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 The DGIS Special Programme on Biotechnology
By
Peter Commandeur
  
Keywords:  Directorate General for International Cooperation, the Netherlands (DGIS); Policies/Programmes; Participatory approaches; India; Kenya; Zimbabwe; Colombia; Small-scale farming. 
Correct citation: Commandeur, P. (1997), "The DGIS Special Programme on Biotechnology." 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 local institutions.
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 country programmes
Country Priorities
Kenya
  • micro-propagation of planting materials for bananas, cassava, sweet potato, citrus and macadamia;
  • biofertilizers;
  • biopesticides;
  • pest and disease resistant cereals;
  • drought tolerance;
  • 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.
Colombia
  • food crops, including their market position;
  • micropropagation of plantain, yam and cassava;
  • disease resistance in yam, plantain;
  • post harvest characteristics cassava.
Zimbabwe
  • 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.
India
  • 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 cultural 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
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 addressing 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 be identified:

  • 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.

  • 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 Biotechnology 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 committee.
  • 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

    Zimbabwe
    "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 change process.
    "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 mesmerized.
    "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 research network."
    Danisile Hikwa, Head, Department of Research and Specialist Service, Agronomy Institute, Harare, Zimbabwe; member of the Zimbabwe Biotechnology Advisory Committee (ZIMBAC). 

    India
    "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 Netherlands
    "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 group.
    "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, The Hague, 
    the Netherlands.

    Note: Contributors were identified by the country coordinators.

    Biotechnology and small-scale agriculture
    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:

  • 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?

  • 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.
    Peter Commandeur

    Editor Biotechnology and Development Monitor.

    Sources
    Special Programme Biotechnology (1996), Position Paper of the Special Programme Biotechnology and Development Cooperation. The Hague: DGIS, Unpublished.

    Position papers of the country programmes (1996)

    Stephan Seegers (1996), Review of the Special Programme Biotechnology. Amsterdam: SAWA.

    Niels Röling, Stephen Biggs and Ajay Parida (1996), Review of the Special Programme Biotechnology: Overall Report. Semi-final version. Not published.

    Joske Bunders, Bertus Haverkort and Wim Hiemstra (eds.)(1996), Biotechnology: Building on farmers' knowledge. London: MacMillan.



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