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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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cornm.), few have a practica! grasp of what it might mean for them or how to access its products and services. Similarly, relatively few of the world's agricultura! biotechnologists have any direct contact with reso urce-poor farrners or cven with other researchcrs workin g on fa rmer participatory approaches to agricultura! development.

Biotcchnology-assisted PPB could help break down this isola tio n, a llowing farmers access to the potential of biotechnology to provide them with u seful innovations. Needs assessmen t and priority setting with farmers are first steps in bridging the gap.

Thcre are numerous variants of and synonyms for participa tory n eeds asscssment methodologies. These include participatory technology developrncnt (PTD). rapid rural appraisal (RRA).

pa rticipatory rural appraisal (PRAl. and so on (Chambers, 1983). Even the farming systems research and exten sion (FS RE) approaches of the 1970s and 1980s h ad elements of a participatory approach in the Needs Assessmenl a.nd Pn'ority Setting baseline and systems surveys from which their subsequent component research was derived. In recent years, more rapid and less costly methodologies have been developed (Cornwall and Jewkes, 1995).

Original1y developed for single locations, they have recen Uy been adapted for more extensive use (1. Ouijt, pers. comm.). The COlAR institutes have a long history of promoting participatory approaches, including on ·farm research (u sed by virtually all the centers). local research committees developed by CIAT and the farmer back to farmer approach used by the Centro Internacional de la Papa (CIP) (e.g., Rhoades and Booth, 1982).

These methodologies typically look at the constraints and opportunities of c1ifferent sectors of the cornmunity (Mosse, 1993) by gendcr, age, social s tatus, religlOn, ethnic group, livelihood system, and so on, in an attempt to better understand resource allocation, control, and use. Many of them also inelude the development and implementation of 'e mpowering' aetion plans by the eommunity (Cornwall and Jewkes, 1995). The emphasis of these plans is on local priorities, knowledge, and perspectives (Chambers, 1983), which are not merely acknowledged but actually forro the basis for aU subsequent research and development (R&D) activities (Chambers, 1983; Chambers and Jiggins, 1986).

Many cornmentators feel informadon about these methodologies and competeoce in u sing them remain as 'eraft knowledge' in the hands of a relatively small number of social scientists, who become advocates of these approaches (Jiggins and Roling, 1994). Descriptions of specific methods, the skills needed to use them, and documen tation of the contexts in which they have proved useful are circulated largely through informal networks or in the form of 'grey' literature. When research ror this paper began, few bioteehnologists contacted by Lhe authors were aware of participatory approaches or of why or how they might be linked to thern. In the mean time, the partieipatory approach has become better known, but until very recently opportunities for professional contact and dialogue betwee n biotechnologists and farmer participatory research practitioners were almost non-existent.

The result is lhat few participatory tech niqu es have been adapted for use by biotechnologists, so that they can feed them into their work (Compton, 1997); and there are few recorded instances in which RRAs or PRAs have becn lised to identify Carmers' prioriues and seleetion criteria for the purposes oC biotechnology re search (Joshi and Witcombe, 1995; Weltzien et al, 1996). Bu nders et a l (L 996) caBed for greater commitment to shared learning and the creative process of interactive problem solving between farmers and biotechnologists.

–  –  –

deveJopment approaches tend to a ssume that al! proble ms can be solved at the locallevel, without any outside assistance. While sorne n eed s can be mel entirely through local activi ties, there wiU always be others that cannat be (Loevinsahn, pers. comm.). Many agricultural problems canool sirnply be 'participated ' out of existence (Compton, 1997). A better u se of participatory methodologies is to a pply t hem objective ly across th e technology s pectrum, allowin g the more widespread development of demand -drive n research tha t m ay or may nol inelude biotechnol ogies.

A n um ber of organ iza tions promoting and developin g m ethodologies for far mer participatory research do so within concepts of 'sustain able' ar 'arganic' agricu lture that may nol be open lo the use of moder n b iotech n ologies such as tran sgeni c orga nisms. Among these a re the In ternati onaJ F'ede ration of Organ ic Agriculture Movements (I FOAM), CARE, th e Soulhea st Asia Region al Institu te for Com mun ity Edu ca tion (SEARIC E) a nd the Intermediate Tech noJogy Developme n t Grou p (ITD G) (M. Altieri, pers. comm.). There is no agreemen t on what conslitutes su stain a ble a r orga n ic agriculture (e.g., Ngoc Hai, 1998; J.

J ones, pers. cornm.). Sorne argue th a t biotechnology approaches, so ofte n presen ted a s the a ntithesis of organic approaches, could in fact allow reduced u se of chemical inputs an d sh ould l herefore be classified as organ ic.

A tech nalogy is considered ncutral when its a doption does not change existing social and econornic relati ons betwee n differen t groups in a cornrnuni ty. How can we dete rmi ne which biotechnologies (an d other technologies) are neutra l and which a re not. And how can \lie predict the irnpact of those tha t are no t? Participa tory needs a nd opportun ities assessment can help examine these issues at an early stage of th e research process.

Whose Needs Are Being Assessed?

Small-scale farmers can be classified in rna ny di ffcrent ways. Sorne a re share-croppers, others freeholders; sorne farm main ly fo r s u bsistencc, others are mar ket -orientecl; sorne seH only in to loca l marke ts, oth ers to regional or international rnar kets. Other crite ria ror c1 ifferen liation inelude age, gender, wealth ar farrn sizc, ethn ic or religious group, householcls headed by wornen, by single men or by couples who share decision making (L. Chiwona- Karltun, pers. comm.). Within the hausehold, differcnt members have different roles a nd responsibiliti es, such as work in the field o r in the hou se, food production or the generation of a eash ¡ncome. They may also have different objectives, su eh as livelihood security, high yields, risk aversion, market a ccess, a nd others. Households and their rnem bers can also be classified accard ing to their di ffere nt acccss lo resources and skills. such as water, land, th e labor of other household members, a nd so on (U.

Murray, pers cornm.).

Needs Assessment and Priority Setting In many cases these groups will have different needs. For exarnple, a participatory needs assessment conducted with farmers by researchers at the International Crops Research Institute for the SemiArid Tropics (ICRISAT) found that the pearl millet harvest index (HI) preferred by small-scale dryland farmers dependent on livestock differed from the HI preferred by larger farmers, who rud not reIy on livestock as much (A. Gupta, pers. comm.). A subsistence farmer may be wiHing to forego a variety with a high yield potential if another variety is more reliable in bad years. A farmer may want several varieties of the same crop: varieties with yield stability, varieties with the family's preferred flavor, high -yielding varieties, varieties with a high value in local or regional markets. Farmers linked to exporters will \Vant varieties that meet export demands or criteria. Meo and women in the same household often name different attributes of a crop as ranking higher in importance to them (U. Murray, pers. cornm.). Consequently, a fundamental question in participatory needs assessment ¡s, Whose needs are being assessed? A second question follows this first one;

What eriteria should be uscd to select farmers or groups of farmers to participate in the research process?

(A. Sutherland, pers. comm.).

Consulting eaeh group, both separatc1y and in interaction with others, will yield maximum information about the range of nceds and hclp ascertain whether thcy can be met through a single research approach or will require completely separate efforts. It will the n be possible to decide which research a pproaches should be given priority, bearing in mind the objectivcs of the project, whieh may be to maximize impact through the development of technology that wilI benefit everyone, or to try to meet th e needs of a smaller, less privileged group or sub-group.

Restrieting participatíon to farmers and formal plant breeders may exclude other relevant actor s (C. Ives, pers. comm.). Needs assessments and priority setting should therefore involve other stakeholders involved in crop productio n, processing, marketing, and consumption. For example, local processors or traders may wísh to specify important quality criteria that determine whether or not they will purchase a crop. The prefercnces of urban consurncrs are also becoming increasingly important, both within a country and when exporting. Especially in countries with a food surplus, consumer issues may have more impact on the use of sorne technologies, particularly transgenie methods, than any technical or cost factor (J. Jiggins, pers.

comm.). The poliey makers (or their representatives) who determine the incentives to produce a crap may also need to be included, particular}y if the 'poliey cnvironment' is currently adverse (B. Stockli, C. Ives, J.

Lewis, pers. comms.).

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be cornmunica ted to those team members with the greates t abi lity to addre ss them. Assessmcnts of this kind carry relativcly high costs, which wou ld need to be budgeted for (e. Ives, pers. cornm.).

The ¡ncreasing precision of plant biotechnologies can allow the development of products tailored to specific marke ts or groups (M. Loevinsohn, P. Eyzaguirre, pers. comms.). lndecd, the long-term com mercial poten tial of much mol ecula r m arke r a nd tran sgenic technology is con sidered to he in the development of valu c-added outpu t traits that will add ress a \Vide ran ge of specific n eeds or ma rket niches (S himod a, 1998 ). The produ ct differe nti ation that is possible throu gh biotechn ology researeh is evident, for cxamplc, in th e special ty starches ancl oils being developed in crops s uc h as maize, soybea n, an d ra peseed. Sma ll -scale farmcrs in devclopin g countries can al so benefi t from varictics tai lored for their content of s pecific nutrients, sueh a s vitamins, cssential fa tly aci d s, s ugars, proteins, an d oils, or ror the absen ce of anti-nutrition a l components, such as e ru cic aeíd or nitra tes.

Does Biotechnology Require Special Needs Assessment Methods?

Setting prior ities for biotechnology-assis ted PPB requires crossboundary in tera ction and the s haring of s pecia lized knowled ge. Does thi s mean th at s pecial p ri ority settin g met hods are n eeded?

Opinion s vary widely and there is as yet I¡ ttle experi ence to go on.

We h a ve grouped opinions und er t\Vo broad viewpoints, for and a gRins t (see vi ew points A and B below). Th e debate on this subject m ay provide op portu nities to deve Iop belter procedures for participatory needs asscssment a nd priority setti ng in general (de Ka then, pe rs. comm.).

Viewpotnt A: Special methods are not required

The ma in argument aga in st t he need ror special priori ty-setti ng m ethods when biotech nology is one of the research options is that farrocrs ' needs rernain the sarne irrespective of the kind of research or technology that is applied lo meeting them (M. A. Jorge, J. Lcwis, pers.

comm s. ). Diffe ren ces among s ub-grou ps wi th in a farming cornmunity require more attention at thi s point than the tool-box of technologies that may or may not be u sed.

One coneern is that including biotechnology as a possible oplion in the early stages of needs assessm en t may e licit call s for biotechnology interventions when less expensive or more fa miliar approach es rnight achievc the same objective. Needs assessment exercises typically iden tify a range of n eeds, whose solutions may require anything from.

plant breedi ng to road building. Adjustmen ts to n a lional or inter na ti onal poliey may be as important as technology in providing Needs Assessmenl and Priority Setting solutions. Onlya sub-set ofneeds may require a research approach, whether local or external. Far example, a project in eastem Kenya identified 16 diíferent possible research approaches that could be used to address a range of problcms related to hausehold food security (Sutherland el al, 1998; Kang'ara et al, 1997). Only after needs have bec n identified and if plant breeding is found necessary d oes the questian arise as to whether biotechnology m ay afIer advantages as part of the breeding approach. (Sorne commentators a lso feel lhal only at that point is it time to consider wheth er a partici pa tory approach will be advantageous in the research phase, e.g., L. Sanint, pers.


Viewpoint B : Special methods are required

To parücipate in decisions related to biotet:hnology, farmer s need sorne knowledge about it. Collaborative or farm e r-led d ecisions about whether or nol to u se biotechnology require that farmers and researchers un ders land eac h other's vocabul ary and typologies, and have at least a rudimentary grasp of the areas in which the other is cxperl. Consequently, priority setti n g wh en biotechnology is a n opLion has unique requirements.

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