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«Biotechnology-Assisted Participatory Plant Breeding: Complement or Contradiction? PPB Monograph No. 3 Ann Mane Thro and Charlie Spillane 1 7 ...»

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The authors' survey showed that the biotcchnologyjpla nt brecding and participatary rcscarch sectors have no com mon fora in which to interact, speak different professional lan gu ages, a nd in most cases are unaware of how each olher's work migh t be relevant or useful lo their own. It is questionable wheth er it is merely the lack of communication channels that has led to the dearth of collabora tion between the tV/Q groups. It may be that the close links of many public·sector biotechnologists with the commercial secto r has led to a schism, in which researchers working with poorer social groups fcel there is n o poin t in trying to work with biotechnologis ts (E. Friís- Hansen, pers.

com m.).

A list of the constrai nts to colIabo ration was proposed by A.

Sutherland (pers. cornm.). Potential barriers include: nega tive attitudes on both si des (either of on·fa rm resea reh ers towards bioteehnologis ts or of bioteehnologists to sharing knowledge, methods and materials with non·speeialists), organ izational distance (i t is rare to find bo th types of researcher in the same organization), geographical distance, the movement of personnel (many on·farm researehers are on sho rt· term projects and, in the COlAR syste m, ten d to be pre- or p ost-does with uneertain future s), lack of s upport for coUaboration [rom senior management, no budgets or term s of reference for lin kage a cti vities, and on-farm re searche rs' fears of being stigmatized for being associated with biotechnology, cven if they themselves have no elhical reservations.

In the face o[ such constrai nts, th e authors believe that much more di scussion a nd communication wil! be needed between the two groups if eollaboration is to ¡nerease and th e complemenlarities between their two approaches are to be rcali zed.

Focus on Small·Scale and Resource-Poor Farmers Small-scale and resource M poor farm ers in developing eountries number sorne 1000· 1400 million, cornpa red to 50 million farmcrs in the developcd world (Fra nci s, 1986; J aza iry et aJ, 1992; Alexand ratos, 1995). While rcsouree-poor farmers produce on ly 15%-200/0 ofthe world 's fooel, they are responsible for about 80% of agricultural production in dcveloping coun tries (Francis, 1986 ; Daw, 1989). The agrarian workforce in most developing countries consisls mostly of poor womcn (Quisumbing et al, 1995; Dankelman and Davidson, 1988), in ma ny cases with very high de mands on thcir labor and the labor of lheir children (White, 1996).

Th roughout this paper, the word 'farmers' will refer to small-sca1e and resource-poor farmers in developing eountries, unless otheIVIi se spccified. Such farmers inc1ude bolh those in re latively isolatccl subsistence farming systems-the arcas where low-external input agriculture (LEISA, as dcfined by Haverkort and Hiemstra, 1993) is practiscd- and those whos e agricu lture is linked to varying degrees to external markets, such as nearby urba n areas or exporters, and who therefore tencl lO use a somewh a t higher leve! of external inputs.

Thc paper asks how plant biotcchnology rescarch might be made more relevant to th e needs of these farmers. In particular, it explores how farmer participatory researeh approaches might be used to impart a 'pro-poDT' bias to existing bioteehnology research, especia lly in the public sector.

Plant Breeding, Partic ipatory Research, andBiotechnology

Lcss than 200 ycars ago, aH plant breeclers were far m ers. The division of labor by which plant breedi ng became a se parale speciaJizcd activity conducted by scientists occurred gradual1y during the 19th ce nLUry (Duvick, 1996). Centralized scicntifi c plant b reeding, concluetecl largely on rescarch stations, has been huge ly suecessfuJ. However, mainly because of the co ntext in which it evolved and opera tes, its products have in some cases not been adoptecl by, or a re not acccssible to, r esource-poor farmers in dcveloping eountries (Lipton ancl Longhurst, 1989). Decentra lized farmer participatory plant breeding (PPB) has becn d eveloped and promo tecl as a way of improving the serviee a nd delivery of erop improvem enl resear eh to the poorest, most marginalized peoples and areas. Its aims are lo develop locally adapted technologies and distribute them more effectively (technology transfer) and/or to support local eapacily fo r generating su eh teehno logies. The latter aim eneompasses 'empowering' or 'self-help' approaches to rural development (Ashby and S perling, 1994).

Farmer participatory agricu ltural research-of which PP8 form s a part--emerged during the 1980s as a mean S of better understanding and meeting the needs of poor or marginalized rural people. [n such res earch, farmcrs a re considered to be active participants who may lea d the process a nd whose ideas and views influence its outcome, rather than passive bystan ders or objects of research. Much participatory res earch s eeks to empower local peopIe to develop th eir own solution s to problems. The iss ues raised by s uch research have been extens ive ly reviewed and diseussed (Chambers and Jiggins, 1986;

Biggs, 1989; Fax, 1990; Cornwall et a l, 1993; Gubbe ls, 1993; Mosse, 1993, 1995; Okali et al, 1994; Ashby ancI Sperlin g, 199 4; Mayoux, 1995; Carney, 1996; Farrington, 1997 ). The use of farmer participatory rescareh in pla nt breeding has bee n the subject of a number of recent compilations and reviews (de Boef e t al, 1993; Okali et al, 1994;





Eyzaguirre and Iwanaga, 1996 ; S perlin g a nd Loevinsohn, 1996;

UPWARD, 1996 ; CIAT, 1997 ; Veldhuizen et al, 1997; Witcombe e t al, Biotechnology-Assisled PPB: Complemelll or Contm diction?

1996; Witcombe, 1999a, 1999b, 2000a). For a review of PPB per se, see other pape rs in this series.

A distinction s hould be made between PPB an d partici patory varietal selection (PVS), although th e two a pproaches ofte n overlap and borrow or lear n from each other. PVS is real ly a form of PPB, which is the larger of the t\Vo concepts. WhiJe PPB tends te involve farmers at a11 stages of the research process, farmer involvement in PVS te nds to be somewhat more limited. In PVS, farmcrs playa role in selecting within stabilized m ateria ls already developed ma in ly by forma l researchers and in feedin g back their reactions to those who decide which varieties should be promoted and distribu ted.

.Modern plant biotechnologies have emerged over th e past 2 decades as powerful tools for crop improvement, espt:cially when integrated with proven conventional plan t breeding meth ods. For the purposes of this paper, th ey a re held to inelu de both planl molecula r biology techniques and tiss u e cul ture techniques. The plant molecular biology techniques discussed are genomics, marker-assisted selection (MAS). diagnostics, and transgenesis (also known as gen etic transformation, genetic modification, or genetic engineering). The planl tissue culture techniques covered inelude in vitro sclec tion, embryo reseue, and anther cultu re, as well as clonal thermotherapy and mieropropagation. While biotechnology i5 now often equated in the popular media (e.g., in Eu rope) with so-called 'genetically modified' food s, the authors wish to stress that only a sub-set of modern biotechnologies result in transgenie produets. Bio technologies which generate products of both a transgenic and a non -transgen ic nature are eonsidered in this paper, but th e paper does not review the pros and cons of genetic modification per se.

Just as farmer participatory research app roaches are diverse, so also plant biotechnologies va ry greatly in their te ehnical complexity and in the resources needed to app ly them. Among the factors that need to be eon sidered in selecting and defining an approach to

biotechnology-assisted PPB are:

Cost-benefit analyses of alternative research approaches. Several approaches to an agronomic prob lem may be possiblc, each with different eosts, time-frames, and chances of success. Should biotechnology be the approach of last resort, on ly when a11 other approaches ha ve failed? Or are there situations in which it should be given priority because it can provide the most cost-eITective solution? Who decides whieh approach es are best?

The provision of information about biotechnology to farmers. If farme rs are to decide wh ether or not bioteehnology should be used, do they n eed to understand what it is and how it works? How can relevant information regarding biotechno logical options be supplied to them efficiently and objectively?

Jntroduct.ion

–  –  –

Biotechnology-assisted PPB is little more than a conccpt at present. Its realization as a widely used research a pproach requircs, first, the successful integration of biotechnology as a new tool in conventional plant breeding, and second, the successful integration of participatory research mcthods with con ventional plant breeding m ethods. Neither of these conditions has ye t been fully met oTo enable that to happen, it is essential to understand how each approach-participatory rcsearch methods and biotechnology--can be valuable to forma l or informal (farmer) plan! breedcrs.

Over time, many biotechnologies which facilitate plant breeding are likely to bccome more cost-effective (Spillane, 1999). It is conceivable that sorne of the 'downst.ream' ~iote c hnology tools that formal plant breeders are now adopting rnight now or in the future also prove useful to expert farmer-breeders working either by themselves at fleld level or with the support of researchers in a participatory breeding projecL However, this possibility has not yet been pt:0pcrly explore;d. Nor has there becn any exploration of whether new biotcchnologies might be J developed which are tailored specifica1ly for use in PPB.

–  –  –

relayin g farmers' needs to formal breeders so that the latter will take them into accou nt when setting research priori ties. The techniques have also proved useful as a 'reality check', a llowing breeders to evaluate what they are a lready doing in tenn s of its relevance to farmers' needs. This is especially u seful given the long time-frame o[ much breeding rescarch.

The au thors bclicve that biotechnology techniques may have much to contribute to participatory research, and vice versa. Farmer participatory research has in sorne cases generated over-optimistic expectation s (Farrington, 1997). The authors wish to stress that they do not see either participatory research or biotechnology as a panacea for agricu ltural development, rather as additional me thodologies that help salve certain problems.

Research Partnerships in Biotechnology-AssistedParticipatory Plant Breeding

What sort of institutions or researchers will ¡nitiate, plan, fund, and implement biotechnology-assisted PPB projects? Farmer-initiated projects are considered the ideal in participatory research. But in the case oC biotechnology-assisted projects, farmer initation would require that farmers already possess a practical understanding of biotechnology, as well as an idea of where to request research support.

It is unrealistic to expect resource-poor farmers to have such an underslanding of a newly emerging techn ology that is often physically and inte llectually remote from their world.

Clearly, access to research facilities, funding, human resources, and training will be vital for biotechnology-assisted PPB. So too will be attention to the links between upstream biotechnology and downstream applied research.

Farmers tend to request comprehensive projects that integrate biological and socio-economic activities and criteria (Thro et al, 1999b).

These are difTicult to fund due to the long time-frarnes they require to conduct biological research and achieve impact. The funding mechanisms lised a t present have imbued agricultural research with discontinuity and fragmentation-problems to which biotechnologyassisted PPB wiII also be prone. Developing the a ppropriate tools for such rescarch, together with the nccessary relationships between farmers and biotechnologists, wiII take time. Achieving an impact \'.oill take still more time. Sustaincd public funding wilI therefore be necessary.

The Tes t of this paper is organized as follows:

Chapter 2 looks briefly at existing plant breeding and participatory agricultural research and how these approach es m erge in PPB. It also looks at the 'why' of involving biotechnology when working with farmers Chapter 3 considers how the researchable needs of fanners h ave been ar might be identified and better represented on research agendas Chapter 4 explores how specific biotechnologies might facilitate the proeesses of plant breeding, making research more efficient for the farmer or formal breeder Ch apter 5 looks at sorne plant biotechnology research products lhat correspond to the needs expressed by farmers Chapter 6 briefiy explores social and economic issues surrounding biotechnology-assisted PPB.

–  –  –

2. Farmer Participatory Research and Plant Breeding An Analytical Framework for Farmer Participatory Plant Breeding Over the past decade, a numbe r of analyses and reviews of farmer participatory approachcs to plant breeding have been published (de Boefet al, 1993; Okali et al, 1994; Eyzaguirre and lwan aga, 1996; Sperling and Loevinsohn, 1996; UPWARD, 1996; CIAT, 1997; Veldhuizen et al, 1997).

Thcsc and other works describe the evolution of concepts and practices in this field.

PPB aways involves scie ntists and farmers, and orten a wide range of other people, including consume rs, extensionists, NGO workers, traders, industrialists, rural busi.nessmen and women, and the leaders of cooperativcs or farmers' organizations. These people become coresearchers in that they: (i) help set research goals, decide on priorities, and defi n e specific breeding objectives; (ii) make crosses, screen germplasm entries, and take responsibili ty for adaptive testing;

(iii) organize seed multiplication and diffusion; and (iv) grow the crop and use, process, or market the resulting harvest (Spcrling a nd Ashby, 1999). Key varia bles for analyzing PPB programs inelude the ins ti tutional context, the bio-social environment, the goals sel, ;¡nd the kind of participat.íon achieved, including the divi s ion oC labor and responsibilities (Sperling et al, 2000). CIear description of these variables is important when a project seeks to determine whether and h ow biotechnology can support its work.



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