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On behalf of the research team, I want to thank you for visiting this site. Here you will find information about an Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) funded project. The project began in April of 2017, and there will be a lot of preliminary information that we will be uploading as research findings begin to trickle in. The research team is keen to hear from interested parties, both researchers, NGOs, government agencies, and farmers.

Dr. Brian Cook

Project sign at demonstration farm.

 

About

The Context

This project aims to unlock the potential of agricultural technologies and best practices by improving extension-adoption through emphasis on farmers’ perceptions and experiences, as expressed by poor, marginalised, and female-headed households. The overall strategy is to: better understand farmer decision-making in the context of their lives; identify possible connections between farmer needs and available technologies; test different approaches to 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. In simple terms, this project analyses the intersection of agriculture and development, beginning with what farmers value and want.

The Problem

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 adoption must prioritise the farmer’s 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, 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. As of 2018, cassava in neighbouring countries and provinces are experiencing significant impacts from disease and pest, meaning that farmer decision-making is an especially important consideration at the moment.

Our Partners

Alongside our in-country partners, Prek Leap National School of Agriculture and NGO Partners for Rural Development (PRD), this research will analyse nine villages from Samlot (6) and Pailin (7) provinces, applying a mixed-methodology that combines quantitative surveys, semi-structured interviews, participant observations through home visits, and Delphi panel surveys. We will measure whether a PSP-based approach results in improved adoption of agricultural technologies or best practices, particularly amongst poor, marginalised, and female-headed households.

Structure of the Project (methodology)

In Objective 1 we will analyse farmers’ descriptions of their lives, their problems, and their desired solutions (i.e., farmer PSP); in Objective 2 we will analyse those farmer PSPs using experts involved in the extension-adoption of agricultural technologies and best practices in Cambodia. In Objective 3 we will apply findings from Objectives 1 and 2 to demonstration farms, first demonstrating cassava ‘best practices’, and in years 2-4 adding demonstration of the crops, practices, or transitions desired by farmers. Finally, in Objective 4 we will measure the impact of this PSP-based approach to adoption.

Harvest (Mao Vuth)

Objectives & Methodology

This project combines four methods (activities) in order to answer its research questions.

Objectives

Objective 1: Identify which factors shape the decision to adopt agricultural technologies amongst farmers in Battambang and Pailin provinces in the context of a rapid transition from maize/soybeans to cassava.

Activities (methods)
Quantitative Survey in all 13 villages, followed by home visits with farmers in each village, will establish the web of relations and processes, meanings, and representations that comprise the social worlds of farmers within the villages (~n=400 farmers). Home visits will help to expose the relationships that explain how knowledge of technologies circulates, the individuals who propose or advance technologies, and the peer pressures that contribute to decision making.

Participant observation in each of the 13 villages will enable ‘learning with’ as opposed to the ‘studying of’ others. In order to understand place and its role in shaping the decision to adopt technology, the research must understand the day-to-day experiences of farmers. Experiences are often ‘felt’ rather than ‘considered’, and so there is need for a method that follows farmers, experiencing their lives, concerns, and stresses in order to situate the decision to adopt technologies. Furthermore, there are aspects of life that cannot necessarily be explained – or captured by quantitative data – which are essential for understanding decision making; feelings of risk, of bias, of marginalisation, of exploitation, of hope, and of optimism cannot easily be put into words.
Semi-structured interviews as part of home visits will help the research team to focus on particular themes (from the literature, from experts, or from previous interviews) without constraining the range of possible answers. It is vital that this method be used because it opens the range of possible answers from farmers and those working on technologies in Cambodia.

Objective 2: Determine farmer-preferred PSPs and the role of agricultural technologies.

Activities (methods)
Same as for objective 1
Livelihood analysis aims to better account for the intangible skills, networks, and entitlements that individuals draw upon as part of their socio-economic activities.

Objective 3: Determine the feasibility of farmer-preferred PSPs, and identify the technologies that match those PSPs.

Activities (method)
Delphi panel surveys are “a method for structuring a group communication process so that the process is effective in allowing a group of individuals, as a whole, to deal with a complex problem”. It is used in cases where experts must negotiate and discuss competing interpretations of an issue or proposals. It is designed to enable discussion, critique, and, sometimes, consensus to form around a question or issue. It involves enrolling experts, conducting surveys, circulating individual and group views, and re-interrogating group opinion in order to ensure that the experts have considered a wide range of interpretations and considered a diverse range of alternatives. Broadly, the Delphi is about eliciting and deepening expert opinion in the service of analysing contentious issues that require mediation or debate 39.

Objective 4: Test whether an approach that uses farmer-preferred PSPs as its starting point results in increased and/or accelerated adoption of agricultural technologies.

Activities
Trial adoption program in 6 of the 13 villages based on the problems and factors identified, and the technologies suggested by experts as most feasible and potentially beneficial.
Synthesis of results for policy makers and international audiences.

Research Team

With the Governor of Pailin province.

Dr. Brian R. Cook

Project leader.

Dr. Robert Farquharson

Project economist.

Dr. Sarah Milne

Cambodian expert on cassava.

Dr. Vanessa Lamb

Social scientist in charge of village-scale analysis.

Dr. Lauren Rickards

Expert in farming decision making.

Dr. Stephanie Montgomery

Agricultural expert in charge of demonstration sites.

Mr. Sophanara Phan

Agricultural scientist

Mrs. Sokunthea Nou

NGO leader responsible for engagement with trial villages.

Ms. Manika Yim

NGO leader responsible for engagement with trial villages.

Mr Eric Wilson

Agricultural scientist.

Mr. Ourm Narap

NGO expert in Cambodian education