The DGIS Special Programme on Biotechnology
||Directorate General for International Cooperation, the
Netherlands (DGIS); Policies/Programmes; Participatory approaches; India;
Kenya; Zimbabwe; Colombia; Small-scale farming.
||Commandeur, P. (1997), "The DGIS Special Programme on Biotechnology."
and Development Monitor, No. 31, p. 611.
The biotechnology programme of the Netherlands' Directorate General
International Cooperation (DGIS) is one of the few development programmes
that is directed exclusively towards biotechnology and poverty alleviation.
Additionally, it has applied a participatory method to define programme
priorities in four partner countries involving scientists, government officials
and the main target group: small-scale farmers. This combination provides
a unique case to assess the potential of participatory priority setting
processes for biotechnology research.
By the end of the 1980s, questions were raised in the Netherlands' parliament
about the possible negative effects of the application of biotechnology
on developing countries, and the neglect of developing countries' needs
in biotechnology research. In response, DGIS initiated a 5 year incentive
programme, which started in 1992. The main component of this Special
Programme on Biotechnology is technical cooperation in development
and application of biotechnologies with Colombia, Kenya, Zimbabwe and India
(the so-called country programmes). By a decision of the Minister of Development
Cooperation, the Special Programme adopted the Interactive Bottom-up
(IBU) approach (see box) as the central methodology
to set priorities for biotechnology research in the four country programmes.
The Minister considered that demand-driven biotechnology development and
access of resource-poor farmers to this biotechnology could only be secured
if the target group were be directly involved in the decisions about research
priorities. A special position within the Ministry was created for the
Programme, including an independent advisory committee to formulate the
Special Programme's policy and strategy, and to supervise its implementation.
The IBU approach in the Special Programme
The implementation of the IBU approach was not identical in the four
countries, but did follow a similar procedure. The first two phases, the
preparation and information phase, were generally done simultaneously.
An initial identification was done by the Netherlands' staff of the Special
Programme, headed by Hans Wessels. They visited relevant ministries,
universities, research organizations, extension services, international
institutes, farmers' and women's organizations and NGOs. In this phase
the first identification of the programme area took place in dialogue with
The second step in the country programmes was the identification of
local partner organizations. In each country, an established NGO or public
organization has been contracted by the Special Programme for the local
coordination of the country programmes. Together with the Netherlands'
staff of the Special Programme, these partner organizations have been attributed
most of the tasks of the central 'multidisciplinary team' of the IBU approach,
especially those related to coordination, information gathering on farming
systems and research needs, and communication between the different stakeholders.
The local organizations have been in charge of baseline studies and socio-economic
surveys, either carried out by themselves or by consultants. Workshops
with the different groups of stakeholders, i.e. farmers, researchers or
policy makers, were part of the process.
In all countries a national priority setting workshop was held in which
farmers, farmers' representatives, researchers, extension workers, NGOs
and policy makers participated. In the workshops, priority areas were identified
for which research project proposals can be submitted. In many cases, as
a result of these joint events, a national steering committee was formally
established, representing all groups of stakeholder in the process. Its
initial task was to advise the Special Programme on process and projects,
gradually to evolve in the facilitation of project formulation and implementation,
and to link research and development activities to national policy levels.
Consequently, together with the Netherlands' staff of the Special Programme
and the local partner organizations, these steering committees perform
the tasks of the 'multidisciplinary team' of the IBU approach regarding
the gaining of support and the institutionalization of the whole process
in the national policy and research context.
The four country programmes have all reached the fourth phase of institutionalization.
This phase is the least elaborated in the IBU approach itself, and has
been further developed by the Special Programme. Several initiatives have
been taken to stimulate a continuation of the participation of all stakeholders
in priority setting into technology development. Pre-project formulation
workshops have been organized to translate the priorities identified into
concrete project proposals. In these workshops, farmers, NGOs and researchers
discuss the research needs and strategy in a specific priority. A group
of representatives of all stakeholders is elected to write jointly a project
proposal for submission to the steering committee. Another initiative includes
training programmes in participatory research for scientists and extentionists.
|Defined priorities of the four
micro-propagation of planting materials for bananas, cassava, sweet potato,
citrus and macadamia;
pest and disease resistant cereals;
post harvest technology;
animal disease diagnostics and vaccines;
improvement of nutritional value by fermentation of food and feed and preservation;
biotechnology policy (biosafety regulations);
adaptation/improvement of biotechnologies by farmers themselves.
food crops, including their market position;
micropropagation of plantain, yam and cassava;
disease resistance in yam, plantain;
post harvest characteristics cassava.
drought tolerance in maize;
palatability of millets and sorghum;
pest resistance in cotton;
viral resistance and biofertilizers in legumes;
improved storage and flowering of vegetables;
production of good planting material of tuber and root crops.
rapid propagation of agro-forestry species, tree crops;
biofertilizers and biopesticides for tree-based cropping systems;
post harvest and processing activities;
improved drought tolerance and fodder production for sorghum;
improved pest and disease resistance in sorghum, pigeon pea and castor;
biological pest control in castor;
improved diagnostics and vaccine development for livestock;
high yielding feed and fodder crops and non-conventional
feed-stuffs (e.g. bioconversion).
Ownership of the programme
The five year budget of each of the country programmes is about US$
4.2 million and is financed by DGIS. In Colombia, the government contributed
an additional US$ 1.5 million under the condition that the government is
directly represented in the steering committee. In other countries government
officials to participate in the steering committees, but in a personal
capacity. The ownership of the country programmes will be handed over to
the steering committees in the different countries. Bilateral agreements
will settle the status of the steering committee and intermediary organization
in relation to the country programme and governmental bodies. These administrative
arrangements of the steering committees are especially important in relation
to their task to influence biotechnology policy in their country and their
ability to approach other agencies for project funding. In 1995, the Indian
steering committee was the first to take over the responsibility of the
Indian country programme.
The steering committees have developed an appraisal procedure for project
proposals and selection criteria in collaboration with the Netherlands'
staff of the Special Programme and its advisory committee. Rules are laid
down regarding the involvement of small-scale farmers in the process of
project formulation and implementation, and how a broad representation
of all groups of stakeholders in the national steering committees can be
guaranteed. Representation of, and accountability towards farmers have
received special attention. How funding for research projects identified
by the steering committees will be secured after the end of the Special
Programme's support, is still not clear. The steering committees might
acquire commitments from their national governments, or approach other
foreign donors for funds in the future.
|The IBU approach in theory
The Interactive Bottom-up IBU approach was developed at the end
of the 1980s by a group of researchers at the Free University Amsterdam
under leadership of Joske Bunders. Its main characteristic is that priorities
are identified through a participatory process, starting with assessing
the needs of potential end-users of biotechnology. Based on this local
needs assessment, priorities are jointly formulated by all stakeholders
in the innovation process, i.e. small-scale farmers, researchers, policy
makers and non-governmental organisations.
The coordination of the approach is in the hands of a 'multidisciplinary
team' consisting of members from different professional, scientific and
backgrounds. This team organizes support for the process, assists the different
groups of stakeholders involved to bridge the communication gap between
them, and identifies and balances differences between them. Differences
in background, interpretations and objectives make it difficult to find
common ground for action. Therefore, the dialogue within and between groups
of stakeholders to reach consensus on priorities and action is central
in the approach.
The approach consists of four phases which are only partly chronological.
In the preparation phase, the multidisciplinary team is established
and trained. This team prepares an overview of the national context, the
agricultural sector and the existing links between small-scale farmers
and other stakeholders. In this phase the programme area is identified.
In the information phase, the multidisciplinary team collects,
exchanges and integrates information gathered in consultation of the different
stakeholders. Needs of farmers are identified by an appraisal of the main
characteristics of the farming system from the perspective of different
stakeholders. Subsequently, the status of the currently available biotechnology
is assessed. The multidisciplinary team analyses the information gathered
through interviews and dialogues between key informants, and checks its
analysis in group discussions within the different groups of stakeholders
separately. As a result, the team divides the problems identified by the
farmers into problems that can be addressed by biotechnology and those
that cannot. Of the first group, the comparative advantage of biotechnology
over other solutions is assessed. Finally, the multidisciplinary team enlists
support of the process and identifies partners among the stakeholders who
are willing to cooperate in further initiatives.
During the phase of public debate, all stakeholders are invited
to participate in a priority setting and planning workshop. In the workshop,
the team's findings are debated. The participants are encouraged to review,
criticize and add to the team's analysis. The aim is to reach a broad consensus
and legitimize the workshops findings in order to encourage implementation
of the identified priorities. Finally, a report is prepared which is presented
to all people who were involved in earlier phases as feedback on their
contributions. The report consists of a list of priorities, which could
include farm or village experiments, science-based supportive research
and suggested changes of the policy environment.
The last phase is the institutionalization phase. The priorities
identified during the workshop are the basis of the formulation and implementation
of biotechnology projects. Commitment gathered during the earlier phases
is important to continue from priority setting to the formulation and implementation
of research. Compliance of requirements regarding appropriateness, feasibility
and comparative advantage of the innovation during implementation needs
to be assured. In the IBU approach, this phase is hardly elaborated.
Until now, the IBU approach has been used in several priority setting
exercises for biotechnological research. However, no results of the research
are yet available.
Potentials and problems of the approach
Collaboration of all parties. The approach depends heavily on the
collaboration of small-scale farmers, researchers and government officials
to back it up. This requirement of the IBU approach includes both possibilities
and restrictions for the stakeholders. For example, small-scale farmers
might succeed to (re)focus biotechnological research on their problems.
However, within the programme, research has to include biotechnology, which
limits their scope of prioritization of problems and possible solutions.
Scientist are often interested in developing their research capacity in
biotechnology. Within the programme, however, this is limited to the technologies
that are considered relevant for the small-scale farmers, and are developed
with their involvement throughout the process.
The country programmes are one of the few initiatives of a setting
of priorities for biotechnology research with the involvement of small-scale
farmers. The programmes are directed towards the combination of two steps
in one: (a) the direct involvement of small-scale farmers in the formulation
and implementation of research in order to stimulate technology development
that will be more relevant to small-scale farmers, and will be better adopted
by them; (b) the application of biotechnology addressing the problems of
small-scale farmers. Although the premises of biotechnology in this respect
have always been high, the examples of successful biotechnology programmes
small-scale farmers needs are still very limited.
At the moment it is too early to evaluate whether the outcome of the
carefully prioritized research will contribute more to the improvement
of the position of small-scale farmers, or will have an increased rate
of adoption than does other research defined without their participation.
After the first 5 year period, the country programmes succeeded in developing
research priorities, establishing institutional linkages and formulating
the first research projects. The first results of this research are expected
in 1999. Based on the experiences with participatory priority setting process
in biotechnology research in the country programmes, several issues can
In most developing countries, the interaction between farmers and researchers
is poorly developed and/or one-directional. The restrictions of the approach
have led to initial disagreements in Zimbabwe about how much the focus
should be on the problems of small-scale farmers. On the other hand, it
is reported that the country programmes initiated direct contact between
farmers and researchers, and work as an eye-opener regarding the benefits
of direct communications between both parties.
Representation. In all participatory programmes one of the main
questions is who participates in which activities and decisions. The IBU
approach lacks clear criteria in this respect and most of the decisions
about representation are taken by the multidisciplinary team. The local
partner organizations and the Netherlands' staff of the Special Programme
have directly influenced the representation of the small-scale farmers,
mainly based on criteria such as cooperation, like-mindedness, position
and knowledge. Although these criteria are important for the success of
the IBU approach, such a direct influence on representation is paradoxical
to the concept of participation.
The coordination of the priority setting process was mostly in the
hands of the local (independent) partner organizations and the Netherlands'
staff of the Special Programme. Gradually, control is being transferred
to the steering committee in which all groups of stakeholders are represented.
The representation of these groups in the steering committees is therefore
an important issue for the continuation of the participatory nature of
the programme. Another direct form of representation of the small-scale
farmers is the requirement that all funded activities must directly include
them in the innovation process.
Representation of the different groups of stakeholders in the steering
committee has raised discussion within the country programmes. In Zimbabwe,
the Netherlands' staff of the Special Programme did not accept the existing
Forum as the steering committee. The reasons were that the Forum was
dominated by researchers from the University of Zimbabwe and it rejected
having farmers represented as important stakeholders. The Forum considered
itself to be already well aware of farmers' problems and needs. On the
initiative of the Netherlands' staff of the Special Programme, a new steering
committee was formed, with some of the members from the Forum and some
new members, including farmer representatives.
The way in which farmers are represented differs significantly in the
four countries. In India, farmers are represented indirectly through NGOs.
In Kenya, the Kenyan National Farmers Union (KNFU) is represented
in the steering committee. However, it was considered that KNFU does not
represent the majority of the resource-poor farmers in the area. Therefore,
farmers from the area elected their representatives for the steering committee
during local workshops. Accountability of those individual farmers to the
group they represent as well as accountability of NGOs to farmers, however,
cannot be taken for granted given the ad hoc character of those workshops.
The most direct representation of farmers is found in Colombia, where a
newly formed farmer group in the area delegates two members to the steering
The scope of the participatory decisions. The country programmes
tried to include several groups of stakeholders in the decisions on research
priorities. However, each programme has to face the dilemma of which decisions
are open to discussion and which are decided by the donor organization.
Before the national workshops were held or the small-scale farmers were
consulted, several decisions had already been taken. First, the country
selection was carried out in the Netherlands. In consultation within the
four selected countries, the Netherlands' staff of the Special Programme
decided on the target regions within the countries. In Colombia, government
representatives tried to change the focus to another, more prosperous region,
which was not acceptable to the Special Programme.
The priority setting procedure is time consuming. As stated earlier,
after five years, the institutional arrangements have been made and the
country programmes are now implementing their first projects. In comparison
to other research programmes, the period of priority setting has been extremely
long. A reported problem is that due to the long procedure, expectations
of farmers and researchers may have been raised too early, since the time
between their first contact with the programme and the final result is
more than 5 years. Spending problems may occur in research programmes if
the long lead time is not taken into account in the programme planning.
The priority setting procedure, although time consuming, is inexpensive
in comparison to total research costs.
The approach itself needs extensive attention. When the Special
Programme started, there was no proof that the IBU approach would lead
to better research results. The experiences at that time included consultations
of small-scale farmers and their representatives on their problems in relation
to the existing biotechniques. No cases of alternative technology development
or increased adoption of biotechnology by small-scale farmers because of
the IBU approach were known. This absence of real experiences made it difficult
to convince stakeholders of the benefits of the approach beforehand. It
also contributed to a difference in understanding of and opinion on how
the IBU approach should be implemented in the Special Programme. Subsequently,
this led not only to lengthy discussions and conflicts in the Special Programme's
Advisory Committee in the Netherlands, but also in the steering committees
in the four countries.
For most stakeholders, the IBU approach has been a relatively new one.
In Kenya and Zimbabwe only scattered attempts to establish more interactive
approaches in research and development have taken place. Therefore, discussions
on the methodology itself took a long time. In Colombia, the public research
organization CORPOICA implemented a system of participatory technology
development in cassava and yam research in the same area as the Special
Programme. India apparently has a longer history in demand-oriented research
in which NGOs represent farmers' views. This was one of the factors that
accelerated implementation of the programme in Andhra Pradesh.
The rather new priority setting procedure which needed new working
relations between different groups of stakeholders has mainly been induced
by the staff in the Netherlands. Only in India, the programme has been
handed over recently, and the decision making is now in the hands of the
national steering committee. The direct involvement of the foreign donor
in decision making might have been a prerequisite of the initiation of
a participatory priority setting process, it also easily conflicts with
the essence of it. Any foreign donor might face this dilemma.
Personal views on the country programmes
"The university training of researchers is the main source of the problem
that the bulk of the technologies developed have not been adopted by small-scale
farmers. The curricula clearly show that there is no attempt to teach students
how to learn from farmers. The graduates are conditioned to think they
are the source of knowledge and that they have the initiative in the technological
"The methods of working with, and learning from, farmers are excellent
at enabling us to ‘market’ our ideas to farmers and at extracting information
from them. They do not enable us to work with farmers as equal partners.
At the start of the DGIS Biotechnology Programme in Zimbabwe, we conducted
a ‘participatory’ rural appraisal which made me feel guilty. We used the
‘participatory’ label on a non-participatory process. Although we were
able to collect a lot of information in a short time, the fact that we
pre-defined what we wanted to get from farmers reduced farmers to mere
interviewees and sources of information for our benefit. There was no time
to develop a working relation with the farmers and to get to grips with
their concerns. We bombarded them with questions, drew maps, and left them
"Successful examples of truly participatory approaches are still few
and far between. Therefore, the experience of the Special Programme will
be useful in providing lessons for public research and extension system.
A climate of readiness to learn already prevails."
Jeff Mutimba, Alemaya University of Agriculture, Ethiopia.
Resource person Zimbabwe programme.
"I feel that the participatory approach that has been introduced by
the Dutch Government in their funding of agricultural biotechnology research
in Zimbabwe will benefit the resource-poor farmers. This focus on resource-poor
farmers dovetails with the desire of the Zimbabwean government that the
Biotechnology Research Institute (BRI) of the Scientific and Industrial
Research and Development Centre (SIRDC) serves the needs of the majority
of our population. The programme has provided funding for two BRI projects:
micropropagation of sweet potato, and drought tolerance and pest resistance
in maize. DGIS also supported a Regional Biosafety Focal Point at SIRDC,
through which regional biotechnology scientists were given practical training
in biosafety risk management.
"Work on sweet potato had originally not been our priority. A consultant
hired by the DGIS programme identified that farmers experienced shortages
of sweet potato planting material. Two of our scientist trained in micropropagation
made several field trips to ask farmers to participate in the development
of the project. BRI plans to train some farmers in the micropropagation
technology so that they can eventually provide fresh, disease-free sweet
potato seedlings to their fellow farmers.
"The weakness of the DGIS programme is the built-in delay in processing
grant requests. Project proposals have to pass the national steering committee
and review committees at DGIS. So far, this procedure has been taking at
least one year.
"The programme has required the projects to be of high scientific merit.
I hope that this feature will be retained. I feel that the participatory
process helps to focus the national research projects in biotechnology
to the needs of resource-poor farmers. The frequent visits to sustain a
dialogue with the farmers during the planning and execution of a project
are additional costs but they are worth incurring."
C.J. Chetsanga, Director General, Scientific and Industrial
Research and Development Centre, Harare, Zimbabwe; member of the Zimbabwe
Biotechnology Advisory Committee (ZIMBAC).
"Participatory approaches in setting research priorities are not totally
new to Zimbabwe’s agriculture. They have largely contributed to the success
of its large scale commercial farming sector. Most research institutions
realise the importance of employing the same bottom-up strategy to the
smallholder sector. However, implementation is limited by the large number
of smallholders and the lack of resources to travel to farming communities.
"In the 1980s, the advent of the farming system research led to the
establishment of a Farming System Research Unit (FSRU) at our institute,
with a mandate to conduct on-farm integrated and adaptive research. There
was an attempt to identify priorities in situ. However, most of the priority
setting was finalized on station by the researchers. The farmers’ role
was largely relegated to providing land for field trials. Extensionists
selected the farmers and researchers implemented, collected and synthesized
data, and even evaluated the research results.
"The interactive bottom-up approach utilized in the biotechnology programme
raises several questions: (a) at what level of the process do we involve
farmers? (b) do researchers and extensionists really empower farmers to
make informed decisions? (c) is the overriding factor the farmers’ needs
and priorities or the researchers pre-set stereotype agendas, largely spurred
by the donors?
"Experiences of the FSRU show that adoption and overall impact of ‘proven
technologies’ that were unanimously praised by farmers in field tests can
be heavily limited by non-technical issues such marketing of excess produce.
In the case of biotechnology research, some of the problems may seem to
be irrelevant, but nevertheless are important to the farmers as they form
components of the overall jigsaw puzzle. Researchers cannot ignore these
issues and only concentrate on biotechnology per se. Experiences of FSRU
in maize showed that better results are achieved if priority setting is
not just a single event, but farmers are involved in the design and management
of appropriate trials, and evaluate the results. Farmers should be able
to learn from their own mistakes, rectify these and fine-tune the technologies
to suit their own environment.
"Reviewing the proposals for the biotechnology programme has been both
an enriching and a frustrating experience for me. Some important components
of a good, holistic proposal that was developed with farmers’ input were
thrown out just because they were not ‘biotechnology’. There is too much
donor pressure to achieve the pre-set effect at the expense of real farmers’
needs. Obviously when the researchers turn their backs, farmers will just
throw away the useless technologies. Therefore, there is a need to incorporate
components that facilitate adoption of the spin-off technologies into the
biotechnology research projects.
"The priorities identified by the Biotechnology Programme are not different
from those identified by other research institutions in Zimbabwe. One of
the major differences in the approach is that the neutral national steering
committee, ZIMBAC, can encourage several institutions of varying capacities
to work together. A committee of individuals from the various participating
institutions resulted in multi-facetted mission projects. However, the
concept of multi-institutional and multi-disciplinary project implementation
has not yet proven to result in increased adoption by the end-users.
"Getting the existing formal research institutions to develop biotechnology
for the smallholder sector is the right direction. However, I see a lot
of frustration on the side of ZIMBAC and researchers, since there is a
delay in project fund disbursement by the donor. Thus an opportunity could
be lost to integrate the approach effectively into the mainstream formal
Danisile Hikwa, Head, Department of Research and Specialist
Service, Agronomy Institute, Harare, Zimbabwe; member of the Zimbabwe Biotechnology
Advisory Committee (ZIMBAC).
"A participatory process is always beneficial at the basic research
levels. Priorities set by state and public sectors are based on certain
guesses. Such priorities quite often do not suit the realistic needs of
the target population. This situation is true in India with diversified
agro-eco-zones within a radius of 300 km.
"From the beginning when there was need to increase productivity, there
has been a craze to import exotic know-how and thus many ethnic practices
were lost in oblivion. Therefore there is a dire need to involve farmers
in appraisal of the location, elicit strength, weakness and opportunities,
and evolve a participatory planning. Such a planning is going to be sustainable
and economically efficient.
"The Biotechnology Programme formulated with the involvement of beneficiaries
of five villages in two districts of Andhra Pradesh, is definitely going
to be a successful methodology as the real farmers, NGOs, scientists and
bureaucrats are involved in the implementation of the basic research for
the development activities.
"The result-oriented basic research programmes initially implemented
in local areas, will definitely have impact on agricultural research at
state and national level. Timely action, dedication, liberal funding and
supportive administrative supervision will boost the time-bound basic research,
reaching the end-users for implementation."
Krishna Ashrit, Director of Animal Husbandry, Government
of Andhra Pradesh; member Biotechnology Programme Committee.
"The strength of the IBU approach in the Biotechnology Programme, in
my opinion, lies not so much in the product (priorities) but in the process.
Priorities indicated by researchers often differ from priorities indicated
by farmers. The added value of the process is in the jointly set priorities
in problems indicated by farmers. My own experiences with different stakeholders
in the four countries indicate that scientists and policy makers actually
like the approach and confirm the usefulness and relevance of it. Unfortunately,
I have the impression that the different stakeholders, and especially the
traditional technology-supply thinkers, tend to fall back to their old
habits of technology-orientation as soon as they return to their own peer
"A second, no less important, drive in the methodology of the Biotechnology
Programme has been the effort to sustain the approach by institutionalization
of the different components like the national steering committees. Ownership
of the Programme was transferred to these steering committees and recognition
by the governments was established. In the longer term these multi-stakeholder
committees might become self supporting and participate in directing public
research funds towards small-scale farmers’ problems as well as becoming
a channel for donor agencies."
Hans Wessels, Head DGIS Special Programme on Biotechnology,
Note: Contributors were identified by the country coordinators.
Biotechnology and small-scale agriculture
Is a participatory methodology always appropriate for setting priorities
in biotechnology research? The strength of the IBU approach is the
clear orientation of research to the problems of small-scale farmers. However,
the approach has been criticized for addressing the needs of small-scale
farmers only. Some people suggest that the strength of biotechnology does
not lie in the direct contribution to poverty alleviation at a local level.
Instead, they consider that other (social) instruments are more appropriate
to address poverty alleviation. Biotechnology, on the other hand, would
be more suitable to achieve (national) production increases and sustainability.
Consequently, by limiting the programme to the IBU-approach, it would run
the risk of putting too much emphasis on local problems which are of less
interest at a national and international level.
To what extent can small-scale farmers be involved in biotechnological
research? The country programmes have already started to formulate
research projects based on the priorities identified. A reported risk is
that the interaction between researchers and farmers might decrease, since
research (at least partly) takes place within laboratories. Biotechnological
research is generally believed to be too complicated to let farmers participate
directly, as is possible in, for example, some conventional plant breeding
programmes. The few known examples of research in (traditional) biotechnology
that can be carried out at farm level, such as development of improved
fermentation processes and mushroom production protocols. However, this
raises the question as to what is the added-value of a special programme
on biotechnology separate from general agricultural or food processing
programmes. Although biotechnological research is generally complex, its
final results might be easy to handle and adopted by farmers. However,
does this imply that the choice for modern biotechnology, due to the complex
research stage which includes a discontinuity in the participatory innovation
process, restricts the choice for participatory approaches?
Not only did the Special Programme apply a relatively new approach
for priority setting, it also focused on the application of biotechnology
to address resource-poor farmers' needs. The experiences of the DGIS programme
raise some new issues related to whether biotechnology is a suitable technology
to direct at small scale farming:
Of all participatory approaches in agricultural research, the IBU approach
is not the most radical one. In its original form it is mainly restricted
to the priority setting phase. The organization of the approach itself
is rather top-down due to the important role given to the multidisciplinary
team which is the pivot in the information exchange during the priority
setting process. It seems to be successful in directing research more to
the problems of small-scale farmers, making the priority setting process
more aware of the stakeholders and their interests. Finally, it establishes
new links between researchers and beneficiaries of the research. The IBU
process is therefore a more deliberate way of setting priorities, but it
mainly keeps the separation of research and users in tact. Up to now small-scale
farmers are not involved in the research itself. However, the Special Programme
has recognized this issue, and will play attention to the continued interaction
between scientists and end-users during the research phase.
Editor Biotechnology and Development Monitor.
Special Programme Biotechnology (1996), Position Paper of the Special
Programme Biotechnology and Development Cooperation. The Hague: DGIS,
Position papers of the country programmes (1996)
Stephan Seegers (1996), Review of the Special Programme Biotechnology.
Niels Röling, Stephen Biggs and Ajay Parida (1996), Review of
the Special Programme Biotechnology: Overall Report. Semi-final version.
Joske Bunders, Bertus Haverkort and Wim Hiemstra (eds.)(1996), Biotechnology:
Building on farmers' knowledge. London: MacMillan.
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