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Multiple Approaches to Enhance Communication Between Rice Farmers, Rural Service Providers and Scientists

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When does a pest become a major problem? We entomologists, pathologists and weed scientists dive into our literature database and with a few clicks of the mouse come up with references that add both credibility and weight to our statement. But how do farmers in developing countries perceive the importance of pests and how do they get someone to do something about it? Peasant farmers do not know everything. They often know nothing of causal agents of disease, of insect metamorphosis, of parasitoids or even of arthropod predators. Farmers know even less about diseases than they do about insect pests, followed by weeds. So how do we develop a common ground of understanding and stimulate learning to improve communication between actors? Adding a poverty aspect further complicates matters. The need for social inclusion becomes more stringent when developing and promoting pro-poor technologies and markets. But private businesses, scientists and governmental extension agents often have little or no experience in working with the poorest, and with women in particular. Illiteracy rates are higher among women and poorer people, their personal networks are less elaborate and transaction costs (which represent time and costs to access information, services, markets and technologies, negotiate contracts) are relatively higher compared to better-off farming families. High transaction costs not only affect the ability of the poor to access support, but also affect advisory services who want to target the poor. While no simple solutions exist, recent experiences in developing countries – including farmer field schools, Going Public, rural plant health clinics and the use of media – give pointers as to how communication between the various players in research and development (R&D) can be improved. These approaches are discussed and the potential of building synergies are explored. A new approach called 'zooming-in, zooming-out' which has special relevance for the development of learning support tools is introduced. Recognising the political culture in fund allocation, these new insights could contribute to better priority setting at various spatial and temporal scales, and to an increased focus on processes underpinning communication between R&D actors.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2008-12-01

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