These three papers deal with some of the methodological questions facing practitioners involved in farmer participatory research and development.
The first paper (92a) outlines the different expectations that those involved—researchers, farmers, donors and NGOs—have from the research process. Using practical field examples, it highlights projects that have successfully combined farmer-led and more formal research approaches. It analyses the factors influencing choices over methodology and approach, focusing on the need to find a means of experimentation that all major stakeholders can subscribe to. It emphasises how stakeholder relationships are mediated by various influences including organisational cultures, values, disciplinary perspectives and personal relationships. A successful outcome will often involve a compromise to satisfy the ideas and interests of all those involved in the research process.
The next two papers focus on data collection in farmer participatory research, specifically on the choice between quantitative and qualitative research methods. Paper 92b emphasises the importance of understanding the relationship between research objectives and the types of trials that will ensure these objectives are met. It outlines the advantages of well-planned and appropriate quantitative data collection, stressing that great efforts have often been expended on obtaining data that are not needed. The paper also emphasises the usefulness of statistical analysis and modelling in understanding variations in outcomes.
Paper 92c analyses the role of qualitative methods and their articulation with quantitative methods. It emphasises how the collection, interpretation and utilisation of information can be a powerful tool for strengthening the involvement and confidence of those involved in the research process. It outlines the complimentarity of qualitative and quantitative methods, particularly in complex natural resource management situations where a mixture of stakeholders, disciplines and often conflicting agendas are involved.