Agricultural research for resource-poor farmers: the farmer-first-and-last model
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Rural poverty is much less a problem of total food availability than of who produces the food and who has the income to buy it. A high priority is therefore to enable the tens of millions of resource-poor farm families to increase their production and improve its stability. The normal transfer-of- technology (TOT) model for agricultural research has built-in biases which favour resource-rich farmers whose conditions resemble those of research stations. TOT approaches have been modified through on-farm trials and demonstrations but the basic model and approach remain the same. A second emerging model is farmer-first-and-last (FFL). This starts and ends with the farm family and the farming system. It begins with holistic and interdisciplinary appraisal of farm families' resources, needs and problems, and continues with on-farm and with-farmer R and D, with scientists, experiment stations and laboratories in a consultancy and referral role. FFL fits the needs and opportunities of resource-poor farm families better than TOT, but there are obstacles to its development and introduction. These can be tackled step-by-step, through combinations of methodological innovation, interdisciplinarity, including the social sciences, and provision of suitable resources, rewards and training. FFL approaches promise a greater contribution from agricultural research to the eradication of rural poverty.