Participatory research approaches - what have we learned? The experience of the DFID Renewable Natural Resources Research Strategy (RNRRS) Programme 1995-2005
The objective of this summary document is to highlight the experience of the RNRRS over the past 10 years with respect to the design and application of participatory research approaches. 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 (albeit of a limited sample of all the projects available) was undertaken to contribute to this on-going process by drawing on a decade of research project experiences in a range of sectors - forestry, fisheries, agriculture, livestock in farming and plant-breeding - implemented throughout the world under the DFID RNRRS. The results of the review lead to three conclusions about the future challenges which must be addressed to ensure that PR makes an effective and valuable contribution to natural resource management and development. First, it is important to build upon the success and experience of the last 10 years concerning the development and application of PR approaches. Second, it is important to identify and assess the options for developing new types of research projects and initiatives which link and integrate participatory research and development processes. Third, in order to do the above, it will be necessary to invest time and resources in building partnerships for undertaking these new forms of research activity, both in developed and in developing countries.