).
Initially, AKSRP organised government provision of this training, but the courses were
formal in style (lectures in a classroom), and farmers' evaluations showed that they had
learned little of practical value from them. In response, AKRSP developed an
alternative training and dissemination methodology which it tested over several areas.
Government staff were then brought in to observe, participate in and, finally, adopt the
methodology. Successful adoption was reinforced by informal networks, and ex-
change of experience at workshops and consultations.

* In a different context, the International Institute for Rural Reconstruction in the
Philippines brought together resource people from NGOs and GOs at a one-week


workshop, the objective of which was to produce a completed Agroforestry Resources
Training Manual. The manual is now widely used (Gonslaves and Miclat-Teves,

Promoting Farmer Organisations

For many NGOs, to strengthen participation means to work in strengthening peasant
organizations and in popular education, enhancing the rural poor's capacities for self-
management and negotiation with government, external institutions and dominant interest

NGOs have therefore emphasised project methodologies and actions that contribute to
strengthening the co-ordination among individual producers, and subsequently among
communities. Seed and input distribution systems, small scale irrigation and work with farmer
groups in on-farm trials have thus become priority areas of action. In many cases such a
combination of productive and organisational initiatives can increase the impact of the project
and strengthen the organisation simultaneously. The ultimate aim is to establish financially
and administratively self-sustaining organizations. Although NGOs' contributions to the
formation of farmer organizations have not always matched their rhetoric, most experience
in linking agricultural development projects with organisational strengthening has been
gained in the NGO sector.

The abilities and experiences of NGOs in each of these areas suggest contributions NGOs
could make to wider public sector programmes. These are considered later but first it is
important to recognize that NGOs also suffer from a variety of limitations:

* their small size and limited resources limit NGO activity to the applied end of the
agricultural technology development spectrum;

* funding patterns tend to be short-term and pressure from funding agencies is towards
'action' and 'results', thus hampering work on issues requiring long-term R&D;

* small size combined with poor co-ordination among NGOs makes it difficult for
effective two-way links to be established between them and government research

Kohl (1991) documents a case of NGO failure in technology introduction which illustrates
many of these weaknesses:

Over the last decade some 50 Bolivian NGOs have introduced protected horticultural
systems (PHS) in the high Andes in an attempt both to avoid climatological constraints
and to meet nutritional needs. Few NGOs had conducted serious experimentation on
PHS (and there is little available from public sector research on which they might


draw); that the few conducting experimentation have not done so rigorously; that a
folklore' ofthe supposed advantages ofPHS has developed; that communicationflows
among NGOs regarding the outcome of PHS implementation have been inadequate,
and that the rapid implementation of technologies easily visible from main roads
implicitly encouraged by donors and by NGOs' own philosophy has led to premature
introduction of unproven designs and management systems, and to a neglect of
farmers' objectives and constraints.

Potential Public Sector Contributions
to Enhance NGO Effectiveness

The weaknesses outlined above suggest three general ways in which government programmes
and initiatives could enhance NGO effectiveness:

Public Sector Commitment Towards the Rural Poor

Whilst NGOs may grow in size and number to fill 'gaps' left by government, they will not
be able to substitute for all the services that might normally be expected from government in
all of the areas. Their efforts are likely to be more focused and defective where government
makes a clear policy commitment to remove economic distortions against the rural sector and
provides the physical infrastructure (roads; telecommunications) and human capital forma-
tion which NGOs cannot provide in more than a piecemeal fashion. Policies of this kind are
also a prerequisite to the establishment of inter-institutional links between NGOs and GOs.

Easing Access to Resources and Information Controlled by the Public

In a recent meeting, Asian NGOs expressed their need, first, to access the skills, facilities,
genetic material, and specialist knowledge of government services and, second, to have
opportunity to influence government policies and strategies at the design stage. Large NGOs
acting in consortium have occasionally persuaded government to cater to their needs, but
simply to garner information on government plans, let alone influence them, is generally
beyond the resources of smaller NGOs. To address such obstacles, NGO desks have been
created in some Philippine line departments in order to elicit NGOs' views on draft plans and
to cater to NGO enquiries (Ganapin, 1993).

Fostering Greater Grassroots Influence over NGOs

A recurrent and widely voiced criticism is that NGOs' rhetoric on participation exceeds


reality. NGOs are self-appointed, rather than elected bodies, and control institutional
resources from within.

The 'non-representativeness' of NGOs offers those governments particularly the nominally
democratic the excuse of not working with any whose views they find uncomfortable. NGOs
can attempt to safeguard against this in two ways: first, by stimulating transparent participa-
tion by the rural poor in decisions on strategy and resource-allocation; second, by instituting
more thorough processes of internal monitoring and evaluation involving in-depth consulta-
tion with their clients.

Governments also have a contribution to make here: they might best enhance NGO
accountability to the rural poor indirectly, particularly by supporting broad-based educational
programmes in rural areas perhaps the most important single factor facilitating increased
assertiveness and modem forms of self-organisation among the rural poor.

Obstacles to Closer Links Within and Beyond
the Public Sector

The Current NARSs Setting

Attention to NGOs as potential actors in national agricultural research and extension systems
is timely in view of:

i) Increasing acceptance that 'research' as conventionally perceived in relation to
national or international public sector institutions whether on-station or on-farm is
only one of the multiple sources of innovation that generate technologies or manage-
ment practices used by farmers. Others include farmers' own experimentation (often
incorporating ideas and materials obtained through personal contacts), the private
commercial sector, special projects (often donor-funded) of various kinds, and NGOs
(Biggs, 1989b).

ii) Increasing recognition that GOs in many countries face intractable problems in the
organisation and management of agricultural research. These include highly central-
ised structures and decision-taking procedures. Combined with rigid budgeting,
delayed disbursements and the vulnerability of budgets to cut-back, these impose
severe operational constraints and act as a disincentive to institutional change in many
areas. Field work and regular contacts with farmers are disrupted; equipment and
facilities are under-maintained; remuneration is inadequate to retain the more capable
staff, and little scope exists for devising career structures and reward systems to
encourage researchers' responsiveness to clients' needs.


iii) Recognition that many of these difficulties are particularly severe in small countries,
and that, in addition, these face particular problems of maintaining research services
of adequate minimum mass and of dealing with levels of agro-ecological and socio-
economic diversity not far different from those of large countries, but with far fewer

In order to counteract some of these weaknesses, government scientists should be allocating
a large part of their time to the management of links with field-based agencies (such as NGOs)
in order to identify farmers' requirements, field test candidate technologies locally, and obtain
feedback. They should also develop links with a multiplicity of development agencies
(including private commercial sector, international public sector and GOs in neighboring
countries) in order to draw down from them technologies and ideas likely to be locally

Wider Obstacles

Even where the broad conditions for NGOs and GOs to work together are in place, several
potential barriers to closer links remain to be overcome. These include:

i) Low motivation and inadequate client-orientation among GOs will make the concerns
of NGOs appear irrelevant; even where these are good, the levels of resources currently
being channelled into NGOs, their strong grassroots contacts and the high moral
ground they occupy may all be sources of friction between GOs and NGOs. GOs are
often aggrieved by NGO 'headhunting' of their staff. Aside from transaction costs this
does not generate any net loss to the economy as a whole indeed, research staff may
be more productive if engaged by NGOs on issues of direct relevance to farmers but
the fact remains that rates of 'attrition' are so high in some GOs as to threaten their very
existence (4).

ii) Formal links between NGOs and GOs have worked best where longstanding informal
contacts facilitated through common social origins and staff transfers amongst them
have existed. Each side has been less aware and often suspicious of the other's
motives and capabilities where such informal contact is lacking.

iii) Inadequate exchange of information and coordination among NGOs themselves.
These lead to duplication of effort, and to competition among them for clients
(including eg efforts to manipulate interest rates on farmer credit in order to undercut
each other (Ayers, 1992). Unfortunately, whilst NGO information networks abound,
their record of setting up coordinating mechanisms beyond areas of immediate concern
(in specific campaigns) is poor. National NGO apex organizations tend to be weak and
too distant from field issues to have credible impact, and area-based mechanisms
remain few. Government involvement in setting up such mechanisms can quickly
become authoritarian, but cases do exist in which local government agencies have


adopted sensitive approaches. The agreement of NGOs concerned with agroforestry
in South Nyanza District of Kenya to coordinate their action with local government
offices is particularly noteworthy (Musyoka et al., 1991).

What Can NGOs, Research Services and
Funding Agencies Do?

In many countries the potential exists for mutually-beneficial links between NGOs and public
sector research and extension services, though numerous obstacles also exist, and paths
towards closer links have to be charted carefully.

Two forewarnings are essential: first, the prospects will vary widely among countries,
according to the wider context of NGO-State relations and according to how far NGOs and
Government share a common view of the future of the rural poor, and of strategies for
achieving that future. Second, within countries there is a wide diversity of NGO types, and
their relations with government will lie along a spectrum from outright hostility to willing
collaboration. Recognition of this diversity is implicit in our continued use of the loosely
positive term 'link' to describe potential modes of interaction between NGOs and GOs.
'Collaboration', by contrast implies a high degree of mutual interdependence.

Linkages can be promoted by the following actions:

i) Efforts by GOs to keep a small percentage of their budgets (whether from central
government or from externally-assisted projects) 'unallocated' to allow for rapid
response to NGO requests as they arise. Needs and opportunities for potentially
productive interaction often occur unexpectedly: they cannot always be held over to
the next financial year. Alternatively, a percentage of staff time might be kept
unallocated, and NGOs provided with the resources by their funding agencies to
contract GO staff.

ii) GO and NGO staff can jointly participate in training courses (ideally led by a joint
team) in the 'learning-by-doing', 'action-oriented' methods favoured by NGOs such
as participatory rapid appraisal (for examples see the RRA Notes series published by
the International Institute for Environment and Development). The relevance of these
methods to individual GO staff will vary, but their capacity to consolidate farmer-
oriented perspectives is important.

iii) Efforts need to be made by NGOs to interact more fully with each other than hitherto.
Interaction may begin with exchanges of information and joint meetings, perhaps
extending in some cases to fully collaborative projects. Most countries are character-
ised by large number of NGOs of varying size, and GOsmay find it easier to work
through effective NGO networks. Continuing attention is therefore needed to the


difficult problem of area-based, or thematically-based coordinating mechanisms.
However, for other tasks (eg identification of local opportunities and constraints
requiring research) GOs' efforts will have to be location-specific so that interaction
with individual NGOs and farmers will be more appropriate.

iv) Collaborative field trials quickly allow each side to work out in what tasks it will be
most cost effective. Existing cases in which respective GO and NGO roles have been
worked out in field testing and feedback include those in Ecuador (Cardoso et al. 1991),
but examples are few and progress is not always smooth, as the Gambia's Farmer
Innovation and Technology Testing programme indicates (Cromwell and Wiggins,

v) Increased GO openness to information articulated by NGOs, whether on farmers'
needs or on the outcome of field trials, implies a willingness to adapt future research
agenda in response. In at least one case ie in the Santa Cruz Department of Bolivia
(Bojanic, 1991) efforts have been made by a GO to institutionalise the presence not
only of NGOs, but of other 'intermediate users' of GO technology, such as the private
commercial sector and development projects of various kinds, in annual planning

vi) An area in which GOs can gain advantage from NGOs' work but only if they liaise
cross-sectorally lies in NGOs' capacity to address issues beyond the farm gate. Some,
for instance, have been concerned with processing and marketing (Buckland and
Graham, 1990; Aguirre and Namdar-Irani, 1992). Others have been concerned with
the interaction between farming and wider resource-management issues, often involv-
ing common property resources such as trees (Sethna and Shah, 1993) or water
(Mustafa et al. 1993).

vii) Numerous NGOs have been concerned with trees in an agroforestry context and with
livestock. NGOs need public sector research support in many of these areas, but this
is unlikely to be forthcoming nor will GOs gain from NGOs much more than enhanced
awareness of the issues affecting farmers -until GOs' capacity to research (and service)
these areas from a systems perspective is established, which requires some prior
dismantling of institutional barriers within government.

Strong potential for promoting progress lies with funding agencies. Some of the more
imaginative, but small-scale, financing agencies (Ford Foundation; IDRC) have supported
NGO-GO interaction in ways which allow for the diversity of NGOs, recognize their potential
as 'brokers' between farmers and research services, and do so in ways sensitive to NGOs' fears
of being 'co-opted' into government programmes. The funding agenda of some of the larger
donors, on the other hand, remain dominated by perceptions that NGOs should occupy service
delivery roles, effectively substituting for activities and interventions that conventionally lie
in the domain of government. Whilst some NGOs may feel comfortable with this, many of
the more innovative ones will not.


Funding for closer linkages, from whatever source, will have to be tailored to the diverse
qualities that NGOs bring to analysis of small farmers' conditions, and to the development
and dissemination of technologies, if valuable potential is not to be lost.


This paper draws on over 70 case studies from three continents of NGOs' work in agricultural
technology development in order to examine actual and potential inter-institutional interac-
tions. From such a wide range of evidence, it is striking that few cases have been identified
in which:

i) NGOs have engaged over extended periods in the systematic screening, testing and
dissemination of technologies.

ii) NGOs and government research and extension services have developed mutually-
dependent collaborative arrangements designed to exploit functional complementarities.

We conclude that NGOs have demonstrated two major ways of contributing to inter-
institutional linkages.

The first lies in the capabilities, perspectives and experiences that NGOs can offer to GOs
which have some prospect of enhancing their efficiency as producers and deliverers of
technologies adoptable by the rural poor. The capabilities they bring to bear in doing this
derive from close knowledge of the needs and opportunities of the rural poor in relation to
agricultural change, not merely in the narrow sense of crop or animal technology, but in the
wider context of innovation located in systems which spatially go beyond the farm boundary
to embrace the use of off-farm biomass, and sequentially go beyond farming systems into
processing and marketing.

Their capabilities also derive from three further perspectives: first, the fact that their
approaches are issue-led; second, that they seek to relieve constraints across a wide front
(including nutrition, informal education, input supply, credit) in order to resolve these issues
and, third, that at least some are aware that, contrary to the general view in the FSR/E
community, marginal changes in farm productivity are insufficient to ensure the adoption of
change: many of the rural poor are not committed to farming per se, but require cash incomes
to purchase a stake in non-farming futures, including education for their children.

Changes in NGOs' and GOs' respective roles and in the interactions between them that might
be expected if the public sector is to respond to what NGOs have to offer include the following:

1. Functional Research-Extension-Feedback Links

Those NGOs comfortable with the role of providing services under contract to the State are


likely to supplement or replace dwindling extension services, delivering technologies
provided by government, performing according to quantifiable norms, and providing
feedback. Rapidly expanding donor support for quasi-commercial 'opportunist' NGOs of this
kind seems set to ensure major growth of this type of interaction. Although these NGOs are
among the most innovative, their contact with the grassroots may allow them to bring GOs'
activities closer to the needs of the rural poor, particularly if they serve to strengthen feedback.

2. Training in Participatory Methods

Numerous cases have been reported in which GOs learn from the diagnostic methods widely
used by NGOs (eg participatory rural appraisal), both informally and through training courses.
The increasing popularity of these methods, and their adaptation to a wider range of tasks
(including monitoring and evaluation) suggests the scope for wider NGO-GO interaction in
their future development and application.

3. Contracting of GO Researchers' Time by NGOs

Only one example has been documented of an NGO which has been granted funds to hire in
staff from a severely underfunded GO research station in order to examine technical issues
encountered in the course of its work (Hanvey et al., 1992). However, the approach has
obvious advantages in terms of increasing resource-flows to the public sector and ensuring
that research is client-oriented. It also has clear parallels with the commissioning of research
financed by organizations of medium/large-scale producers such as is widespread in Latin
America. Our hunch is that this type of interaction will increase, particularly since it can
potentially be carried forward by the grassroots organizations that many NGOs seek to foster.

4. Other Emerging Roles

Many NGOs see GOs' research agenda as currently of limited relevance to their clients. If
mutual confidence between NGOs and GOs grows (or, perhaps more likely, if funding
agencies force the pace of interaction) a stronger array of more diverse channels through which
NGOs make known their (and, by extension, farmers') views on future research requirements
is likely to emerge. These possibilities range from informal conversations and joint field
visits, through more formal feedback on GO technologies that NGOs have sought to promote,
to formal representation by NGOs (and, ultimately, by farmers' associations) on the governing
bodies and research planning committees of GOs.

The second major contribution that NGOs have made to inter-institutional linkages lies in the
support they have given to local, grassroots/membership organizations of the rural poor. At
first sight, this interest relates, at best, indirectly to NGO-GO relations, but it lays several
claims to our attention:

first, the fostering of local membership organizations to take over many of the functions
currently performed by NGOs is found in the rhetoric of practically all.


* second, the rate at which these develop will inevitably depend partly on wider
conditions such as the provision of rural education. But those associations of small
farmers, processors, landless irrigators and landless livestock keepers which do
emerge offer the prospect of facilitating direct links between researchers and the rural
poor, and of strengthening the capacity of the latter for exerting a demand-pull on
research agenda including, as noted above, representation on official bodies governing
research resource allocations.

* third, a less ambitious form of social organisation than that needed for the establish-
ment of producers' associations is the formation of groups around specific tasks (seed
production, irrigation, integrated pest management) where coordinated action is
necessary. NGO's activities in this sphere need to be examined against wider issues
of the most appropriate basis for the organisation of membership organizations.
Nevertheless, some expansion of NGOs' actions in these areas is to be anticipated, and
can usefully be encouraged by GOs, whose own record as 'social organizers' is weak.

* fourth, NGOs are concerned to develop local capacities for experimentation which
(depending on their philosophy) build solely on farmers' indigenous knowledge, or
build both on this and on relevant 'outside' ideas. This strategy may contribute to rural
advancement in its own right, and the capacity it creates may prove a useful
independent source of innovations in the absence of useable technologies from GOs.
Alternatively, given the capability and inclination of GOs to work with the rural poor,
it will be a useful complement to what GOs can offer.

Many of the arguments about emerging roles and interactions discussed in this paper suggest
that key liaisons could be developed with NGOs in any efforts to develop these wider
brokerage functions among GOs and to relate their work more closely to the needs of the rural
poor. Viewed in this context, whilst macro-economic pressures to reduce the size of the public
sector are bound to remain threatening, they might also, if handled skilfully, mark the
beginnings of an opportunity for GOs to intensify dialogue with NGOs in order to explore
some of the ways identified above of enhancing the effectiveness of their own work.


1) The authors are particularly grateful to Elon Gilbert for comments on an earlier draft, but
this does not necessarily implicate him in any of the views expressed here.

2) Conducted from the ODI Agricultural Research and Extension Network and published in
4 volumes by Routledge (Farrington and Bebbington, 1993; Farrington and Lewis, 1993;
Wellard and Copestake, 1993; Bebbington et al., 1993).

3) Asia Regional Workshop on 'NGOs, renewable natural resources management and links
with the public sector' held in Hyderabad, India, 16-20 September 1991.


4) It is difficult to determine what constitutes a 'reasonable' salary: the better research staff
have internationally marketable skills, and yet in most countries their remuneration is linked
to wider civil service conditions and, in some, remains pitifully low. This dilemma, in which
any NGO-GO tensions over remuneration are only a minor component, has prompted the
consideration of alternative institutional forms (eg quasi-autonomous research 'foundations')
(Coutu and O'Donnell, 1991).


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1. Pesticide Hazards in the Third World: New Evidence from the Philippines. 1987. J.A. McCracken and G.R.

2. Cash Crops, Food Crops and Agricultural Sustainability. 1987. E.B. Barbier.

3. Trees as Savings and Security for the Rural Poor. 1992. Robert Chambers, Czech Conroy and Melissa Leach.
(1st edition, 1988)

4. Cancer Risk and Nitrogen Fertilisers: Evidence from Developing Countries. 1988. J.N. Pretty and G.R.

5. The Blue-Baby Syndrome and Nitrogen Fertilisers: A High Risk in the Tropics? 1988. J.N. Pretty and G.R.

6. Glossary of Selected Terms in Sustainable Agriculture. 1988. J.A. McCracken and J.N. Pretty.

7. Glossary of Selected Terms in Sustainable Economic Development. 1988. E.B. Barbier and J.A.

8. Internal Resources for Sustainable Agriculture. 1988. C.A. Francis.

9. Wildlife Working for Sustainable Development. 1988. B. Dalal-Clayton.

10. Indigenous Knowledge for Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development. 1988. D.M. Warren and K.

11. Agriculture as a Global Polluter. 1989. Jules N. Pretty and G.R. Conway.

12. Evolution of Agricultural Research and Development Since 1950: Toward an Integrated Framework. 1989.
Robert E. Rhoades.

13. Crop-Livestock Interactions for Sustainable Agriculture. 1989. Wolfgang Bayer and Ann Waters-Bayer

14. Perspectives in Soil Erosion in Africa: Whose Problem? 1989. M. Fones-Sondell.

15. Sustainability in Agricultural Development Programmes: The Approach of USAID. 1989. Robert O. Blake.

16. Participation by Farmers, Researchers and Extension Workers in Soil Conservation. 1989. Sam Fujisaka.

17. Development Assistance and the Environment: Translating Intentions into Practice. 1989. Marianne Wenning.

18. Energy for Livelihoods: Putting People Back into Africa's Woodfuel Crisis. 1989. Robin Meams and Gerald

19. Crop Variety Mixtures in Marginal Environments. 1990. Janice Jiggins

20. Displaced Pastoralists and Transferred Wheat Technology in Tanzania. 1990. Charles Lane and Jules N. Pretty.

21. Teaching Threatens Sustainable Agriculture. 1990. Raymond I. Ison.

22. Microenvironments Unobserved. 1990. Robert Chambers.

23. Low Input Soil Restoration in Honduras: the Cantarranas Farmer-to-Farmer Extension Programme. 1990. Roland

24. Rural Common Property Resources: A Growing Crisis. 1991. N.S. Jodha


25. Participatory Education and Grassroots Development: The Case of Rural Appalachia. 1991. John Gaventa and
Helen Lewis

26. Farmer Organisations in Ecuador: Contributions to Farmer First Research and Development. 1991. A.

27. Indigenous Soil and Water Conservation in Africa. 1991. Chris Reij

28. Tree Products in Agroecosystems: Economic and Policy Issues. 1991. J.E.M. Arnold

29. Designing Integrated Pest Management for Sustainable and Productive Futures. 1991. Michel P. Pimbert

30. Plants, Genes and People: Improving the Relevance of Plant Breeding. 1991. Angelique Haugerud and Michael
P. Collinson.

31. Local Institutions and Participation for Sustainable Development. 1992. Norman Uphoff.

32. The Information Drain: Obstacles to Research in Africa. 1992. Mamman Aminu Ibrahim.

33. Local Agro-Processing with Sustainable Technology: Sunflowerseed Oil in Tanzania. 1992. Eric Hyman.

34. Indigenous Soil and Water Conservation in India's Semi-Arid Tropics. 1992. John Kerr and N.K. Sanghi.

35. Prioritizing Institutional Development: A New Role for NGO Centres for Study and Development. 1992. Alan

36. Communities as Resource Management Institutions. 1993. Marshall W. Murphree.

37. Livestock, Nutrient Cycling and Sustainable Agriculture in the West African Sahel. 1993. J.M. Powell and T.O.

38. O.K., the Data's Lousy, But It's All We've Got (Being a Critique of Conventional Methods). 1993. Gerard G. Gill.

39. Homegarden Systems: Agricultural Characteristics and Challenges. 1993. Inge D. Hoogerbrugge and Louise O.

40. Opportunities for Expanding Water Harvesting in Sub-Saharan Africa: The Case of the Teras of Kassala. 1993.
Johan A. Van Dijk and Mohamed Hassan Ahmed.

41. Living in a Fragile Ecosystem: Indigenous Soil Management in the Hills of Nepal. 1993. Devika Tamang.

42. Community First Landcare in Australia. 1994. Andrew Campbell.

43. From Research to Innovation: Getting the Most from Interaction with NGOs in Farming Systems Research and
Extension. 1994. John Farrington and Anthony Bebbington.

44. Will Farmer Participatory Research Survive in the International Agricultural Research Centres? 1994. Sam

Copies of these papers are available from the Sustainable Agriculture Programme, IIED, London
(3.00 each inc. p and p).


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and supports the development of socially and environ-
mentally aware agriculture through research, training,
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The Programme emphasises close collaboration and con-
sultation with a wide range of institutions in the South.
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