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Farmer-led innovation can help solve food security challenges

October 03, 2012

Since the 1960s, Nepal has registered 62 new high-yielding rice varieties. The method for developing new varieties has evolved in those years, to a method where farmers are now at the hub of the technological innovation process and work closely with scientists and policymakers.

This innovative approach was the subject of a recently published article by ASU researcher Netra Chhetri and colleagues. The work was reported in AgClim Letters, a science-policy bulletin distributed by CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS). CGIAR, the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, is a global partnership that unites organizations engaged in research for a food-secure and sustainable future.

“Can farmer-led crop breeding deal with the pace and uncertainty of climate change?” asks the internationally distributed bulletin. Chhetri and colleagues give a very positive response.

Sonya Vermeulen, Agclim Letters editor and head of research for CCAFS, explains that alliances – both within communities, with the Nepali government and with NGOs – are critical to this participatory plant breeding approach.  Chhetri and his co-authors argue that tacit knowledge in smallholder farming communities across the world can be harnessed to address the challenge of food security.

Their research shows that scientists from Nepal’s national agricultural research center, once skeptical about farmers’ involvement in participatory research, have now become more open to collaborating with farmers, community-based organizations and NGOs. The authors argue that this newly emerging institutional configuration – involving multiple stakeholders in the process of technological innovation – not only benefits science, but offers solutions to global challenges as well.

Netra Chhetri is an assistant professor in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning and the Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes, in ASU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. His co-authors are Pashupati Chaudhary of the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment, Bangalore, India (formerly of the University of Massachusetts Boston ), Puspa Raj Tiwari of Local Initiatives for Biodiversity, Research and Development (LI-BIRD), Nepal, and Ram Baran Yadaw of the National Rice Research Program, Nepal Agricultural Research Council, Nepal.  Their article, “Institutional and technological innovation: Understanding agricultural adaptation to climate change in Nepal” appears in Applied Geography, Volume 33, April 2012, pp. 142-150.

Article source: AgClim Letters, CGIAR CCAFS

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