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Research Purpose and Aims

Project summary

This project explores the potential of agricultural technologies and best practices by improving extension-adoption, emphasising farmers’ perceptions and experiences, as expressed by poor, marginalised, and female-headed households. The overall strategy is to: understand farmer decision-making in the context of their lives; identify connections between needs and technologies; test extension-adoption using partnerships and demonstration sites; measure adoption; and then disseminate our findings to farmers, researchers, and agricultural development practitioners in North-west Cambodia and Southeast Asia. Successful demonstration of farmer-centred extension-adoption aligns with ACIAR’s efforts to work “with developing countries to use science and technology to find solutions to their local problems” that can be scaled-up for broader development.

A farmer’s decision to adopt an agricultural technology or practice involves many technical, local, financial, contextual, and personal factors. This means that efforts to encourage or support adoption must prioritise perceptions of problems and solutions, including how farmers imagine solutions might be implemented and the actors they believe are involved. Such problem-solution pathways (PSPs) emphasise the everyday influences that, ultimately, determine adoption.

This way of understanding farmer decision-making is especially important in North-west Cambodia, where the problems of ongoing poverty and marginalisation remain significant impediments to more sustainable development. Added to this context, following rapid expansion throughout the 2000s, the region is in the midst of a cassava boom and possible bust. In Battambang and Pailin, cassava is an incredibly important crop, providing this research with a case and context through which to analyse farmer decision-making.

The project outcomes are two-fold: in a direct ‘applied’ sense, we will enable and measure adoption of best practices by farmers in North-west Cambodia; in a more ‘academic’ sense, we will test an approach to behaviour change that could fundamentally alter partnerships between poor, marginalised, and female farmers with the individuals (i.e., researchers, NGO workers, donors, government representatives) who aim to improve their lives. Our proposed combination of farmer perceptions, elite perceptions, and demonstration farms informs an innovative analysis of adoption of agricultural technologies in North-west Cambodia.

Alongside our in-country partners, Prek Leap National School of Agriculture and NGO Partners for Rural Development (PRD), this research has analysed thirteen villages from Battambang (8) and Pailin (5) provinces, applying a proven mixed-methodology (ASEM/2014/009) that includes semi-structured interviews and focus groups. We analyse whether a PSP-based conceptualisation results in improved adoption of agricultural technologies or best practices, particularly amongst poor, marginalised, and female-headed households.

In Objective 1 we analyse farmers’ descriptions of their lives, their problems, and their desired solutions (i.e., farmer PSP); in Objective 2 we analyse those farmer PSPs using interviews with village leaders involved in the extension-adoption of agricultural technologies and best practices in Cambodia. In Objective 3 we apply findings from Objectives 1 and 2 to demonstration farms. Finally, in Objective 4, we undertook return engagements to measure farmer perceptions and feedback of the research findings.