Métodos participativos para la inclusión de los pequeños productores rurales en la innovación agropecuaria: Experiencias y alcances en la región andina 2007-2010 [Participatory methods for the inclusion of smallholding farmers in agricultural innovation: Experiences and achievements in the Andean region 2007-2010]


The Andean countries share the need to improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers, many of whom are indigenous peoples, while promoting sustainable agriculture and natural resource management in major agro-ecological zones: the high Andes, the Amazonian lowlands and the inter-Andean valleys, where smallholders are marginalized by the State and the market. These regional similarities allow south-south learning on policy for innovation in agriculture to favour low-income farmers. Poor farmers’ low adoption of technical innovations in agriculture has catalysed an international effort to restructure National Agricultural Innovation Systems (NAIS) to provide a market for pro-poor research and development. Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru and Colombia have made important innovations in establishing national, demand-led agricultural R&D systems and to varying degrees have been incorporating novel participatory approaches. There is a rich and diverse experience introducing participatory approaches in the four NAIS, with varying success in institutionalization, but there is still no coherent picture of how the methods were adapted, the capacity building, institutional policy change and impact on farmer innovation.

In 2007 the Andean Change Alliance started as a four year program, supported by the UK Department for International Development (DFID), to help improve the livelihoods of poor communities by enhancing their participation in innovation. Andean Change is a collaborative regional program coordinated by two centres of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR): the Tropical Agricultural Research Centre (CIAT) and the International Potato Centre (CIP), in Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru with three objectives: to improve the capacity of national agricultural research systems to identify and respond to the demands of poor farmers for agricultural innovation; to promote knowledge sharing with participatory methods in the Andean region; and to influence policy related to participatory methods.

The Alliance compiled an inventory of more than 81 participatory methods (www.cambioandino.org) including three types that: link low income farmers to markets; enhance social control over development projects; and stimulate the participation of poor farmers in research. Of the 81 methods, six were chosen for wider dissemination for being well documented and metting a clear demand.These were:• Empowerment of Smallholder Farmers (Empoderamiento de los Pequeños Productores Rurales, EPPR) • Participatory Monitoring and Evaluation (Seguimiento y Evaluación Participativa, SEP) • Participatory Market Chain Approach (Enfoque Participativo de Cadenas Productivas, EPCP) • Organizational Development for Innovation (Desarrollo Organizativo para la Innovación, DOI) • Participatory Evaluation of Technology (Evaluación Participativa de Tecnologías, EPT) • Participatory Varietal Selection with Mother and Baby Trials (Selección Participativa de Variedades con Pruebas Mamá y Bebé, MyB)

The Andean Change Alliance supported 20 cases to promote evaluate and improve these six methods. Twelve of these cases are described in this volume grouped by methods. Each method includes a protocol, and an impact pathway showing how the final outcomes are reached. The methods helped very poor farmers take more responsibility for their development.

The methods go to the heart of what Amartya Sen (1999) called “Development as Freedom” meaning that development creates the opportunity and power to accomplish valued goals that go beyond pure economic growth which is useful only for what it makes us free to do. For example, the EPCP not only linked smallholders to markets; it let the farmers communicate, negotiate and innovate with others in the value chain.

Participatory monitoring and evaluation (SEP) allowed the poor to demand more responsibility from projects and local government. Participatory research methods like EPT and Mother and Baby gave smallholders a way to evaluate new technology, communicate their preferences and make adjustments, thus demanding more responsive technical innovation.

Andean Change tested its hypotheses about how the methods lead to outcomes and impact with rigorous qualitative and quantitative impact assessments, providing empirical support for policies to reform national agricultural innovation systems. Critics say that participatory methods may work on a small scale for NGOs, but are too labour-intensive, site-specific, costly and unreliable to be replicated reliably. Andean Change has shown that with expert training, participatory methods do produce consistent results across a diverse range of projects without great additional costs. Many agencies adopted the methods promoted because they met farmers’ demands.

It was concluded that more effort is needed to make a case for formally incorporating participatory methods into research and extension systems. Andean Change showed that practical demonstration of these methods and a rigorous impact assessment are key for political advocacy. Use of the methods alone does not generate the institutional change needed to overcome political obstacles and vested interests. Organizations must institutionalize participatory methods if national innovation systems are to work better for the poor.


Thiele, G.; Quirós, C.A.; Ashby, J.; Hareau, G.; Rotondo, E.; López, G.; Paz Ybarnegaray, R.; Oros, R.; Arévalo, D.; Bentley, J. Métodos participativos para la inclusión de los pequeños productores rurales en la innovación agropecuaria: Experiencias y alcances en la región andina [Participatory methods for the inclusion of smallholding farmers in agricultural innovation: Experiences and achievements in the Andean region 2007-2010]. Centro Internacional de la Papa (CIP), Lima, Peru (2011) 197 pp. [In Spanish] [DOI: 10.4160/978-92-9060-416-7]

Published 1 January 2011