IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Considering change: Evaluating four years of participatory experimentation with farmers in Tigray (Ethiopia) highlighting both functional and human–social aspects


  • Kraaijvanger, Richard
  • Veldkamp, Tom
  • Almekinders, Conny


Participatory approaches are advocated as being more effective in supporting rural development processes than traditional top-down extension approaches. Participatory experimentation involving both farmers and researchers is often expected to result in processes of experiential learning. Assuming that such learning leads to change in farmers' views and practices, we wanted to identify these changes. For that purpose we applied an analytical framework that included three dimensions (process, outcomes, impact) and functional as well as human–social aspects. We involved farmers in group-based participatory experimentation for four years with minimum external intervention, aiming for maximum control of the experiments by the farmers themselves. In total 16 groups of farmers divided over four locations participated. Data were derived from interviews and observations. In general participants considered their participation worthwhile and mostly valued learning-aspects. Farmers indicated that they acquired new knowledge and became confident with respect to specific agricultural practices such as fertilizer application. They also felt more confident in conducting systematic experimentation. This confidence is supported by our observation that they managed to achieve positive yield responses, over 50% in most cases. Participating farmers responded significantly differently after the four years of experimentation compared to a control group of local farmers. After the four years they would: (1) involve non-family more in their discussions about farm management; (2) address officials more easily to solve neighbourhood problems; and (3) be more specific in their ambitions to learn about agriculture. Participants perceived significantly more (positive) change towards productivity and poverty reduction compared to the control group. In contrast to our initial expectations, all groups continued their involvement in the experiments for four years and indicated the ambition to continue on their own. Of a set of factors that might influence involvement of farmers, only benefits in the form of good responses were overall important. All other factors were highly variable among the groups. We concluded that change was achieved with respect to functional and human–social aspects, which are both essential components of agricultural systems and affect their transformation. In designing processes of participatory experimentation it is, therefore, important to take such non-uniform sets of impact factors into careful consideration. Given the diversity of groups and the context in which they operate, blue-print approaches are not likely to be effective due to insufficient incorporation of local group variability.

Suggested Citation

  • Kraaijvanger, Richard & Veldkamp, Tom & Almekinders, Conny, 2016. "Considering change: Evaluating four years of participatory experimentation with farmers in Tigray (Ethiopia) highlighting both functional and human–social aspects," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 147(C), pages 38-50.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:agisys:v:147:y:2016:i:c:p:38-50
    DOI: 10.1016/j.agsy.2016.05.001

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Blackstock, K.L. & Kelly, G.J. & Horsey, B.L., 2007. "Developing and applying a framework to evaluate participatory research for sustainability," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 60(4), pages 726-742, February.
    2. Hall, Andy & Mytelka, Lynn & Oyelaran-Oyeyinka, Banji, 2006. "Concepts and guidelines for diagnostic assessments of agricultural innovation capacity," MERIT Working Papers 017, United Nations University - Maastricht Economic and Social Research Institute on Innovation and Technology (MERIT).
    3. Volker Hoffmann & Kirsten Probst & Anja Christinck, 2007. "Farmers and researchers: How can collaborative advantages be created in participatory research and technology development?," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 24(3), pages 355-368, September.
    4. Laurens Klerkx & Andy Hall & Cees Leeuwis, 2009. "Strengthening agricultural innovation capacity: are innovation brokers the answer?," International Journal of Agricultural Resources, Governance and Ecology, Inderscience Enterprises Ltd, vol. 8(5/6), pages 409-438.
    5. Giller, K.E. & Tittonell, P. & Rufino, M.C. & van Wijk, M.T. & Zingore, S. & Mapfumo, P. & Adjei-Nsiah, S. & Herrero, M. & Chikowo, R. & Corbeels, M. & Rowe, E.C. & Baijukya, F. & Mwijage, A. & Smith,, 2011. "Communicating complexity: Integrated assessment of trade-offs concerning soil fertility management within African farming systems to support innovation and development," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 104(2), pages 191-203, February.
    6. Linda Mayoux & Robert Chambers, 2005. "Reversing the paradigm: quantification, participatory methods and pro-poor impact assessment," Journal of International Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 17(2), pages 271-298.
    7. Cornish, Peter S. & Choudhury, Avijit & Kumar, Ashok & Das, Sudipta & Kumbakhar, Kuntalika & Norrish, Shane & Kumar, Shivendra, 2015. "Improving crop production for food security and improved livelihoods on the East India Plateau II. Crop options, alternative cropping systems and capacity building," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 137(C), pages 180-190.
    8. Douthwaite, Boru & Kuby, Thomas & van de Fliert, Elske & Schulz, Steffen, 2003. "Impact pathway evaluation: an approach for achieving and attributing impact in complex systems," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 78(2), pages 243-265, November.
    9. Andreas Neef & Dieter Neubert, 2011. "Stakeholder participation in agricultural research projects: a conceptual framework for reflection and decision-making," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 28(2), pages 179-194, June.
    10. Martin, Adrienne & Sherington, John, 1997. "Participatory research methods--Implementation, effectiveness and institutional context," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 55(2), pages 195-216, October.
    11. Jeffery Bentley, 1994. "Facts, fantasies, and failures of farmer participatory research," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 11(2), pages 140-150, March.
    12. Dianne Rocheleau, 1994. "Participatory research and the race to save the planet: Questions, critique, and lessons from the field," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 11(2), pages 4-25, March.
    13. Pretty, Jules N., 1995. "Participatory learning for sustainable agriculture," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 23(8), pages 1247-1263, August.
    14. Kaufman, Sanda & Ozawa, Connie P. & Shmueli, Deborah F., 2014. "Evaluating participatory decision processes: Which methods inform reflective practice?," Evaluation and Program Planning, Elsevier, vol. 42(C), pages 11-20.
    15. Bebbington, Anthony, 1999. "Capitals and Capabilities: A Framework for Analyzing Peasant Viability, Rural Livelihoods and Poverty," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 27(12), pages 2021-2044, December.
    16. Sumberg, James & Okali, Christine & Reece, David, 2003. "Agricultural research in the face of diversity, local knowledge and the participation imperative: theoretical considerations," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 76(2), pages 739-753, May.
    17. van Rijn, Fédes & Bulte, Erwin & Adekunle, Adewale, 2012. "Social capital and agricultural innovation in Sub-Saharan Africa," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 108(C), pages 112-122.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. repec:eee:agisys:v:164:y:2018:i:c:p:122-132 is not listed on IDEAS


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:agisys:v:147:y:2016:i:c:p:38-50. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Dana Niculescu). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.