A Review of Participatory Agricultural Research and Development in South Africa KZN

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A Review of Participatory Agricultural Research and Development in South
Africa and KwaZulu Natal.
May 2014
Erna Kruger
and Jere L Gilles
Erna Kruger. Mahlathini Organics, 72Tahtam Road, Prestbury,Pietermaritzburg, KZN, South Africa.
Jere LGilles. Department of RuralSociology226 GentryHall, University of Missouri, Columbia, Missouri 65211, USA.
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A reviewofParticipatoryAgricultural
Researchand Developmentin SouthAfrica
andKwaZulu Natal;May 2014
Table of Contents
SUMMARY ........................................................................................................................................................................3
INTRODUCTION .................................................................................................................................................................4
Global trends ....................................................................................................................................................................4
Key themes and assumptions in Participatory Agricultural Research ..............................................................................5
The interplay between research, extension and farmers................................................................................................7
HISTORY OF PARTICIPATORY AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH IN SA-KZN ...................................................................................8
Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) and Sustainable Livelihoods Analysis (SLA) .............................................................9
Participatory Research and Extension (PRE).................................................................................................................12
Farmer Participatory Research (FPR)...........................................................................................................................14
Farming Systems Research and Extension (FSR&E) ......................................................................................................14
Participatory Technology (PDT) and Innovation Development (PID) .............................................................................15
Participatory Action Research (PAR) ............................................................................................................................19
Maize in KZN ...................................................................................................................................................................20
Conservation Agriculture (CA) .....................................................................................................................................22
SUMMARY OF TRENDS IN KWAZULU NATAL ....................................................................................................................24
RECOMMENDATIONS ......................................................................................................................................................25
Geopolitical considerations .........................................................................................................................................26
Methodologies ............................................................................................................................................................27
Role players/stakeholders ...........................................................................................................................................28
ACTIONS FOR CHANGES IN POLICY..................................................................................................................................28
Bibliography ....................................................................................................................................................................30
APPENDIX A: Operational philosophies of a cross section of AR&D Organisations in KZN. ................................................34
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Globally, it is accepted that Participatory AgriculturalResearch and Development can play a significant role in
reducing rural poverty, food insecurity and malnutrition. The international development community is giving
increased attention to agricultural innovation processes and systems that lead to outcomes at scale.
Inclusive multi-dimensional and multi-stakeholder learning processes are seen as important. Smallholder
family farmers become more central inthe design and implementation of research processes as partners in
planning and implementation processes.
Key trends or changes in Participatory Agricultural development thinking are moving from:
Increase in production to improvement in local livelihoods
Technology transfer to local innovation development
Beneficiaries of projects to influential stakeholders within programmes
Technology transfer to co-development of innovation systems
Functional participation to empowerment and
Applied and adaptive research to strategic and pre-adaptive research.
In South Africa different participatory approaches and processes have developed primarily through North-South
partnerships and include methodologies such as PRA/PLA (Participatory Rural Appraisal/Participatory
Learning and Action),FPR (farmer Participatory Research) and FSR (farming Systems Research and Extension),
PTD (Participatory Technology Development) and PID (Participatory Innovation Development),PAR
(Participatory Action Research), CBNRM (Community Based Natural Resource Management), SLA
(Sustainable Livelihoods Analysis) and other gender and stakeholder analysis methods such as AKIS
(Agricultural Knowledge Information Systems) and RAAKS (Rapid Appraisal of Agricultural Knowledge
Systems). Most ofthesemethodologies have been introducedin KwaZulu-Natal through Non Government
Organisations and researchers associated with Universities, Parastatal Agricultural Research Institutions and
Corporate Social Investment bodies. Although some of the rhetoric has filtered into government
programmes through these channels, implementation and funding from government sources invariably do
not include these approaches.
There are two basic trends in terms of Participatory Research and Development (PR&D) in Kwazulu-Natal, for the
few organisations that consciously work in this field:
1.Participatory Innovation Development; primarily NGO based and supported through international
donor funding or CSI based and supported through for example Grain-SA and Wesbank. The latter is only
now (the last 2-3years) coming to thefore as this sector finally rises to the challenge of providing
meaningful support to smallholders. To a lesser extent the Parastatal Research Institutes have dabbled
in the process.
2.Participatory Action Research; this research paradigm appears to have become primarily, the domain of
the Universities with bothUNISA and UKZN focussing on these processes quite strongly.This ‘learning’
paradigm is one that can suite universities better in terms of the scope and scale of projects that they
can confidently tackle through supporting pre-and post-graduate students.
For those organisations that also have an advisory/extension role (Universities and Colleges, Parastatal Research
Institutes and Non Government Organisations) Agricultural Innovation Systems and Sustainable Livelihoods
Approaches have come to the fore.
Mostly the emphasis on participatory work will be led through specific projects or programmes, often donor
funded and led by individuals with a strong vision and commitment to such processes.
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Participatory Agricultural Research and Development is almost entirely absent from Government Departments
and extension, outside of sporadic donor funded projects, despite policy and programmatic rhetoric
Given the disparity between the commercial andsmallholder family farming sector and the extreme
politicisation andfragmentation of the government sector nationally, provincially and locally,it is proposed
that research, education, theprivate sector andnon government institutions worktogether in multi
stakeholder partnerships to provide ahome for Participatory Agricultural Research and Development, until
the political will shifts more towards providing meaningful support to rural dwellers in South Africa. A
concomitant focus on the growing of local organisations and movements with the ability to lobby and
advocate for change is required. There are already a few working examples of such partnerships.
Specific actions required in policy development throughout the spectrum of stakeholders at local, provincial and
national level include: Convincing donors, organisations and governments to change the way they fund
agricultural research; supporting innovation platforms and other multi-stakeholder alliances at different
levels; developing innovation brokerage capacity; strengtheningthe pivotal role of agricultural advisors and
to integrating the innovation systems approach into education.
Global trends
Global experience shows that new ways of thinking about anddoing agricultural research anddevelopment are
required. The basic paradigm shiftis one ofmoving away from the idea that research and development is a
process of generating and transferring modern technology to ‘farmers’. And then moving towards seeing the
idea as an inclusive multi dimensional learning process that:
Works from a holistic perspective that includes biophysical, socio-political and economic perspectives in
agriculture AND natural resource management;
Draws upon diverse source of knowledge from local to global ;
Provides for meaningful participation of user groups in the process of investigatingimprovements in
local situation;
And builds synergy between local capacities, resources and innovations by
oProviding decision supporttools and information that enables various types of users to make
strategic choices and actions and
Which results in a wide range of knowledge products (technological through to socio-political) for
generating, sharing, exchanging and utilizing knowledge.
These global trends are reflected also in trends in Participatory Agricultural research in South Africa,albeit in a
much more haphazard way.
Local people become, not beneficiaries, but stakeholders or actors who provide key inputs into the process:
They have complementary roles in defining research priorities
They take on the adaptive/ applied testing (informal modes of experimentation) of promisingnew
innovations and for dissemination through their social networks for co-development of new innovations
Learning becomes more experiential and ways of externalising tacit knowledge are found. (Hoffmann,
Probst, & Christinck, 2007)
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This has meant agrowing interestin theuse ofparticipatory approachesin natural resourcemanagement,
agriculture and rural livelihoods, that collectively can be seen as participatory research anddevelopment
striving for meaningful participation in the process of seeking improvements in local situations.
These approachesare more likely to beable todeal with ‘second generation issues’ suchas diverse biophysical
environments, multiple livelihoods goals, rapid changes in local and global economics and the drastic decline
in resource investment for the formal research and development sector.(Gonsalves, et al., 2005)
The mid to late 1990’ssaw aglobal trend towards meaningfulfarmer participation in agricultural researchand
development and methodologies such as Farming Systems Research and Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA),
developed in the 1970’s and 1980’s, were incorporated into methodological frameworks such a Farmer
Participatory Research, Participatory Learning and Action, Farmer Field Schools, Participatory Innovation
Development and Action Research. The frameworks take political, social- cultural and ethical issues into
account andplace thepriorities and processes offarmers centre stage.(Sutherland,1998).Subsequently,
Sustainable Livelihoods frameworks and other frameworks to attempt to incorporate the economic elements
of situations more overtly, have also been developed. These development processes provide a
framework thathelps in understanding thecomplexities of povertyanda set ofprinciples to guide action to
address and overcome poverty
More recently there has been a greater focus on institutional and organisational aspects of Participatory
Agricultural Research to assess progress and impact,interms of concernssuch aspartnership, capacity
building on all levels, as well as issues of scale (scaling up and scaling out). It hasalso meant an increased
focus onthe impact ofparticipatory researchon rural development indicators such s poverty reduction and
sustainability. (Becker, 2005)(De Leener, 2003) (Waters-Bayer, Van Veldhuizen, Wettasinha, &
Wongtschowski, 2005) (Guendel, Hancock, & Anderson, 2001).
Key themes and assumptions in Participatory Agricultural Research
These themes have emerged as different organisations (Research institutes, Universities, Non Government
Organisations (NGOs) and to a lesser extentGovernment Organisations) grapple with the real issues of
increasing productivity and sustainability for rural dwellersworld wide, mostly in the developing Southern
nations andmostly in partnership with moredeveloped Northern countries.These themes includethe
Pro-poor targeting
Conservation and sustainable use of
natural resources
Development of uplands and other less-
favoured areas
Local governance,decentralization and
citizens’ rights
Equity for women and other
marginalized socio-economic groups
Trade globalization and supply chains
Migration and rural-urban dynamics
Property rights and collective action
Agriculture and human health
Multi-stakeholder partnerships
EiFrom increase in production... to
improvement in local livelihoods
F From technology transfer .... to local
innovation development
F From beneficiaries... to influential
F From technologytransfer.... to co-
development of innovations
F From functional participation... to
Fromapplied and adaptive research ...to
strategic and pre-adaptive research
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Local capacity development and
Organizational learning and change
These themes are being explored largely using the following two basic assumptions:
OVERALL ASSUMPTION 1: New technology is the key leading factor in the process of desired social
OVERALLASSUMPTION 2: Increased yields or production is the underlying goal of all agricultural
research and development
Because the themes that have emerged from working in the sector have by necessity broadened to also
encompass social, political, cultural and natural resource management concerns, these basic assumptions
now appear to be somewhat flawed and can lead to amismatch between programme intentions and
outcomes. It can be argued that a large portion of the failure of Participatory Agricultural Research to have a
sustained impact in more marginalised rural communities stems from this mismatch. The other major
contributing factor is the inability of governmentsin developing nations to put appropriate policies,
strategies and processes in place to provide an enabling environment.
The new basic assumptions that are emerging through consolidated internal and external review of programmes
OVERALLASSUMPTION 1: Meaningful participation of user groups in the process of investigating
improvement in local situations.
OVERALLASSUMPTION 2: Increased livelihood diversity, resilience and security is to be the
underlying goal of all agricultural research and development.
Now, concepts such as strategic andpre-adaptive participatory research become important as does the idea of
best practise scenarios and options and the mainstreaming of cross cutting issues and themes. In many ways
these concepts are still in a developmental phase and are not as yet integral in existing institutional and
research cultures.
The development of methodological frameworks and processes to encompass the above themes and goals has
followed two broad tracks/lines depending to anextent, on the type ofinstitution at workand their overall
aims: researcher and innovation. (Brock & Pettit, 2007)
Participatory Action Research (PAR)is an approach to research in communities that emphasizes participation
and action. It seeks to understand the world by trying to change it, collaboratively and following reflection.
PAR emphasizes collective inquiry and experimentation grounded in experience and social history. Within a
PAR process, "communities of inquiry and action evolve and address questions and issues that are significant
for those who participate as co-researchers"(Reason & Bradbury, Introduction, 2008)PAR contrastswith
many research methods, which emphasize disinterested researchers and reproducibility of findings.
PAR practitioners make aconcerted effort tointegrate three basic aspects oftheir work:participation (life in
society and democracy), action (engagement with experience and history), and research (soundness in
thought and the growth of knowledge) (Chevalier & and Buckles, 2013).
This provides academic flexibility and rigour as well as providing a framework to easily include the socio-political
and cultural aspects of a research process. It is by nature primarily a methodof social enquiry andhasself
transformation and empowerment as an underlying goal.Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA), experiential
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learning and indigenous knowledge facilitation techniques fit in well as facilitation methodologies, as do
methods such as photo voice, community theatre and role plays.
Participatory Innovation Development (PID);is an approach to learningand innovation that is used
in international development as part of projects and programmes relating to sustainable agriculture. The
approach involves collaboration between researchers and farmers in the analysis of agricultural problems
and testing of alternative farming practices.
It has developed out of methodologies suchas Farming Systems Research and Extension,PRA andPLA
(participatory learning and action) and Indigenous Technical Knowledge Systems andincorporates further
methodologies such as Farmer Field Schools.
This approach enables the research and development community to respond to locally defined problems and to
find solutions that build upon local knowledge and areconsistentwith local resources and contexts.
Moreover, by involving farmers as the users of the research process, it is more likely that farmers would
share and use (new) knowledge.
Local innovation in agriculture and natural resource management goes beyond technologies to socio-
organizational arrangements such as new ways of regulatingthe use of resources, new ways of community
organization, or new ways of stakeholder interaction. The term Participatory Innovation Development (PID)
embraces this broader understanding of joint research and development and is now being used alongside, or
in place of PTD (Participatory Technology Development).
The interplay between research, extension and farmers
Traditionally, a rather linear approach of policy development-research-extension-farmers has been implemented
and promoted. This approach largely still works well for the conventional farming sector albeit with a
number of feedback loops, designed forincorporation offarmers andextension perspectives back into
research and policy. Political and agri-business imperatives provide strong motivation for the success of this
However, in the smallholder agriculture sector, neither the political nor agri-business imperatives hold much
sway and the linear model of technology transfer has failed repeatedly and at a large scale.
More circular andflexible models have been developed and the overalltrend in both PAR and PID hasbeen for
researchers and farmers to interact alot more andalot more directly.Extension,from a government and
public institution perspective has developed alongside to become more educational and participatory and
methods suchas FFS(Farmer Field Schools) and PTD (Participatory Technology Development) have been
included-although mostly on project or programme levels, rather than as an integral part ofthe extension
service. Many research and development organisations have tended to combine research and extension into
one component usheringin multi-disciplinary approaches and research as wellas capacity building for
researchers in the fields of participation and facilitation. Agri-business to some extent hasfollowed suite.
Government extension services, especially in the beleaguered South arestill widespread but fundamental
questions about their role andultimate usefulness are the order of the day.(Leeuwis &Van den Ban, 3rd
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Different participatory approaches andprocesses developed in North-Southpartnerships include PRA/PLA
(Participatory Rural Appraisal/Participatory Learningand Action),FPR (farmer Participatory Research) and
FSR (farming Systems Research and Extension), PTD (Participatory Technology Development) and PID
(Participatory Innovation Development), PAR (Participatory Action Research),CBNRM (Community Based
Natural Resource Management), SLA (Sustainable Livelihoods Analysis) and other gender and stakeholder
analysis methods such as AKIS (Agricultural Knowledge Information Systems) and RAAKS (Rapid Appraisal of
Agricultural Knowledge Systems).
Allhave been introduced in South Africa and KZN primarily through NGOs and researchers associated with
Universities, parastatal Agricultural Research Institutions and Corporate Social Investment bodies. Although
some of the rhetoric has filtered into government programmes through these channels, implementation and
funding from government sources invariably do not include these approaches or do soas short term, more
localised project based interventions, usually at the behest of Northern funding partners.
A selection of participatory research methodologies will be explored below, with examples of their use in South
African institutions to illustrate their applications in the last 20 years.
extension/ innovator
Farming systems
Farmer Participatory
PID (Agro-ecosystems)
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Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) and Sustainable Livelihoods Analysis (SLA)
PRA is ‘a growing family of approaches and methods to enable local people toshare, enhance and analyse their
knowledge of life and conditions, to plan and to act’ (Chambers, 1993)
A key feature ofPRA is its holistic approach, in which the interaction between differentelements in complex
people-environmentrelationships is an important focus. A common thread in all these methodologies is
their recognition of important inter-linkages between different elements of rural livelihood andproduction
systems. Unlike earlier methodologies, PRA recognizes that indigenous people are capable of identifying and
expressing their needs and aspirations themselves and in their own way, such that the role of the researcher
is changed to that of a listener, learner, catalyst and facilitator.
A comment made by University based researchers,indicate the trendin South Africa in the early 90’s. “Despite
the growing international interest in PRA, there has been remarkably little research and writing on this topic
in South Africa and there is little, if any, evidence of explicit PRA work being done”. (Binns, Hill, & Nel, 1994).
This has changed somewhat since then, in that PRA/PLA has become a common methodology taughtat
University level to students in community development, within a number of different disciplines and sectors.
It is promoted asa methodology for garnering community participationand support, mostly in situation
analysis/ needs assessment processes and for initiating involvement and research so basically as an
information gathering tool. See the table below for a selection of examples that illustrate this point.
SLA is a framework for analysing sustainable livelihoods, defined here in relation to five key indicators. The
framework shows how, in different contexts, sustainable livelihoods are achieved through access to a range
of livelihood resources (natural, economic, human and social capitals) which are combined in the pursuit of
different livelihood strategies (agricultural intensification or extensification, livelihood diversification and
migration). Central to the framework is the analysis of the range of formal and informal organisational and
institutional factors that influence sustainable livelihood outcomes (Scoones, 1998). The PRA methodology is
central to the application of this framework in community situations.
University of
Development, research and participation:
Towards a critique of participatory rural
appraisal methods. Jonathan Stadler .
Development Southern Africa. Vol. 12,
Iss. 6, 1995
A critique of PRA processes and methodologies He
comments on the methodological weakness of social
context within PRA
Research Council
Raising livestock in resource-poor
communities of the North West Province of
South Africa - a participatory rural
appraisal study. Vol 73 No 4. Pges 177-184.
Journal of the South African Veterinary
Tto obtain
information on the
challenges owners
face in raising
livestock in these
areas and to
evaluate the
livestock owners'
level of knowledge
of internal parasites
in their animals.
Questionnaires, PRA survey:
There were some difficulties in
using the participatory methods
since it was the first time that the
facilitators and the communities
had been exposed to them. Many
communities had difficulty in
dealing with the concept of finding
solutions within the community,
which is such an integral part of
participatory methods
Research Council:
A facilitated process towards finding
options for improved livestock production
in the communal areas of Sterkspruit in the
Eastern Cape province, South Africa. WM
Interviews and focus group discussions; Multi
stakeholder process for options to improve livestock
production. Due to limitations in research agenda, no
common agenda for action agreed to.
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Goqwana, C Machingura, Z Mdlulwa, R
Mkhari, O Mmolaeng, AO Selomane .
African Journal of Range & Forage Science
Vol. 25, Iss. 2, 2008
University of
Community group environment for people
participation and empowerment.
Diale, Nkgodi, Race.
The data was collected through participants observation
Participatory Rural Appraisal techniques , community
groups, documents reviews, and groups and individual
interviews This study explores participatory development
methods which may be engaged with a smaller
community interest group to create an environment
conducive to free and effective participation towards
empowering more participants in rural communities
The study found that: interest groups are morecommon,
accessible and empowering in rural communities than
organisational linkage structures.
University of
Pretoria (UP)
Towards redesigning the agricultural
extension service in South Africa: views
and proposals of smallholder farmers in
the Eastern Cape.JA Van Niekerk, A
Stroebel, CJ Van Rooyen, KP Whitfield, FCJ
Swanepoel .South African. Journal of
Agricultural . Extension. Vol
39 no.2 Pretoria2011
The research used a Logical Framework Analysis (LFA)
enquiry, including PRA methods to determine the
problems smallholder farmers face as well as the causes
and effects of their problems.
University of
Kwazulu Natal
Exploring the Role of Agricultural Extension
in Promoting Biodiversity Conservation in
Kwazulu-Natal Province, South Africa
Kamal Adekunle and Abdu-Raheem.
Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems
SSI’s (semi-structured interviews) with different
stakeholders used to determineKZN extension service
contribution to promoting biodiversity
Assessed extension astypicallytechnologytransferwith
no content in NRM, Diversity
Empowerment for development: Taking
participatory appraisal further in rural
South Africa
Nicole Motteux, Tony Binns, Etienne Nel,
Kate Rowntree. Development in Practice
Vol. 9, Iss. 3,1999
Critiqueof PRA in the context of catchmentmanagement
and Land Care.
Centrefor Crop
Potato production in Kenya: Farming
systems and production constraints. Jane
Muthoni, Hussein Shimelis and Rob Melis
Journal of Agricultural Science 5:182-197.
Preferences and constraints of maize
farmers in the development and adoption
of improved varieties in the mid-altitude,
sub-humid agro-ecology of western
Ethiopia. W. Abera, Shimelis Hussein, J.
Derera , M. Worku and M.D. Laing. African
Journal of Agricultural Research 8:1245-
Farmers’ desired traits and selection
criteria for maize cultivars and their
implications for maize breeding: A case
study from South Africa. Sibiya, J.,
Tongoona P., Derera, J., and MakandaI.
Journal of Agriculture and Rural
Development in the Tropics and Subtropics
PRA component/chapter for all PhD ‘s in breedingtrough
the ACCI. (2003-2014)
PRA and SLA methods used for assessment,selection
criteria, breeding priorities etc.
Rhodes University
The role of land-based strategies in rural
livelihoods: The contribution of arable
production, animal husbandry and natural
resource harvesting in communal areas in
South Africa. Charlie M Shackleton,
Sheona E Shackleton, Ben Cousins
Development Southern Africa Vol. 18,
Iss. 5,200
SLA, and PRA techniques employed to
Uses a livelihoodsperspectiveto analyse land based
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Dept of Agric
University of free
Exploring social capital of emerging
farmers from Eksteenskuil, South Africa
Henry Jordaan, Bennie Grové.
Vol. 30, Iss. 4-05,2013
(based at the University of Malawi), and Dr
Chrispen Sukume (Zimbabwe. : An example
of the participatory research, and multi
stakeholder partnership processes currently
being conducted at PLAAS (Programme for
Land and Agrarian studies based at the
University of the Western Cape.
Using the SLA and framework to assess social relations
among smallholders in a specific context
(Progamme for
Land and Agrarian
University ofthe
Space, Markets and Employment in
Agricultural Development. Prof Andries Du
Toit ; Dr Ian Scoones (IDS Sussex, UK)
and Prof Ben Cousins, David
Neves (dneves@plaas.org.za) Dr Ephraim
Programme and institutional partnershipapproachwithin
a broad SLA to analysis
The two summaries below give a good indication of the use ofPRA in a research context, in KZN and applied to
maize as a crop:
1.Use of PRA methods and surveys to glean information about farmers desired traits and selection criteria
for maize varieties.
2.Use of PRA and SLA (sustainable livelihoods analysis) in a study boytheARC to ascertainthe effectof
land degradation in Emmaus (Bergville) on local livelihoods.
Adoption of hybridsand improved varieties has remained low in thesmallholder farming sector of South
Africa, despite maize being the staple food crop for the majority of households. The objective of this study
was to establish preferred maize characteristics by farmerswhich can be used as selection criteria by
maize breeders in crop improvement. Data were collected from three villages of a selected smallholder
farming area in SouthAfrica using a survey covering 300 households and participatory rural appraisal
methodology. Results indicated a limited selection of maize varieties grown by farmers in the area
compared to other communities in Africa. More than 97%of the farmers grew a local landrace
called Natal-8-roworIsiZulu. Hybrids and improved open pollinated varieties were planted by less than
40% of the farmers (Sibiya, Tongoona, Derera, & Makanda, 2013. Vol. 114 No. 1)
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Application of the methodology in it’s more intended form, asa community planning and action methodology
that promotes self direction and empowerment is much more rare. NGOs using this approach in South Africa
also work primarily with the methodology as an information gathering and planning tool in the initial stages
of projects; thus a more development orientated application. Work with the methodology is more flexible in
this sector and has been used for many different themes such as;
Community level planning and decision making for the Community Work Programme (run by the
Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs) and implemented by NGOs nationally.
Community based strategies for disaster risk reductionlinked to NGOs such as NCC (National Council of
Churches) and local municipalities and supported by Oxfam International.
Community level climate change adaptation strategies; supported by NGOs such as EMG (Environmental
Monitoring Group) in partnership with SANBI (South African Botanical Institute) and supported by the
EU (European Union)
Integrated water resource management planning at community level implementedthrough AWARD
(Association of Water and Rural Development) supported by CIDA (Canadian International Development
Agency) and others; to name but a few.
As can be seen the applications are generally more on a programmatic design level in complex multi stakeholder
environments rather than commodity or crop specific applications.
Participatory Research and Extension (PRE)
This approach, with attendant principles and processes can encompass a number of different methodologies.
Focusgroup discussions, community mapping, transectwalks and livelihood assessments wereused
as part of the LADA-L(Land degradation assessment- local developed by the FAO) process for
mapping of land use and degradation.
The main land use systems (LUS) assessed were grassland and cultivated subsistence and the main
problems in the area as indicated by the land users are a lack of domestic water supply, a reduction in
quality of grazing and a lossof soil fertility.The effectof land degradation on humanlivelihoods isa
reduced potential forcrop production and the keeping of good quality livestockin the area to
supplement food security.
Current sustainable land management practices in the area include the implementation of
conservation agriculture, water harvesting and liming by some individuals. Manyindividuals are
deterred from practicing agriculture due to the labour and cost intensity required, as well as due to a
lack of financial returns and incentives.
Harvested grain used to last for a whole year, but the current harvests only last for about three months.
Late plantings caused by not having money (inputs) and own equipment for those who practice
SLM/CA causes yields to drop in combination with perceived erratic and unreliable rainfall.
Liming of communal fieldsand soil sampling has enabled SLM/CA farmersto use fertilizersefficiently
and land users saw improvement of yield(Stronkhorst, Maphumulo, Trytsman, Breytenbach, Lotter, &
Mpanza, 2010).
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The following five processes are considered important and are central to PRE approaches:
A focus on marginalized groups,
Concerns about the environmental degradation,
Building of civil society,
Valuing of farmers experience and
A focus on constructivism.
In essence a linear technology development and transfer approach is still supported, but more emphasis is given
to types ofparticipation, stakeholder involvement,therole of the facilitators and different learning
strategies. This would then theoretically enable the approach to be workable with widely different clientele
and different local conditions. (Ton, 2005)
In South Africa the terminology and approach has been taken on board in the development of policy for
Agricultural Research and Extensionwithin the Department of Agriculture, through acommissioned study,
with financial support from the Netherlands.
Broadly the PRE principles are seen to be applicable to a number of different extension approaches,which can
be applied in different conditions across South Africa. These include:
Technology transfer; which is seen as relevant and important. Organisations developing technology and
innovations have aresponsibility to diffuse them. This shouldinclude collaborative diagnosis of farmers
conditions and needs, training of extension officers and on farm training of farmers.
Participatory approach; which builds on farmers' own capacities and their ability to organize themselves
into groups to identify needs and priorities, plan extension programmes/projects,implement and
evaluate. This approach is recommended for implementing a multi-sectoral, client-focused, coordinated,
demand-driven and participatory extension service. This should include collaborative diagnosis of
farmers’ conditions using participatory methods, on farm trails and dissemination of innovations.
Advisory approach; which is easily achievable in the highly commercial farming sector where farmers
have achieved a high level of competence, are able to identify their own problems and are innovators.
The private sector is encouraged to offer this service because of resources availability and efficient
service delivery processes. (Agriculture., 2005).
These approaches serve to highlight the difficulties the Government is facing in providing a systematic and
coherentservice to farmers, as well as an inability to integrate the concepts of placing farmers centre stage
in any agricultural research and development process.Provincial extension services have been plagued with
high levels of inefficiency and a lack of direction. The necessary linkages with research and farmers are not
happening. The following quotes are indicative.
‘The nearcollapse of the extension services in the Limpopo Department of Agriculture, particularly evident in its
failure and its ability to respond to the needs of small scale farmers calls for an urgent and holistic
intervention in terms of appropriate approach and policy. (Zwane,E.2009).
The poor performance ofpublic extension services and their narrow focusin the delivery of technical
packages,...is a major contributor to the ineffective dissemination of conservation agriculture technologies
amongst smallholders. In the last two decades, severalalternative approaches have been developed or re-
discovered (like action-research) that have been adapted to integrated natural resource management and
sustainable agriculture technology development. Despite these conceptual advancements and the better
understanding of rural livelihood systems and the introduction of suitable agriculturaltechnologies, the key
challenge often faced by research and extension practitioners remains the operationalisation of these
concepts in practice (Ficarelli, Chuma, Ramaru, Mruwira, & Hagmann, 2002)
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There has been a trend globally and much more so in South Africa, to side-step the role of extension in
agricultural research and development or more commonly to incorporate the extension aspects of a
programme directly into the research-farmer relationships. The methodology development around farming
systems R&E and farmer innovation attest to this.
Farmer Participatory Research (FPR)
Farmer Participatory Research refers to the active involvement and participation of beneficiaries (farmers) and
other stakeholders in the agricultural research process. This approach evolved as a response to earlier
agricultural research methodologies (on-station research and Farming Systems Research) that were found to
be unsatisfactory in producing appropriate and sustainable research results for the target beneficiaries.
A common classification used to identify the various types of participation in agricultural research is provided by
Biggs (1989): contractual where researchers contract with farmers to obtain land and services; consultative
- where researchers consult farmers about theirproblems and thendevelop solutions forthem;
collaborative - where researchers and farmers collaborate as partners in the research process; and collegiate
- where researchers work to strengthen farmersinformal research and development systems, and where
farmers are given scope to apply their initiative and specialised knowledge throughout the research process.
FPR represents an attempt to move towards collegiate research,recognising farmers as innovators and
experimenters,andtreating them asactive andequal partners withresearchers and extensionists (rather
than merely passive end-users of technologies). The aims and objectives of FPR include the following:
Increase the understanding ofthe complexities and dynamics of local agricultural and socio-economic
Identify priority problems, constraints and opportunities;
Identify, develop, test and implementnew technologiesand techniques (based on the knowledge and
research capabilities of local communities and institutions; and
Stimulate and strengthen the experimental capacity of farmers to analyse their situations anddevelop
relevant, feasible and useful innovation (Farm Africa-Ethiopia), 2001)
The literature documents awide array of methods that can be used to facilitate a FPR approachto agricultural
research and it is now commonly appreciated that a combination of methods is themost beneficialin
providing a holistic approach to FPR. Methods include:
Participatory on-farm trials
Group/community meetings/workshops/discussions
Case studies with individual households/farmers
Study tours (to other farmers’ fields and research stations)/exchange visits
Participatory Rural Appraisals (PRAs).
Farming Systems Research and Extension (FSR&E)
FSR&E has been used within a broader concept and approach of farmer support and participatory on-farm trials
in South Africa, in a number of cases (Stilwell & Van Rooyen, 1999).
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FSR&Easan approach was developed in the 1970’s.The origins are many and varied, but basicallywas a
response tochanging from top-down researchagendas (set byresearch scientists) and a away from solely
research station based agendas, to include farmersagendas and localised experimentation. FSR tended to
focus on technology development within specific disciplines and as such has mostly been used by agricultural
research institutions and stations. The systems thinking underlying FSR has often been underplayed or
misunderstood in these environments.
The approach has developed, so that today it is a process that seeks understandingofthe whole farming system,
at various scales (or hierarchies that include farms, agribusiness systems models and partnership models ),
from the individual farm enterprise up to large regions or areas and then identifies and shapes development
opportunities for sustainable production with farmers, involving a wide range of disciplines and stakeholders
(Packham, Petheram, & Murray-Prior, 2007) .
An analysis of the approach in South Africa, in the late 1990’s concluded that FSR&E should have as its ultimate
goal, the promotion of economic, social and structural change induced by technological transformation at all
levels in the rural community.It has however been limited in application since then and has in some ways
been superseded by participatory technology and innovation development methodologies; which, according
to peoples’ perceptions,have more flexibility to include the socio-cultural and economic aspects in terms of
community level organisation and stakeholder involvement.
A point in case is a research programme managed by the ARC- ISCW (Agricultural Research Council, Institute of
Soil, Climate and Water), between 2003-2006. The programme focussed on thedevelopment and
implementation of sustainable land management practices in the Bergville districtof KZN, under the
auspices of the then LandCare programme of the Departmentof Agriculture. The two primary activities of
the programme consisted of setting up grazingmanagement plansfor the communities involved and the
investigation and use of conservation agriculture principles in field cropping.
The research was conceptualised as having hard and soft systems platforms. For the prior a FSR&E approach was
used (with research and farmer based adaptive trials on site) and the soft systems platform gave attention
to action research methodologies, tools and techniques(including farmer-to farmer extension approaches)
to capacitate stakeholders to manage their land in a sustainable way.The core model wasbased onthe
action learning cycle of diagnosis, planning, action and reflection (Smith, Trytsman, Bloem, Everson, &
Mthethwa, 2005).
The following quote summarises one of the main recommendations from this participatory research process:
“In general, the use and or development of conservation agriculture principles and practices are strongly
recommended for any (Maize0 cropping and mixed farming enterprise due to the favourable impact it has
on soil health, farmingprofitability and social well being” (Smith, Trytsman, Bloem, Everson, & Mthethwa,
Participatory Technology (PDT) and Innovation Development (PID)
The following statement in a recent publication in the agricultural development and extension field, sums up the
imperative for working with these approaches:
Scientists are being challenged to re-consider that their role in technology development is through innovation
and a complex process involving a reorganization of social relationships, not justtechnical practice. Inthis
context, technologyshifts from somethingto be applied to something leveraged for networking and
organizing. To ensure the future, the idea of sustainability as a dynamic process rather than an endpoint
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offers a route for understanding and engagement between research,policy and personal spheres. For both
research and extension agendas; in considering traditional agriculture in the context of economic
development we have to create thecapacity to co-operate in a way that opens up the possibility of social
change; a way of interacting that preserves andcreates new forms of social cohesion (Caister, K. 2013).
Researchers ..will come to understand that attitude, environment and relevant issues, not specific tools,
achieves participation. (Caister, Green, & Worth, 2012).
Participatory technology development (PTD) is an approach to learning and innovation that is used
in international development as part of projects andprogrammes relating to sustainable agriculture.The
approach involves collaboration between researchers and farmers in the analysis of agricultural problems
and testing of alternative farming practices. It has it’s origins in FSR&E, indigenous technical knowledge and
PRA. PTD facilitators are usually researchers, sometimes consisting of a team that includes both biological
and social scientists. While PTD is closely linked to research,it often crosses the boundary into agricultural
extension because it involves learning activities with farmers.One of the leadingauthorities on this process
is the Centre for learning on sustainable agriculture - ILEIA based in the Netherlands. ILEIA has described PTD
as “a process between local communities and outside facilitators which involves:
Gaining a joint understanding of the main characteristics and changes of that particular agro-ecological
Defining priority problems;
Experimenting locally with a variety of options derived both from indigenous knowledge … and from formal
science, and
Enhancing farmer’s experimental capacities and farmer-to-farmer communication” (Reijntjes, Haverkort, &
Waters-Bayer, 1992)
Local innovation in agriculture and natural resource management goes beyond technologiesto socio-
organizational arrangements such as new ways of regulating the use of resources,new ways of community
organization, or new ways of stakeholder interaction. The term Participatory Innovation Development (PID)
embraces this broader understanding of joint R&D, and is now being used alongside, or in place of PTD. It) is
a process in which farmers andother stakeholders engage in joint exploration and experimentation leading
to new technologies or socio-institutional arrangements for more sustainablelivelihoods. This action-
oriented approach promotes engagement in a process thatstrengthens the capacities of agricultural
services to support community-led initiatives (Hartmann, 2009 )(Wettasinha, Wongtschowski, & Waters-
Bayer, 2009).
PID offers opportunities to place smallholder farmers centre stage in the research and development field,
recognising thatover time, smallholder farmers have adapted anddeveloped innovations to allow them to
beproductive under their own difficult environments. Development practitioners have realized the need to,
not only take this knowledge into consideration but to build upon it
The Farmer Support Group (FSG), the outreach unit of the Centre for Environment, Agriculture and Development
at the University of KwaZulu-Natal uses participatory action research to facilitate farmers toidentify and
experiment with innovations to address their problems (Mudhara & Ngubane, Use of Innovation Support
Funds to create Conditions for Smallholder Farmers to INnovate: Preliminary Insights from a Pilot in South
Africa, 2009)
FSG and partner organisations in PROLINNOVA (an international programme promoting local farmer innovation
in the smallholder sector a global partnership programme under GFAR (Global Forum for Agricultural
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Methodology for the GrainSA SFIP (Smallholder farmer Innovation Programme 2013-2015
A farmer centred innovation systemsresearch process underpins the approach which is based onworking intensively with
farmer learning groups and local facilitators in each of the6 villages identified.Within the learning groupsfarmer
innovators volunteer to set up and manage farmer managed adaptive trials as the ‘learning venues’ for the whole
learning group. Farmer field school methodologies are usedwithin the group to focus the learning onthe actual growth
and development of the crops throughout the season. New ideas are tested against the ‘normal’ practise in the area as
the controls. Farmers observe, analyse and assess what is happening inthetrials anddiscussappropriate decisions
and management practices.Small information provision and training sessions are includedinthese workshops/
processes. These are based also on the seasonality of the crop and the specific requests and questions from farmer
learning group participants (Kruger, E and Smith, H, 2014).
The adaptive trials are also used as a focus point for the broader community to engage through local learning events and
farmers days. Stakeholders and the broader economic, agricultural and environmental communities are drawn into
these processes and events. Through these processes platforms are developed for cooperation, synergy between
programmes and developmentof appropriate and farmer led processes for economic inclusion. These platforms also
provide a good opportunity to focus scientific and academic research on the ‘needs’ of the process.
Research)) have endeavoured to provide greater ownership of the innovation process to smallholder farmers
through, among other aspects provision of local innovation funds to farmers and promotion of local farmers’
forums for planning ,implementation and sharing. Such pilot programmes are linking a more ongoing trend
to support smallholders directly and workwithin their agendas andexperiences(Triomphe, etal., 2013).This is
an example of moving towards strategic and pre-adaptive research.
A further example that extends the concept of farmer innovation into collaborative programmes between
agribusiness and NGOs is the Grain-SA smallholder farmer innovation programme. This is a new initiative
under their Conservation Agriculture portfolio and funded through the Maize Trust. It is anexample of
research agendas being formulated and funded through a large membership based farmersorganisation
The FSG (Farmer Support Group) and INR (Institute of Natural Resources) worked together within the
PORLINNOVA programme to manage a process of farmer level experimentation in locally identified or
‘grassroots’ topics, for which some funding was provided.
Two case studieswere considered: one aboutdeveloping an alternative production practice for growing potatoes,
and theother about introducing a newcash crop (cherry peppers) and the establishment of a new marketing
One of the purposes of the study was toexplore questions about the development ofinnovation indicators that
might support policyand managementconcerned with this kind of innovation.The case studies are therefore
located in the context of a review of existing science, technologyand innovation indicators and their limitations
withrespect tothis areaofagricultural innovation. Another purpose was to identify and clarify the position of
'grassroots' innovation within other perspectives on different kinds of innovation system (or mode of innovation)
in agriculture in developing countries.
The combination of case studies and broaderreviews leads to twomainconclusions: (1) grassroots and other
participatory modes of agricultural innovation merit much greater policy attention than they have received; but
(2) the base of available analysis and indicators about these approaches to innovation and their effectiveness is
still inadequate to inform and support policy and management in this area (Letty, Shezi, & Mudhara, 2012).
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such as Grain-SA. Research and facilitation capacity is brought on board mostly through universities andthe
Agricultural Research Council)to support agendas shaped by farmers. The recognition of the smallholder
farming sector and more appropriate participatory processes for such work, is significant(du Toit, 2013).
Linked tothe latest round of reforms to the Common Agricultural Policy and the Horizon 2020research
programme, the European Union launched the European Innovation Partnership for agricultural productivity
and sustainability. It aims to promote bottom-up approaches by linking farmers, researchers, businesses and
other stakeholders into groups charged withfinding solutions toshared problems.For this initiative to
succeed, governments must opt to spend a proportion of their rural development funds on supporting grass-
roots training and learning by actual farmers beyond the established partnerships with farmers' suppliers,
customers and political representatives.Governments should back brokerage services that help farmers to
team up with relevant researchers on theirown terms,and enable them to navigate the maze of
bureaucracy that willprobably stand between them and this invaluable seed investment.(Macmillan &
Benton, 2014).
While SouthAfrican agricultural research policy is stillfirmly rooted in technology transfer jargon (Agriculture,
2006), there is atleastsome movement in the academic and NGOssectors to movetowards learning and
innovation. The box below provides a short analysis of this situation.
Post apartheid policy and socio political environment
Hopeful statements such as the following “There is great urgency in South Africa to implement policies leading to
empowerment of the people, whilst promoting rural development and establishing a basis for the sustainable use
of availablehuman and naturalresources. This would represent a major departure from earlier approaches and
would hopefully strengthen the ideals of democracy and transparency which are gradually developing in the
‘new’ South Africa”. , were common in the early years after 1994. (Binns, Hill, & Nel, 1994).
Since then, policies and strategies that enshrine principles of democracy, participation and the meaningful
involvement of smallholder farmers in all aspects, have been put in place, but implementation either lags
dramatically or doesnot follow through into methodologies and approaches for implementation that uphold the
Racial liberalism to corporate and government authoritarianism
There is a strong desire to see black commercial farmers working at the same scale as present commercial farmers.
This vision is not coming to fruition at the scale anticipated or needed even though a number of programmes
have been put into place (BEE, SEDA, land reform post settlement support and the like)
The model of commercialisation that relies on high external input and economies of scale thatis considered the only
way to be globally and locally competitive is not working for the average smallholder and rural dwellers in
communal tenure areas. Even though there is a socio-political imperative to support these people there is not an
econo- political imperative. It is however becoming clear that smallholders can not just be ‘incorporated’ into the
agribusiness environment as it stands.
Prosperitycontinuous and sustainable wealth creationis an elusive goalin South African smallholder agriculture.
It is possible to realise if principles and assumptions within extension can be re-shaped to strengthen the
capacity of people engaged in agriculture and thereby tap the agricultural potential of rural communities. Such an
approach would need to give practical expression to South Africa's policies to revitalise rural agrarian
communities. Incorporating elements of livelihoods approaches and learning theory, would bea learning model
that shifts i) the context and locus of learning, ii) what is learned, and iii) the learning process. The model fosters
a culture of continuous reflective learning that is submitted as the highest purpose of extension.The model
suggests that prosperity can be realised through engaging smallholder farmers in scientific discovery, innovation
and technologydevelopment based not on what they lack, but on what they have. (Worth, 2006)
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Participatory Action Research (PAR)
Successful participatory knowledge production requires not onlyusefulknowledge, but also knowledge
produced through continuous negotiation within aspecific context (Van Heck, 2003). This effectively
describes a learningprocess.The philosophy oftheparticipatory paradigm assumes that thenaturaland
social worlds are part of the same complex whole. When research practice gives priority to the realities and
analysis of rural problems by the people themselves, a whole new range of experiences and ways of working
opens up. Attitudes and behaviour inherently have priority over method in participatory methodology and
rest on three supportive pillars: power sharing, methods todoing research andbehaviour and attitudes of
outsiders (Chambers, 2005).
Participatory action research (PAR) is thus an approach to research in communities that emphasizes participation
and action. It seeks to understand the world by trying to change it, collaboratively and following reflection.
PAR emphasizes collective inquiry and experimentation grounded in experience and social history. Within a
PAR process, "communities of inquiry and action evolve and address questions and issues that are significant
for those whoparticipate asco-researchers" (Reason & Bradbury, 2008). PAR contrasts withmany research
methods, which emphasize disinterested researchers and reproducibility of findings.
PAR practitioners make aconcerted effort tointegrate three basic aspects oftheir work: participation (life in
society and democracy), action (engagement with experience and history), and research (soundness in
thoughtandthe growth of knowledge). It ismore an orientation to socialchange and knowledge creation
than a specific methodology. The basic tenet in participatory agricultural research then becomes that
farmers and researchers jointly define the research agenda and do the ‘research’ together. Including
farmers in setting the research agenda should move researchers towards new ways of working and thinking;
producing researchable problems that include social priorities in the way that knowledge is produced.
(Caister, Green, & Worth, 2012)
This research paradigm appears to have become primarily, thedomain of the Universities (Mutimba & Khaila,
2011) includingUNISA and UKZN, who are focussing on these processes quite strongly. This learning
paradigm is one that can suite universities better in terms of the scope and scale of projects thatthey can
confidently tackle through supporting pre-and post-graduate students.
The Agricultural Extension and Rural Resource Management (AERRM) academicprogramme within UKZN, is
designed to build the capacity of extension services through the provision oftrainingand education thatis
relevant to the urgent issues facing agricultural and ruraldevelopment. The programme offers a powerful
combination of theoretical knowledge and practicalskills in agricultural extension, rural development,
projectmanagement, agricultural production andfarm economics and management. PAR is the main
supporting research framework for this programme (http://caes.ukzn.ac.za/ news/ 11-03-08/
A further example from UKZN, that include both PAR and PID, revolves around an integrated multi-institutional
programme around improved water management in communal lands- called the SSI (Smallholder Systems
Innovation programme) andisimplemented through the School ofBioresources Engineering and
Environmental Hydrology,with the Farmer Support Group fulfilling the extension function of the research
and farmer involvement process. The overarching methodologies here area PAR process linked to farmer
innovation (Sturdy, Jewitt, & Lorentz, 2008). The program takes an integrated approach to agricultural water
management:analyzingthe interactions between the adoption and adaptation of water system innovations
(such as water harvesting, drip irrigation, conservation farming, etc.) in a participatory manner.
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The following statement by an associated researcher from IWMI (International water management Institute)
sums up the thinking;
Today,as opposed to twenty years ago, there is a firm understanding that technology transferof temperate
zone successes alone will not work. Instead,tailor made, site-specific adaptations, building on indigenous
knowledge are required. But the magnitude of the agrarian crisis is solarge that development and
refinement of indigenous knowledge alone will not be enough. Instead, innovationsoften alien innovations
that go through aparticipatory process oflocal adaptationare required in allfields ofland-use
management such as the handling of crop choice, of water, soil, livestock, and forests (Bhatt, et al., 2006).
Using participatory action research, cross visits and participatory monitoring and evaluation by the farmers
themselves,FSG and approximately 60 farmers shared and experimented with new technologies in farming,
including water conservation measures such astrench beds, cover crops and tower gardens (Mudhara,
Malinga, & Salomon, 2007). The project also demonstrated that the minimum tillage technique, which the
projectassessed against conventional tillage, resulted in maize yield increases of 168% above those ofthe
conventional treatments. Survey results showed thatmaize production per household increased significantly
after the introduction of the SSI project (Kosgei, Jewitt, Kongo, & Lorentz, 2007).
Again, there is a mismatch between what is happening in institutions and what Government processes know and
think. In a very recent report on educationand training in Agriculture they make the following summative
statements: “There is a need thathigher learning institutions train people foragriculture and rural
development adding into their agricultural training packages, human sciences. Lastly there is also a need for
agricultural education and training bodies which could focus on giving direction to agricultural education and
training in the province (Ngcobo & Dadla, 2014)”.
Maize in KZN
A snapshot of known AR&D activities related to maize production and conservation agriculture (CA) will be given
to provide some insight into the scope of activities and also into the stakeholder interactions and
relationships in the province. The table below summarises present projects and processes.
Research Focus
KZNDAE: Cedara &
Research Farms
(Internal funding)
The management of cover
crop residues to reduce weed
growth in maize. The
influence of different weed
types on the growth and
development of maize and
Research and
KZNDAE: Cedara/
Potshini (Internal
S Madiba
- Farming
Systems Unit
Plant spacing in dry land CA
Research and
participant farmer,
KZNDAE: Cedara/
Loskop, (-2020)
(Internal funding)
GR Thibaud
- Soil Science
Soil acidity interactions with
no-till. Tillage effect on N
Research and
participant farmers,
No till Club,
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KZNDAE: Kokstad ,
Cedara &
Dundee Research
Farms (-2020)
(Internal funding)
N Mtumtum -
Short and long season-season
maize cultivar trials
Research and
government, Seed
companies, ARC-
Grain Crops
KwaNalu (Missouri
Lima Rural
Potential of GM Maize to
increase food security in
smallholder farming sector
Farmer based
adaptive trials,
learning platforms
Missouri University,
private sector,
participant farmers,
farmers groups and
GrainSA (internal
Conservation Agriculture
Smallholder Farmer
Innovation Programme
PID farmer led
adaptive trials,
Farmer Field Schools,
Learning platforms,
Participatory Value
Chain Development
Private sector,
participant farmers,
farmers groups and
parastatal research
GrainSA (internal
Provincial and
Emergent farmer support
Study groups, farmer
level adaptive trials,
Participant farmers,
farmers, farmers
groups and
private sector,
SAB (South African
Production of yellow maize
by smallholder farmers for
contractual agreements with
programme with
commercial farmers,
KZNDAE, private
sector, participant
farmers, Agri-
Research Council:
Grain Crops Institute
Sustainable Land Use
management project;
LandCare -including CA
Facilitation of group
based activities in
Msinga area
KZNDAE, participant
farmers farmer
groups and
UKZN: Bill Gates
Foundation (AGRA)
Breeding of maize hybrids
appropriate for CA in
smallholder farming systems
in Southern Africa
Research station
based breeding
research programme
Start up Phase;
UKZN: Water
Commission (WRC)
Support Group
Adaptation and adoption of
CA in KZN Bergville region
(MSc in progress) and other
Social survey and
focus group
Participant farmers,
staff, NGOs,...
KZNDAE: Cedara-
National CA Task Force linked
to regional SADC CA working
Awareness and
Some inputs for
existing CA initiatives
KZNDAE- Extension
Demonstration of CA
implementation using GM
Farmer level
demonstration trial
KZNDAE, farmer
groups and
No Till Club
Present focus areas are soya
beans, cover crops. Support is
provided by the Protein
research Foundation, Grain
Sa and Agribusiness.
Farmer led research
with assistance from
researchers linked to
commercial farmers
A summary of the organisations mentioned and their operational philosophies are provided in Appendix A
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The table above demonstrates the trends mentioned in that the PR&D processes are employed mostly through
NGOs and private sector organisations,some participatory processes are used for University and Parastatal
research processes and very little participation is evident in government process.
Conservation Agriculture (CA)
According to the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation, United Nations) definition, CA is characterizedby
three linked principles expected to be adopted together, namely:
Continuous minimum mechanical soil disturbance (reduced, minimum or zerotillage[no morethan 25%
• Permanent soil cover with crop residues or other types of organic materials [>30% at planting] and
• Diversification of crop species grown in sequences (crop rotation) and/or associations [at least 3 crops].
This definition will be used here, although terms such as minimum tillage and no till are often used and not
always within the strict confines of their definitions.
In a recent summary of conservation agriculture, in the smallholder family farming context, in sub-Saharan Africa
(Stevenson, Serraj, & Cassman, 2014), the following points have been made:
Yield increases under CA are possible but uncertain given the low average yields that pertain in these
regions, and yield gains are more likely to be observed after several years.
CA is not widely adopted in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia owing to a lack of economic incentive for
smallholder farmers- the process of conversion to CAis not profitable over the short term planning
horizons of most farmers.
There is no clear trend for greatercarbon sequestration underCA, sothe potential for subsidizing
farmers to adopt CAusing payments for ecosystem services/carbon credit schemes seems limited in
scope. There is early evidence that farmers perceive a benefit from CAadoption inregions that are
prone to erratic rainfall, suggesting a potential risk mitigation role.
CA provides other benefits, e.g. residue cover that reduces runoff and surface crusting, increased
aggregate stability and water infiltration, greater total water supply and water use efficiency.
Factors that reduce the adoption of CA includeweed pressure, livestock demand for feed and the
potential for increased severity of root and foliar diseases associated with residue retention.
In South Africa and in KZN specifically, in the smallholder context,this level of critical analysis of CA is still
something that stakeholders need to grapple with,as are locality specific adaptations of the system. The
focus ofCA, in smallholder farming systems needs to expand from physical (improved soil characteristics)
and or technical (adapted equipment and machinery)considerations toinclude theeconomical andsocial
implications as well. (Bot A & Achora, 2014)
Conservation Agriculture was introduced in KwaZulu Natal through the Department of Agriculture as early as the
1970s and programmatically since around 1995. For a few years around the year 2000, many on site
demonstrations and trials were conducted both by research staff and extensionofficers. The Annual report
for 2000 has the following entry:
Multi-site research conducted throughout the Province since 1995 indicates that no-tillcropping systems are
well suited to small-scale maize production. This relatively low -cost system is most effective on high clay
content soils and on small, sloping fields, especially in areas where timeous ploughing and discing is difficult
to achieve. This new system of "planting without ploughing" was tested on 300 sites of 1 000 m2to
demonstrate this practice to small-scale farmers as part of the Xoshindlala campaign.
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These demonstrations were conducted mainly by Extension Officers, although research staff also conducted 31
demonstrations. Maize yields of 3 to 6 t/ha were mostly achieved, which is considerably higher than the very
low yields usually produced with traditional maize growing methods. The optimum benefit from this system
is achieved when large quantities of crop residue are retained on the soil surface. In order to simplify and
speed up the planting process, popular animal draught maize planters were modified by the Department and
ARC scientists from the Grain Crops Institute and the Institute for Agricultural Engineering. It was thoroughly
tested at Cedara and demonstrated by Extension staff to small-scale farmers, and was found to be
commercially viable. Farmers showed a keen interest in the planting without ploughing production system to
plant mainly maize,but also drybeans andcotton..(http:// agriculture.kzntl.gov.za/ publications/
corporate_publications_other/ tdt_annual_report_2000/tdt_annual_report_2000.htm) accessed 7March
2014).Despite some 1000demonstrations during its 5-year promotion (Planting without Ploughing within
the Xhosindlala campaign), however, adoption hasbeen minimal, and fewfarmers today practice notill, let
alone conservation agriculture (Fowler, 2004).
This was augmented by a LandCareprogramme run through the ARC(ISCW- Institute of Soil Climate and Water)
and funded partially by theKZNDAE - ‘The development and implementation of sustainable land
management practices in the Bergville district of the KwaZulu-Natal Province(Smith, Trytsman, Bloem,
Everson,&Mthethwa, 2005).Four years of demonstration and farmer basedtrials were conducted, initially
within a farming systems research and extension paradigm (FSR&E), whichwas broadened to a Agriculture
Innovation Systems (AIS) paradigmto also include farmer level trials, farmer to farmer learning and
extension, multi stakeholder platform building processes and the participatory design, testing and
commercialisation of appropriate CA implements and machinery. Issues of scaling out (through the initiation
of the Okhalamba farmers forum for the whole region) and scaling up (introduction and handover of the CA
process to the KZNDAE extension agents) were also included.
In contrast to the KwaZulu-Natal Department's initiative, each of these activities were carried out with a specific
community and trials and demonstrations were carried out by researchers with farmers on their fields, with
minimal extension involvement. This intimate relationship between farmer and researcher have led to
reasonable to good levels of adoption, albeit at present in localised areas (Fowler, 2004). Recommendations
at the time included:
In the development of all CA systems, weed scientists,entomologists and soil scientists etc should be
incorporated in multi-disciplinary teams. Teamwork, interdisciplinary research anda systems approach
are of utmost importance for success.
On farm demonstrations should be run by agronomists with practical knowledge of all aspects of the
system or by technicians with a sound theoretical and practical grounding in agronomy.
Fencing of farmer fields may be necessary. When developing systems (which should be done TOGETHER
with each target group) homogenous groups should be identified on thebasis oftheir socio-economic
conditions and culture.
Presently Grain-SA has initiated a smallholder farmer innovation programme (SFIP)(2013-2015)through their
Conservation Agriculture coordinator (a new area of focus). This programme builds on the Agricultural
Innovation Systems processes initiated in the province through the ARC and KZNDAE and aims to tackle
some of the more complex social, environmental and economic questions as part of the participatory
innovation development process for CA.Some of the main constraints mentioned in a land management
assessment conducted in 2010 include that many land users lackthe finances to purchase implements and
the inputs (herbicides, fertilizers,etc.) needed to practice CA and even those who currently practice CA
sometimes struggle to maintain the correct level and timing of inputs. Many farmers also find CAtoo labour
intensive and the planning and management that goes along with CAis considered too intense. A practical
Page| 24
constraint to the adoption of CAis thecommunal practice of grazing crop residues during winter which
prevents the practice of mulching. Many farmers stillfind access to sufficient CA information a constraint.
The continued implementation of CA and the adoption of CA by additional land users is one of the main
suggested responses by researchers(Stronkhorst, Maphumulo, Trytsman, Breytenbach, Lotter, & Mpanza,
KawNalu (The KwaZulu Natal Agricultural Union) has partnered with Missouri University, with funding from the
Templeton Foundation to implement a PR&D project(2012-2014)as part oftheir attempt to answer the
question, “Can GM crops feed the world?” The foundation wished to examine a new technology, particularly
GM technology and how it could help small-scale farmers in KwaZulu-Natal. This projectseeks to develop a
model thatensures smallholders and their communities become integral to decisions madeaboutadopting
GM crops. Farmer based adaptive trials are central to the process as is building a Community of Practise
which includes smallholders, their communities, scientists, agribusiness and government representatives.
This approach allows emerging farmers to be at the centre of this Community of Practice as they will
experiment and useGM crops in their own fields.Such participatory research creates feedback loops for
researchers, farmers, extension advisors, policymakers and others involved.
For the large scale, commercial farming sector,In the early 1980's KZN farmers, led by Messrs Anthony Muirhead of
Winterton and Charles Shepherd ofBergville, started planting limited areas using directdrilling(Fowler,2004).
They spearheaded the establishmentof theNo-Till Club in 1997, with researchand extension staff of the
Department of Agriculture. The No Till club continues to expand and link with stakeholders and to do their own
researchand experimentation around CA practices.
Farm-scale demonstrations (Commercial) of maize produced with conservation tillage practices havealso been
carried outin co-operative trials in the Karkloof, since 1999. These demonstrations have generated
tremendous interest in no-tillplanters for maize andsoyabeans. The Brazilian no-tillage planter funded by
the Protein ResearchTrust andcapable of seeding maize, soya beans and wheat in ultra-narrow to
conventionallyspaced rows was used for row spacing, crop rotation and fertilizer placement trials. Farmers
also hired this machine for no-till and ultra-close row planting in certain areas. This encouraged some
farmers to purchase their own ultra-close row and no-tillplanters. This research is still ongoing and
implementation of no-tillis known in the Underberg, Ixopo, Howick andKarkloof areas.Implementation of
no-till is as high as 50% of maize growers in some regions, such as Bergville.
There are two basic trends in terms of Participatory Research and Development (PR&D) in Kwazulu-Natal, for the
very few organisations that consciously work in this field:
3.Participatory Innovation Development; Primarily NGO based and supported process through
international donor funding or CSI based and supported through for example Grain-Sa and Wesbank. The
latter is only now (thelast 2-3years) coming to the fore as this sector finally rises to the challenge of
providing meaningful support to smallholders. To a lesser extent the Parastatal Research Institutes have
dabbled in the process.
4.Participatory Action Research; this research paradigm appears to have become primarily, the domain of
the Universities with bothUNISA and UKZN focussing on these processes quite strongly.This ‘learning’
paradigm is one that can suite universities better in terms of the scope and scale of projects that they
can confidently tackle through supporting pre-and post-graduate students.
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For those organisations that also have an advisory/extension role (Universities and Colleges, Parastatal Research
Institutes and Non Government Organisations) Agricultural Innovation Systems and Sustainable Livelihoods
Approaches have come to the fore.
Mostly the emphasis on participatory work will be led through specific projects or programmes, often donor
funded and led by individuals with a strong vision and commitment to such processes.
Participatory Agricultural Research and Developmentis almost entirely absent from Government departments
and extension,outside of sporadic donor fundedprojects,despite policy and programmatic rhetoric. There
have been a number of attempts toinstitutionalise participatory processes within the Department of
Agriculture, both at national and provincial levels through medium term donor funded processes such as
the Participatory Extension Approach in Limpopo (funded by GIZ) (Rootman, Letty, & Stevens, 2014) and the
Empowerment for Food Security programme in KZN (funded by the Flanders Intentional Cooperation
Agency). Both programmes collapsed within months of withdrawal of donor support, after running for
between 7-8 years, due to extreme political pressure and interference in these Departments. There is clearly
a lack of political will to foster and promote participatory approaches for the smallholder family farming
sector within government circles. There is also a politically motivated lack of understanding of the need for a
specific focus on the smallholder farming sector,within a different framework and organising principles to
the commercial farming sector.
For the international agricultural researchinstitutes represented in Southern Africa such as CGIAR and CIMMYT,
there are a lot more examples of participatory research processes. These approaches are stillnot very well
institutionalised and recommendations include that they should (1) create a more conducive environment
for scientists to shareexperiences on such approaches and(2) better document theirimpacts onfarmers’
livelihoods and well-being (Lilja & Bellon, 2006). The primary assessment of such work is still through
producing peer reviewed scientific publications, where research uptake and impact falls by the wayside (pers
comm. B Letty, INR, 2014)Two way information flows (farmers actively involved in research) will occur only
with structural adjustments in the institutions.
Given the disparity between the commercial and smallholder family farming sector and the extreme
politicisation andfragmentation of the government sector nationally, provincially and locally,it is proposed
that research, education, theprivate sector andnon government institutions worktogether in multi
stakeholder partnerships to provide ahome for Participatory Agricultural Research and Development, until
the political will shifts more towards providingmeaningful support to rural dwellers in South Africa. A
concomitant focus on the growing of local organisations and movements with the ability to lobby and
advocate for change is required.
Research should demonstrate its value, relevance and practical utility to society andthe economy. These should
be expressed in a theory of change, charting out a variety of impact pathways and tools for specific target
audiences (T Windham-Wright, IWMI, 2014). Much investment in Agricultural Development is made without
the benefit of using improved practices and technologies, better methodologies and new lessons learned
through research. (Waters-Bayer, Bernhardt,Bocock, Dugan, Lohmann, & Sanyang,2013).Demand driven
priorities and stakeholder engagement are crucial processes and must be matched with efforts to guarantee
the quality of research.
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Responsibility for this process lies with research and development institutions, donors and Government in terms
of policy, strategies and support.
1.Performance measures in research institutes (Parastatals and Universities) still focus on producing
scientific journal articles, with little or no incentivefor end-user engagementand relevant research
outputs. This needs to be revised. Uptake should be reflected in performance indicators across all levels
of the organisation: from local project to global strategic level. Reporting on uptake activities alone is not
enough, but should include a focus on uptake and impact (Salomon, 2014)
2.Mechanisms are needed to fill uptake gaps within the organisations by allocating a clear portion of
budget to uptake, include it as requirement in project reporting and funding and givingattention to
communication for uptake. Information should be targeted and packaged appropriately; takinginto
account language, visual aids such as photographs, video, pictures,working with mentors and local
facilitators for example.
3.Training and capacity building of researchers in institutions is important.
4.Funding processes toinclude uptake andimpact pathways are required, with flexible strategies for
adaptation research.
Geopolitical considerations
1.Agricultural production systems need to focus more on the effective conservation and management of
biodiversity and ecosystem services in order to address the twin objectives ofenvironmental
sustainability and food security (FAO, 2011).
2.Two major geopolitical realities have a constraining effect on peoples’ thinking. Firstly, modern,
intensive farming in developed countries receives very large levels of financial support and all sectors of
the agricultural and food industries are linked in to this highly subsidized system to a greater or lesser
extent. Secondly, there is a continuing commitment to ensuring that food prices remain low andthat
basic foodstuffs are affordable by all sectors of society including the poorest. These both tend to lead to
a disinterest in the nature of agricultural production systems and present a very real barrier to the
development of new approaches to production.However, it is increasingly recognized that an
appropriate policy framework can largely overcome these constraints and, indeed, must be developed.
3.Crop rotations, intercropping and growing different varieties of a single crop haveall been shown to
have beneficial effects on crop performance, nutrientavailability, pest and disease control and water
management. Multi-cropping, intercropping, alley farming, rotations and cover cropping are all ways of
combining crop species that have positive effects on productivity and yield stability.
4.There is a need to test arange of economic instruments such as payment for ecosystem services in
agricultural landscapes, internalizing environmental costs and increasing the responsibility of the private
sector are important.
5.Present research agendas aimed at increasing the effective use of biodiversity for food and agriculture,
including the strengthening of local institutions and the capacity to maintain and use biodiversity
through mechanisms such as farmer field schools, participatory crop and livestock improvement and
locally-identified adaptation strategies, need to be supported. This needs to be underpinned by a
framework that takes particular account of the needs and interests of small-scale farmers and ofthe rural
poor and meets societal needs for a safe and healthy supply of food.
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Move towards recognition andtransparencyin underlying principles of methodologies and development
frameworks and work with these organising principles, rather than focussing too centrally on methodologies.
This flexibility is important for recognition of local differences in socio-political,agro-ecological and
economic conditions. Overall, methodologies that include innovation systems,action research,sustainable
livelihoods analysis and grounded theory show the most promise in the South African context.
It is assumed that at present, best practise for smallholder farmers, in managing the interplay between research
extension and farmers falls within the ambit of Agricultural Innovation Systems (AIS)and Sustainable
Livelihoods Analysis (Worth S & Abdu-Raheem K, 2011). Organising principles that can be used tobridge the
gap between research and development are the following:
Recognise that innovationis an interactive process with multiple complementary dimensions-
Innovation encompasses the human element (not just technology), so that social, cultural, economic,
organisational, institutional and political dimensions are all important. These processes take time and
require researchers with skills to engage with this complexity.
Plan for scaling (up and out) from the outset of an intervention process- Clear impact pathways that can
support or refute the evidence should be proposed and costs estimated.
Facilitate multi-stakeholder engagement, tailored to the specificobjectives and research topics and
building on existing networks rather than creatingnew ones- Include community members and
organisations, development partners, donors, extension services, researchers, theprivate sectorand
relevant government entities. The process should be documented and feedback given should be used to
make adjustments to the innovation system.
Focus on a demand-driven approach to research issues thatconsiders the needs of different groups and
give particular attention to resource poor andilliterate farmers and women work with clearly defined
stakeholder groups. It may be necessary to support moremarginalised groups in participatory
assessment of how climatic and other changes are likely to influence their environment and livelihoods;
also looking at a longer term perspective.The process of identifying demand (or streamlining demand
and supply) should build onpast experiences and lessons learnt about the spreading and adaptation of
Create open communication and learning spaces as a facilitated two way dialogue that gives equal value
to contributions ofdifferent actors, allowingfree access to knowledge and encouragingthe sharing of
information- this requires a comprehensive and multi-faceted communication plan which includes both
sharing of information and capturing of feedback within and between different stakeholder groups.
Take a long term perspectivethat allows innovation processes to evolve and mature- looking beyond
projects. Project goals need to be linked with specific goals and strategies of national governments. Use
longer term programmatic frameworks for projects to enable pro-active sequencing. Donors should
commit to supporting longer term research that goes beyond but can be linked back to projects.
Investment should be made to developing the capacity and functionality of the public sector.
Provide incentives,including strategic capacity enhancement for different actors involved in the
innovation process.- needed to enhance the performance of multi stakeholder innovation processes and
can be monetary or non-monetary (trust, confidence, respect, recognition). It could/should include
capacity enhancement.
Recognise the needto invest in research to understandinnovation dynamics, including the
complementary dimensions of innovation. Planned as components of development interventions to
understandand strengthen the process. This includes appropriate monitoring and evaluation systems,
process documentation and recognising unexpected changes and outcomes. A common theory of
change needs to be created and frequently revisited and should be able to accommodate a re-definition
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of roles and tasks. This needs to provide lessons for how to strengthen innovation processes and achieve
scale and should include government bodies.
Organising principles to bridge the gap between researchers, advisors 9extension and farmers are the following:
Combine local and external knowledge and resources- including new ideas and innovations.
Encourage access for farmers to diverse value chains; flexible engagement with both formal and informal
value chains
Support the unpredictability of innovation processes; longer term, useofopen ended and iterative
approaches , flexibility in activities and budgeting
Address the multiple dimensions of innovations; Technologies are often seen as central and transferable
form one context to another, but in practice they are shaped by the people using them (social, economic
environmental and institutional aspects). New ways for farmers toorganise themselves and access
markets, new services, new approaches to supporting innovation,new rules and policies are all needed-
thus enabling and accompanying organisational and institutional changes that make innovation possible.
Encourage formation and strengthen capacities of farmer organisations (new forms of organisation that
can reflect the above principles)
Role players/stakeholders
Uptake and impactshould be monitored throughout the research process(D Naidoo WRC). Measuring and
attributing uptake and impact of research andits knowledge products is challenging, both short-term and
long-term. Impact is sustained change over time, scaled out and up (A Sullivan ex-FANRPAN). Uptake takes
place when stakeholders “becomeaware of and accessresearch outputs, and the institutions, policies,
systems and mechanisms that support this”.Impact is made when there is evidence of a demonstrable
contribution to society (Dr I Jacobs WRC).
Research uptakeprocesses require building relationships and partnerships, and engaging in separatebut inter-
connected activities to get from outputs to outcomes and impact. Thus, itis important tomap out the
system and its stakeholders. Who are the most influential people, whose actions are most likely to bring the
change we seek in the most effective way, and impacting the greatest number of potential beneficiaries?
Actions with regards to specific role players in this context include:
-Policy making processes are complex, and involve multiple actors and policy makers. Target all levels of
Government, political hierarchy, and Departments.
-Intermediaries who specialize in stimulating research uptake are important to achieve impact.
-Social scientists contribute to better understanding of impact and uptake processes.
-Build on people’s local practice and multiple water-needs to plan for and provide water services, using a multi-
stakeholder action-learning approach (Dr B van Koppen, IWMI).
-Trust the stakeholder engagement process and ensure it remains flexible. (Salomon, 2014)
-Focus on achieving change and practical solutions, Research can be a catalyst - not everything can be or needs to
be measured and
-Distribute responsibility for impact and uptake across partners (E Weight, IWMI)
1.Convince donors, organisations and governments to change the way they fund agricultural research to:
Be process oriented, be demand driven, be inclusive of participatory activities,include multiple
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stakeholder engagement,include monitoring and evaluation, work across longer time spans (~10yrs)
programmatic vs projects and with an emphasis on uptake and impact.
2.Support innovation platforms and other multi-stakeholder alliances at different levels: From local to
national include smartanddecentralized financial support to localalliances of stakeholders to
strengthen their innovation capacity.
3.Develop innovation brokerage capacity: Trained ‘brokers’ canfacilitate the interactions between
stakeholders at key stages; encouraging joint reflection onconstraints and opportunities and sharing of
knowledge resources and responsibilities.
4.Strengthen the pivotal role ofagricultural advisors; giving them explicit mandates for brokering and
increased capacity, including renewed investment from donors and
5.Integrate the innovation systems approachinto education; for preparation of current and future
researchers and rural advisors. Close interaction between educational institutions and farmers on the
ground is important. Thus community engagement aspects of research need a much stronger,
incentivised focus. (Waters-Bayer, Triomphe, & Oudwater, 2013)
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APPENDIX A: Operational philosophies of a crosssection of AR&D
Organisations in KZN.
Presently there are literally thousands of papers and dissertations linked to Universities in South Africa that
mention participatory research in Agriculture. A closer look may however indicate the following trends:
There is a strong tendency towards choosing research frameworks that require random sampling for
studies within regions and then locally and then to
Administer structured questionnaires that can be analysed statistically, albeit with SPSS (statistical
package for social sciences) or similar packages.
This is put forward as participatory research and in a number of instances may be the only form of’ participation’
in the study, even though the papers and reports may analyse farmer participation in ‘empowerment’ terms.
Two examples:
- K. K. S. Nxumalo and O. I. Oladele. 2013Factors Affecting Farmers’ Participation in Agricultural Programmes in
Zululand District, Kwazulu Natal Province,South Africa.Department ofAgricultural Economics and Extension, North-
West University, Mafikeng Campus, South Africa. Journal of Social Science 34(1):83-88 (2013).
- H Ngcobo,B Dladla. 2014. Provincial Report on Education and Training for Agriculture and Rural Development in Kwa-
Zulu Natal (KZN). KZNDAE, PMB.
A similar trend is found in the use and implementation of PRA (participatory rural Appraisal; where PRA
methodologies are used primarily as a way fro researchers to gather information from farmers in a more
participatory manner.
The UKZN AFRICAN CENTRE for CROP IMPROVEMENT (ACCI) is a point in case. It is located within the School of
Agricultural,Earth and Environmental Science and was established in 2001 to train African plant breeders in
Africa in the area of African food security crops. It is an applied PhD programme in plant breeding The focus
of the PhD theses is on the applied breeding of key food crops such as sorghum, cassava and cowpeas for
increased disease and drought tolerance, and improved yields and quality, with the aim of improving food
security in 12 African countries, including Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique. The students are expected to
include a chapter on PRAas a minimum requirement,buthopefully to embark on more extensive
participatory breeding processes within their studies. They are provided with specific training and some
funding to include this participatory element into their work.
The Agricultural Research Council (ARC)and it’s associated Institutes such as the Grain Crops Institute (GCI) and
the Institute of Soil Climate and Water(ISCW) have the following overall brief:
To ensure that technological innovation flows from researchers- extension to farmers and must therefore
actively interactwith farmers and extension agents.Thus research programmes are to be planned in
collaboration with extension services and farmers, technical back up is provided, training of trainers is
incorporated as are small business development principles. The, knowledge generated is made widely
available. (Agriculture., 2005)
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In accordance with the need to focus on national development priorities, the ARC conducts agricultural research
and development and drives technology development and dissemination in order to:
promote sustainability and equitable economic participation in the agricultural sector;
promote agriculture development and growth in related industries;
facilitate sector skills development and knowledge management;
facilitate and ensure natural conservation;
promote national food security; and
contribute to a better quality of life.
None of the 11 Institutes are based in KZN, but research work is carried out in the province.
The overall paradigm here is thus still one of technology transfer, albeit with a vision for greater involvement and
participation of farmers.The ISCW promotes sustainable use and management of the agricultural natural
resources through research, technology development and technology transfer.One of the focus areas, Soil
Health and Remediation concentrates on applying an understanding of the soil system including the physical,
chemical and biological processes to sustainable yet productive agricultural systems. The applied research
focuses on issues suchas CA, water harvesting, carbon management, green manure, sustainable wetland
utilization and degradation (erosion) monitoring. Cutting-edge approaches to research methodology are
used such as Participatory Action Research.
The Water Research Commission (WRC) is based in Pretoria. It boasts an impressive array of research focus
areas and many publications and hasincluded thedevelopmentand useof many different participatory
research processes along with also doing highly technical and scientific work.Research teams are drawn
from the Universities, Research Institutes andgovernment by in large. Of latea fewNGO basepersonnel
have also been included.
Some examples of recent publications include:
1. Denison J, Manona S(2007) Principles, approaches and guidelines for participatory revitalisation of
smallholder irrigation schemes,volume 1a rough guide for irrigation development practitioners. Research
Report No TT 308/07. Water Research Commission, Pretoria
2. Du Plessis FJ, van Averbeke W, van der Stoep I (2002) Micro-irrigation for smallholders: guidelines for funders,
planners, designers and support staff in South Africa. Research Report No TT 164/01. Water Research
Commission, Pretoria
3. Schoeman G, Magongoa B (2004) Community identified performance indicators for measuring water services.
Research Report No. TT 228/04. Water Research Commission, Pretoria
4.Denison J; Smulders H; Kruger E; Ndingi H; Botha M. (2010) Water Harvesting and Conservation Volume 2
Part 3: Facilitation Manual. Research report no TT 495/11. Pretoria
5. Du Toit D;Pollard S. (2010). Public participation inthe drafting of catchment management strategies made
simple. WRC report No TT 455-10. Pretoria
6. Lotz-sisitka H; Burt J. 2006.A critical review of participatory practise in integrated water resources
management. WRC report no. 1434/1/06
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7. Stimie, CM; Kruger, E; De Lange, M; Crosby, CT. (2010) Agricultural water Us in Homestead gardening Sytems
for facilitators and food gardeners; main Report> Volume 1. Research Report No.TT 430/09. Pretoria
Tshintsha Amakhaya
Tshintsha Amakhaya (TA) is an action learning platform of civil society organizations (10 throughout SA inlc for
example AFRA, TCOE,FSG, SCLC etc) that supports local community struggles in land and agrarian reform.
Through action research, campaigns, and building active citizenry, Tshintsha Amakhaya seeks to enhance
rural people’s capacityto secure and realize their livelihoods and rights, and to promote alternative models
of land tenure and agricultural production for household food security and national food sovereignty.
Through action research the TA partners involving CSOs and their constituencies generate an agenda for
joint action, movement building, and lobbying & advocacy.
The collaborative process in TshintshaAmakhaya involves three iterative stages of action learning: starting with
phase 1 Baseline research to understand rural realities, followed by phase 2 Implementation and advocacy of
alternative forms and arrangements for land andagrarian transformation; and concluded with phase 3
Reflection on impact.
The aim of the study was to identify priorities for joint action on land access and agricultural production amongst
constituent communities. For this purpose, the survey zoomed in on access to land, income, food
consumption, livestock keeping, crop farmingaccess to water,agricultural support, farm worker conditions,
evictions and levels of organisation.
“the Agrarian Household economy –a publication from large baseline study(1743 householdsacorssfive
provinces) recommends:This publication argues that while governmentand private sector resources are
going into building a Black commercial smallholder sector to feed into formal agri-food value chains, this is
likely to benefit only a small minority of producers. Instead government should focus on improving
agricultural production for household use and sales to local markets by learning from and strengthening local
distribution systems.Support also requires welfare interventions for households that are often oralways
hungry. The rural poor need improved access to grazing land, better livestock management and fodder
production, intermediate processing and storage technologies, and participatory systems for sharing
knowledge and learning. Governmentshould also tackle the basic conditions ofemployment in rural areas,
particularly farm dwellers. - See more at: http://www.plaas.org.za/bibliography/rural-households-
Farmer Support Group
Farmer SupportGroup (FSG) is a research,community developmentand outreach unit within theSchool of
Agricultural Earthand Environmental Sciences (SAEES) at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. FSG places
emphasis on addressing the needs of resource-poor farmers, other land users and development
practitioners in sustainable agriculture,food security, natural resource management, institutional
development and entrepreneurship. The unit is recognized internationally for its expertise in community
participatory approaches, (such as PID) appropriate technology and indigenous knowledge creation. In this
capacity, it facilitates networking and capacity-building, sustainable land management and improvement of
the livelihoods of smallholder farmers. FSG’s projects focus onissues offood security, innovation, natural
resource management, and entrepreneurship development (business and marketing).
PID advocates for the building on and scaling up of farmer-based development. It starts by discovering how
farmers experiment on their own to develop and test new ideas. Understanding local innovation transforms
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how research and extension agents view local people. This experience stimulates interest in joint action and
analysis leading to mutual learning. Local ideas are further developed in a participatory process that
integrates IK and scientific knowledge (Mudhara M. , 2010)
Training and skills development come up in Agriculture and the development context almost continually.There
is however an understanding that ‘training’ should have an immediate impact on creation of ‘jobs’ and the
‘business of agriculture’ –meaning that training is ‘judged’ more in terms of access to Agricultural resources
than in terms of learning outcomes and impacts. The following comment in a recent report is indicative
There was a big gap in terms of practical knowledge and skills in most providers of agricultural education and
training. This gap was mostly related to the fact that the majority of clients did not have adequate access to
resources to sustain agricultural development. (Ngcobo & Dadla, 2014)
The extension service or system in the province is faced with major problems, such as lack of commitment and
little motivation from the staff. Educators at high schools also raised these problems. They also highlighted
the fact that agriculture was not recognized as a major science subject by the Department ofEducation.
Furthermore,there are no explicit policies and institutional arrangements to address agricultural education
and training in a holistic way
There is some level of very literal understanding of roles and functions and continued complete separation of
research ,extension and farmers. There is still a strong tacit understanding of knowledge creation by ‘others’
to beprovided ‘appropriately’ to farmers sothat they can ‘graduate’ toa more commercial level. The
following statement indicates:
‘Furthermore, the respective institutions designed their course programmes with little to no participation by and
consultation with the targeted clients and other role players. This approach had a negative impact when the
clients ventured into areas outside theinstitutions. In casesof students, it is difficult for them to adaptin
practical situations (reallife experience) because mostinstitutions of higher learning concentrate more on
theoretical aspects than on practical aspects(Ngcobo & Dadla, 2014)
Kzndae: Directorate Research and Technology Development
The Directorate: Research and Technology Development performs one of the line functions of the KwaZulu-Natal
Department of Agriculture and Environmental Affairs within the vision and mission of the Department.
The outputs in terms of researchand technology development and transfer (Key Responsibility Areas) of the
Directorate are performed by the following Sub-Directorates:
Crop Production with Divisions Agronomy, Horticulture and Crop Protection
Farming Systems Research
Analytical Services
Animal Science Services
Grass & Forage Science Services
KZN Agricultural Farms
oInland Farms (Cedara, Dundee(Varied, including Maize cultivar trials spacing in min till systems, grain
legume trials and demos) & Kokstad)
oCoastal Farms (Owen Sithole College of Agriculture, Bartlow Combine (Nguni) & Makhathini (cotton))
Juncao Mushrooms
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The research and demonstration trials are conducted on six Research Stations, as well as on-farm in various rural
communal areas. The customers ofresearch are farmers,extension officers, agrochemical firms and home-
gardeners, NGOs, universities, the ARC, companies and organized agriculture.http://www.kzndae.gov.za/en-
za/agriculture/researchandtechnologydevelopment.aspx. Accessed 7 March 2014)
KZNDAE: Farming Systems Research
The Farming Systems Research (FSR)Section assesses the farming systems practiced bysmall-scale farmers and
the constraints which apply to these systems. The Section then has the responsibility of conducting research
so as to effect improvements to these systems, with the ultimate goal being of enhancing food security and
the profitability of farming operations. The research conducted is demand-driven and carried out within
communities, with farmers involved in the planning and management of the trials. The strength of the
Section is based on in its bottom-up, rather thantop-down approach. The Section works in close co-
operation with Extension personnel, Veterinary Services staff, on-station researchers and the private sector.
Their terminology differs slightly different from the rest in being more responsive to farmers within the same
overall framework. They talk about demand driven on farm trials, do diagnostic surveys and emphasise that
research-extension-farmer linkages are vital for successful technology development and transfer