Farmer first: the professional revolution
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Rapid change, past error, and the complex, diverse and risk-prone (CDR) farming systems of most smallholders combine to challenge normal agricultural professionalism and bureaucracy. The transfer-of-technology (TOT) mode which has served industrial and green revolution agriculture misfits CDR farming conditions. The challenge is to reverse biases and practices of normal professionalism, of top-down bureaucracy and of TOT. A farmer-first (FF) approach puts first the knowledge, priorities and analysis of farmers and herders, especially those who are resource-poor. It seeks to enable them to gain sustainable livelihoods, often by complicating and diversifying their farming and livelihood systems, and reducing their risks. Multiple purpose livestock, with their linkages with other elements in farming and livelihood systems, have a special part to play. Practical implications include decentralisation, participatory research, and changes in the behaviour and attitudes of outsiders. Three questions stand out: whose reality counts - ours, or theirs?; who gains and who loses?; and how can professionals change?