Why farmer participatory research is essential for agricultural development

Published on 12 July 2023

Ian Scoones

Professorial Fellow

The trio of ‘Farmer First’ books published originally between 1989 and 2009 have just been released as open access versions. You can download and share them for free. Together, they make the case that we must put farmers first if more equitable, sustainable and productive food and farming systems are to be achieved. Debates about farmer participatory research and extension were central to discussions of agricultural development from the 1980s into the 2000s, but somehow this focus has dropped off the agenda. However, making sure that farmers are at the centre of agricultural research and development systems is still just as relevant, even if the challenges of agriculture and the wider innovation and extension system has changed.

Much has changed in global food and farming systems since the first book was published nearly 35 years ago. There has been a massive concentration of corporate control, the state has increasingly withdrawn from agricultural research and extension, technologies – from digital to biotechnology – have advanced significantly and concerns about the environmental consequences of industrial agriculture have grown. Yet today over a third of the food in the world continues to be produced by 600 million small-scale farming households, who remain central to rural livelihoods, despite on-going patterns of farm consolidation and urbanisation.

This article is from Zimbabweland, a blog written by IDS research fellow Ian Scoones. Zimbabweland focuses on issues related to rural livelihoods and land reform in Zimbabwe.

Read the full article on the Zimbabweland website 

The views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author/s and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IDS.


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