Farmer-led research webinar hosted by U of Guelph, Canada

   Farmer-researcher Angie Koch, EFAO (Photo: Stills Motion Content)

On 12 March 2021, students of the School of Environmental Design and Rural Development of the University of Guelph in the province of Ontario, Canada, organised a webinar on “Farmer-led research in the resilience of rural communities”. The webinar examined farmer-led research (FLR) from the perspectives of farmers in the Global North and South.

Angie Koch, a farmer researcher with the Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario (EFAO), made a keynote presentation on her experiences in FLR. She stressed how important it is in her research to follow her own curiosity and seek answers to her own questions for her farm. She enjoys learning from other farmer-researchers' methods and results as much as she appreciates the opportunity to share her own.

Andrew Mushita, from the Community Technology Development Organisation of Zimbabwe, brought perspectives of FLR with small-scale farmers in Africa, focusing on participatory plant breeding and varietal selection.

Chesha Wettasinha from Prolinnova’s International Support Team was among the three panellists – including also Gloria Otieno from Bioversity International/CIAT in Uganda and Walter Entz from the University of Manitoba – who shared their experiences in FLR, benefits and challenges, and ways of scaling it up. Chesha emphasised that recognising farmers' own innovation serves as a perfect entry point to FLR that combines the knowledge of farmers with that of other agricultural research and development stakeholders. She highlighted the importance of scaling up the process or approach of FLR and not primarily the products, i.e. the local innovations (which are, by definition, local). She also pointed to the need for decentralised and locally managed funds to support research led by small-scale family farmers not only in countries like Canada but also in the Global South.