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Searching for sustainable land use practices in Honduras: lessons from a programme of participatory research with hillside farmers

Research reports

Participatory Research in Central America (Investigación Participativa en Centroamerica, IPCA) is a project established by the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture, and coordinated through the University of Guelph, Canada, to support farmers in community-based agricultural research in the region. Local agricultural research committees, known by the Spanish acronym CIALs (comités de investigación agricola local), are found in eight Latin American countries at the present time. The IPCA project has been monitoring the development of CIALs in Honduras for the past five years. This paper presents the results of the evaluation to date and considers these in light of current debates around farmer participatory research.

The experience of IPCA shows that teaching formal research methods to poor hillside farmers is viable and has served to link farmers to formal-sector researchers in innovative technology development programmes that directly meet users’ needs. Farmers have not only benefited through access to new technologies, but they have also learnt new ways to manage their environments and have been empowered in the process. However, evaluation of the project has shown that unless research has relatively short-term payoffs, farmers are apt to lose interest. Thus, complex research – in particular research involving natural resource management – needs to be framed within the context of social programmes that can provide more immediate benefit to farmers. Technology-led development must be supported by other development initiatives that aim to build social capital as widely as possible across the community.

Sally Humphries, Juan Gonzales, Jose Jimenez and Fredy Sierra