Integrating participatory elements into conventional research projects: measuring the costs and benefits

Until recently, participatory and conventional approaches to agricultural research have been regarded as more or less antagonistic. This article presents evidence from three sub-projects of a Thai-Vietnamese-German collaborative research programme on 'Sustainable Land Use and Rural Development in Mountainous Regions of Southeast Asia', in which participatory elements were successfully integrated into conventional agricultural research as add-on activities. In all three sub-projects the costs of studying local knowledge or enhancing farmers' experimentation consisted of additional local personnel, opportunity costs of participating farmers' time, and travel costs. However, these participatory elements of the research projects constituted only a small fraction of the total costs. It may be concluded that conventional agricultural research can be complemented by participatory components in a cost-effective way, while producing meaningful benefits in terms of creating synergies by blending scientific and local knowledge, scaling up micro-level data, and highlighting farmers' constraints affecting technology adoption. pp 576-589