Farmer-centred approaches are applied to engage smallholder farmers in agricultural research and development with the purpose of identifying and scaling out context specific innovations. Understanding the underlying processes that influence the decision of smallholder farmers to scale-out innovations is, therefore, paramount to effective farmer-led research and development programmes. This study analysed how smallholder farmers in rural Malawi were involved in evaluating soil health management options as well as how they scaled-out the lessons from the learning plots to their main farms. Data were collected through observations and face-to-face interviews in 109 learning plots and 197 main fields managed by farmers who participated in interventions that applied farmer-centred approaches. The findings reveal that farmers’ capacity to engage in systematic experimentation depended on their knowledge of basic research principles and their social capital (bridging and bonding). Farmers observing and interacting in the learning plots formed different perceptions about the performance of the tested options. The variations in the perceptions were associated with biophysical (plot characteristics) and socioeconomic factors (time of planting). Likewise, variations were observed in the way farmers scaled-out the tested options. Whilst some farmers integrated many different options (>3), others applied few options in their main fields (<3). The majority of farmers adapted the options to suit their contexts. Farmers’ decision to scale-out options was associated with their perceived benefits of the options, gender, and wealth status. The study findings have implications for research and development programmes that use farmer-centred approaches to push for adoption of blanket recommendations.
The article was published in Sustainability. Read the original article here.