Resource-poor Farmer Participation in Formal Research is Easier Said Than Done: The Case of Zimbabwe

  • Jeff Mutimba


At the philosophical level, agricultural researchers and development agents have generally agreed that resource-poor farmer participation in formal research leads to; improved efficiency of the research system; the development of site specific technologies; legitimization of farmers' own indigenous research; and, the empowerment of farmers for self-help development. Whilst there is this general recognition, it is still not clear how this can be achieved in practice. This paper looks at some of the difficulties in achieving effective resource-poor farmer participation from both the conceptual and practical point of view. The findings show that there is a general lack of successful practical examples to back the theoretical models that have been developed. This study uses a case study of a livestock research project conducted in Zimbabwe that demonstrates some of the practical difficulties in achieving effective farmer participation. A theoretical model of an ideal resource-poor farmer participatory research approach was used as an overlay on the project to assess the extent of farmer involvement and to identify institutional and functional gaps. The results show that institutional mandates inhibit the achievement of full participatory approaches and therefore it is recommended that there should be; joint planning and implementation of research programmes; mutual respect between the different actors; strong links between the users, research and extension subsystems; and training of scientists as pre-requisites for effective farmer participation.

Key words: resource-poor farmers, effective farmer participation, research system

Eastern Africa Journal of Rural Development (2002) 18, 40-53

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eISSN: 0377-7103