|Participatory research with tree crop farmers in the Pacific|
D. I. GUEST (1), R. Daniel (1). (1) The University of Sydney, Eveleigh, Australia
European colonists introduced plantation crops into the Pacific and developed research and extension services with strong linkages between plantation owners, managers, extension agents and researchers. With the collapse of plantation agriculture these services became increasingly underfunded, irrelevant and ineffective for smallholder-based farming communities. While farmers are observant and innovative, they are also are risk-averse because they lack the skills to critically evaluate the benefits of technological change, or their capability is limited by poor health, education, custom, land tenure or finance. Farmer participatory research engages stakeholders at the beginning of the research and development cycle, focuses research questions and extension approaches, creates healthy and robust partnerships based on trust and "learning by doing", and engages farmers as advocates. The adoption of new technologies is improved if farmers are presented with graded management options demonstrated by active participants, rather than passively promoted and inflexible recommendations. We have successfully applied the participatory approach to assist cacao, pineapple, citrus, tomato, potato, rubber, black pepper, durian and jackfruit farmers in several countries in Southeast Asia and the Pacific. We are now exploring trans-disciplinary approaches to simultaneously address agriculture, health and nutrition constraints in smallholder farming communities.