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Timeline Events / Work within CGIAR using participatory approaches

Work within CGIAR system on technology development using participatory approaches, controversial though they were, gave empirical evidence of how participatory methods had been effective in influencing the priorities and content of research and extension programme. Stephen Biggs worked with CIMMYT “primarily with the all-India wheat and maize programmes on participatory breeding for triticale6 and maize. Both of these groups were based at the G. B. Pant University at Pantnagar, Uttar Pradesh. […] The Indian Secretary of Agriculture fully supported these new ‘on-farm’ research projects, where senior plant breeders, soil scientists, and others were substantially involved in the on-farm research. 

“…Significantly, the on-farm research reports showed how the problems of poorer households were often very different from those of richer households, and thereby questioned the prevailing research and extension strategies of recommending a general ‘one size fits all’ ‘package of practices’ and the adoption of technologies from demonstrations. These reports were important for the advocacy and promotion of participatory research methods and participatory breeding in maize, as they gave empirical evidence of how participatory methods had been effective in influencing the priorities and content of a university’s maize-breeding programme, as well as acting as a basis for future on-farm research and extension advice. They were controversial at the time, as they were legitimising different ways of doing research from the mainstream national paradigm.” (Biggs, 1983 cited in Biggs, 2008:492)

The work of Robert Rhodes and Bob Booth on farmer-developed diffused light storage methods for potatoes in the Andean region published in 1982 also helped establish validity of farmer knowledge and innovation, as well as Paul Richard’s book Indigenous Agricultural Revolution (1985), and work of Robert Chambers.



Biggs, S. (2008)  ‘The lost 1990s?  Personal reflections on a history of participatory technology development’, Development in Practice 18.4-5

Agrawal, B.D. (1978) In: ‘Maize On-Farm Research Project December 1978 Report’, Govind Ballabh Pant University of Agriculture and Technology, Pantnagar

Biggs,S.D. (1983) ‘Monitoring and control in agricultural research systems: maize in Northern India’, Research Policy 12: 37–59

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