Innovation paths in developing country agriculture : true potato seed in India, Egypt and Indonesia.
The role of farmers in technology generation and diffusion has long been identified as
a key dimension in publicly funded international agricultural research. This thesis uses a case
study approach to document actual research and diffusion practices andlheir outcomes, and
from these it draws conclusions for research policy. The thesis compares the effects of new
technology, the research processes that generated it, and the diffusion processes that promoted
and disseminated it, in three countries. Particular attention is given to farmer participation
and related issues deemed critical to effective research and diffusion.
The technology in question is True Potato Seed, a radical alternative means for potato
propagation to tuber seed, researched and promoted by the International Potato Centre in
collaboration with national research institutes since 1978. The case study countries are India,
Egypt, and Indonesia. Extensive quantitative and qualitative farmer surveys provide the first
detailed assessment of TPS benefits, their distribntion, and likely TPS adoption. Secondary
data, documentation, and in-depth interviews with key actors permit an analysis of the
significant activities, decisions, and players that shaped TPS research and diffusion processes.
The farmer survey evidence indicates that TPS outcomes are problematic in each
country. It also reveals cases of inadequately justified TPS research and promotion largely
due to a poor awareness by scientists and research managers of farmers' conditions. This
thesis demonstrates that a powerful countervailing force to the pursuit of unproductive
research lies in the early and effective involvement of farmers in the research process. This
allows for critical weaknesses to come to light after experimentation by farmers under their
own conditions of production. The inevitable geographical and institutional decentralisation
that this entails, fosters a greater level of research responsiveness and an environment in
which alternatives to formal extension, including farmer dissemination networks, may be
stimulated and encouraged where appropriate. However, regardless of the rhetoric regarding
farmer participatory approaches at an organisational level, the extent to which these are borne
out in practice depends largely upon the philosophies of the key individuals who shape and
direct research and promotion processes.