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2.1. Concepts in Participatory Research
Standard economic analysis evaluates technologies by calculating and comparing indicators such as the cost benefit ratio or the marginal rate of return. The quality of this analysis depends heavily on the quality of the data collected, which is a particular problem in the evaluation of locust control. An alternative is to solicit the farmers' opinion directly, and to ask them to evaluate technologies and to participate in the technology development process. To include farmers' knowledge, opinion, and practices can make the difference in assessing new technologies, by making it possible to diagnose major problems, prioritize them from a farmersí perspective, and even quantify them, up to a certain degree.
Therefore, farmers' participation in agricultural technology development is more and more solicited, although many different methods exist and a wide range of confusing terminology is used. The most convenient way to classify approaches is by level of farmers' participation, such as the four categories proposed by Biggs (1989). In the most basic type of participation, contractual, farmers only provide land or services to the scientist for regular or demonstration trials. In a second stage, called consultative, scientists consult farmers about their problems and then develop solutions. In this group we might include also Rapid Rural Appraisal (RRA), which was a reaction against the slow, tedious and costly traditional assessment surveys. It tries to gain time and efficiency by a concentrated approach of a multidisciplinary team, with a flexible methodology to get a grasp of a problem in a rural area. The method included extensive discussions with farmers and villagers, and was used for this survey in Niger in combination with demonstration trials.
It can be argued that farmers, the intended beneficiaries of agricultural research, have a right not only to express their opinions but also to direct the research agenda. Others argue that it is simply more efficient to include farmers in the early stages of technology development (Kamara, Defoer and De Groote, 1996; Sperling, Loevinsohn and Ntabomvura, 1993). Biggs (1989) groups these approaches in a third category, the collaborative approach, in which scientists and farmers collaborate as partners in the research process. Similarly, Rapid Rural Appraisal became Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA), moving from an appraisal (the researcher's point of view) to a participation by the farmers. LUBILOSA's efforts in Mali can be situated here, where the technology is tested by farmers' organizations, with the support of an NGO, and farmer's opinions and suggestions are actively sought.
In a fourth category of participatory research, collegial, scientists work to strengthen farmers' informal research and development systems in rural areas. In this sense, PRA moved from appraisal to learning and action, implying a joint effort, now often called Participatory Learning and Action (PLA). This rather intense approach is only feasible where researchers are relatively close to the farmers, which means for LUBILOSA close to the IITA station in Benin. Here farmers' suggestions are solicited and immediately incorporated into the research agenda.
In each of the categories, the major objective of the participatory approach is to assess a problem in collaboration with the local population, and to discuss and test potential solutions, in this case the potential of using a biopesticide against locusts and grasshoppers. For that purpose, a number of steps are always followed, starting with overview of the ecological and socioeconomic environment. Subsequently, the farmers' assessment of the problem is obtained through a prioritization of the constraints, with a first attempt of quantification. The farmers' opinion on the new technology is then solicited, after a demonstration or a participatory trial. Finally, the farmers' willingness to pay for this method is assessed, and this is compared with the expected cost of providing the technology.
Several techniques are used throughout the different steps: group discussions, village transect walks, individual discussions with men as well as women, and visits to individual farms. The approach is both systematic and flexible: systematic because the same data are collected from different villages, but flexible, meaning open to other information to let new problems other aspects of a problem surface. In conjunction with this research, crop loss assessment studies are executed in the same regions, to allow for a comparison of traditional scientific techniques with the social science approach in a later stage of the research.
2.2. Data and Methods
In previous years, field trials had been conducted in Mali, Niger and Benin. Mali and Niger are Sahelian countries, with a consistent problem of Sahelian grasshoppers including the Senegalese grasshopper, while southwestern Benin has a regular problem of the Variegated Grasshopper. The trials in those regions showed repeatedly high efficacy of the mycopesticide and a high interest of the farmers, and therefore they were maintained for the present survey.
Visits with multidisciplinary teams were organized in the three countries. First, experts were interviewed, and secondary data and technical reports collected. In each country, several villages were then visited in the region most prone to grasshoppers and locusts (see map in Figure 1).
In Benin, previous surveys indicated that the variegated grasshopper was a common pest in the three southern provinces: Mono, Oueme and Atlantique (Paraïso et al. 1992). The Atlantique province was discarded because of bad accessibility, and during a preliminary survey 11 villages were visited in the Mono and some villages in the Atlantique. Finally, the northern part of the Mono province was chosen because cotton production has given farmers access to pest control technology and credit.
Figure 1. Location of PRA surveys
After collecting secondary information about the region, an interdisciplinary team executed a two day PRA in three villages of the Mono province during March and May 1997. Village maps was elaborated with the villagers and, based on that map, the team walked over a transect (cross section) of the village territory together with key informants. Group interviews were conducted with three groups of villagers: older men, women and young men, followed by several individual interviews with men and women. At the end, the team presented a summary of findings to the village assembly for discussion. The PRA resulted in a demonstration trial and the planning of a collaborative research (PLA).
In Mali, the biopesticide had previously been tested in Mourdiah in the North West, and the Dogon area in East-central Mali. Both areas have a recurrent grasshopper problem, but in the Dogon area a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) has been active in locust control for several years. Therefore, this area was selected for a PRA, executed in June 1997 by a multidisciplinary team, consisting of IITA scientists, NGO field workers and agents from the Plant Protection Service (PPS). Four villages were selected among those where the biopesticide had previously been tested, in response to heavy grasshopper problems, spread over the area. The team had a tour of each village, made a transect walk and a village map. Informal discussions were held with villagers along the walk and points of interest were clarified.
In each of the villages a structured group interview was conducted with the farmers, led by the local project extension agent. The topics that were discussed included village organization, the agricultural calendar and the crops, the importance and prioritization of pests, locust control practices, and impressions of the biopesticide. In two villages, women were also interviewed, more particularly on the role of women in agriculture, their prioritization of pests, and their role in grasshopper control. In two villages, individual farmers were interviewed, and their house and fields visited for more in-depth discussions. Between villages, the most important services and projects in Mopti, Sevare, Bandiagara and Pel were also visited.
In Niger, the PRA took place in August and September of 1997 in the subdistrict of Maine-Soroa, district of Diffa in Southeastern Niger (see map in Figure 1). It followed the aerial trial which took place in the beginning of August 1997, and in which 800 ha area were treated with the biopesticide and compared with a control area and the treatment of a similar area with the chemical pesticide fenitrothion.
The PRA-team consisted of IITA scientists, and officials of the Niger PPS and agricultural extension service. After a first visit of the three areas, group discussions with local farmers were organized in all three places, next to the millet fields of the trial. The owner of the field would usually participate, as well as the village headman and several council members, assisted by some interested farmers. The discussion followed a rough and open guideline, and dealt systematically with the relevant topics. After a description of the farming systems, an assessment was made by the villagers of the major pests in the area, a quantification of grasshopper damage was attempted, the farmers' impression of the treatment was evaluated, and their willingness to pay for a grasshopper treatment estimated. During the tour, officials were visited in the relevant ministries and departments in Maïné-Soroa, Diffa, and Niamey. The officers of Maine-Soroa were invited to the treated fields and discussed the results with the farmers.
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