Learning on participatory approaches: a synthesis of DFID's Renewable Natural Resources Research Strategy (RNRRS) programmes, 1995-2006


This report examines the experience of the RNRRS in participatory research. Although the range and type of participatory research (PR) has expanded greatly over the past 30 years, the defining characteristic remains that these techniques and approaches seek to involve relevant stakeholders (e.g. farmers, fishers, extension officers, policy-makers etc), in some way - for example, helping to define problems and issues for research, collaborating in data and information gathering and analysis, and/or applying the findings of the research. The international literature clearly shows that the world-wide experience of PR has generated much debate, analysis and subsequent refinement of these approaches. The current review was undertaken to contribute to this on-going process by drawing on more than a decade of research project experiences in a range of sectors - forestry, fisheries, agriculture, plantbreeding - implemented throughout the world under the DFID RNRRS.

The aim of participatory research is to involve the primary stakeholders or beneficiaries in the process of identifying problems, researching solutions, implementing change and evaluating the development process. The objective of such participation is to create 'ownership' of the development process so that research outputs are more appropriate to the beneficiaries and uptake will be more sustainable.

Although the RNRRS Programme was not established with a specific focus on participatory research, the subsequent evolution of the programme (different sectors worldwide) led to the initiation, development and application of a wide range of participatory research approaches. The results and outcomes provide a wealth of information and important lesson-learning to further inform and address the range of opportunities and constraints which were identified early-on in the history of participatory research.

The report finds that there are reasons why (full) participation might not be desirable and also main constraints to achieving the same. It also finds that a considerable wealth of information has been generated related to best practice and problem solving, yet much of this information remains difficult to access. The difficult relationship between research and development is explored and the report notes that new an innovative forms of research must be attempted if participatory research is to fulfil its mandate.


Fisheries Management Science Programme (FMSP), 25 pp.

Learning on participatory approaches: a synthesis of DFID’s Renewable Natural Resources Research Strategy (RNRRS) programmes, 1995-2006

Published 1 January 2006