Background Paper, Biotechnology and the Policy Process in Developing Countries project
Resource-poor farmers in the Wedza district of Zimbabwe are faced with tremendous farming challenges that are adversely impacting on their livelihoods. Beyond climatic, soil and other direct farming constraints, the farmers’ options are severely curtailed by lack of material resources and other socio-economic grim realities that have resulted in, among other development interventions, agricultural biotechnologies pilot studies and projects.
This study sought to understand the local Wedza resource-poor farmers’ perspectives and participation in agricultural biotechnologies projects being implemented in the area by the Biotechnology Trust (BTZ) of Zimbabwe and its partners. Varied perceptions and attitudes towards biotechnology project activities and the participation thereof exist, depending on several factors, namely awareness and involvement in local development initiatives, management style of the different stakeholders, language and resource accessibility of the new technologies and policy/political environment.
The problematic challenges of conceptualising and operationalizing the notion of ‘participation’ is reasonably demonstrated in this study of Wedza. Participation is warm, persuasive and attractive concept that is subscribed to by many, although very few, if at all, ever achieve it. Without a shared vision and meaning of participation, analytical tools, indicators and practical methods, participation remains an elusive pastime ‘occupation’ and endearing slogan of many development practitioners.