Food security is an urgent international priority. However, agricultural extension methods that relied on imposing centrally-developed technological solutions have been ineffective, since small farmers in developing countries often cultivate marginal lands, working under constraints for which these solutions were not designed. Since 2006, a flexible agricultural extension approach has been implemented in Northern Tanzania, inspired by the Farmer Field School approach, and offering farmers a ‘basket of technology options’ from which farmers can pick and choose what serves their needs and resources best. The focus is on extending improved low-cost farming techniques adaptable to local conditions in a pragmatic and flexible process. The interventions are locally known as ‘RIPAT’, and they have received financial and technical support from the Rockwool Foundation. Farmers’ Choice outlines the RIPAT intervention, and examines how effective it has been. This evaluation should be read by all those interested in improving the food security and incomes of poor farmers in the Global South: agricultural scientists, anthropologists, staff of NGOs, researchers and students of development studies.
“On the basis of the evaluation results, I conclude that the RIPAT approach has been very effective in reducing the gap between available knowledge and technology and that used by small farmers in project areas, with significant positive spillovers to adjacent areas. RIPAT offers great promise as a tool to reduce this gap in other areas both within and outside Tanzania and I encourage governments to adopt the basic RIPAT concept, paying attention to the importance demonstrated by RIPAT, to provide context-specific options to farmers for their consideration and choice rather than the more traditional extension service with one-way communication, top-down technology solutions, ignorance of adoption constraints facing farmers, and a high failure rate. It is not a coincidence that the title of the book is “Farmers’ Choice” and not “Farmer Compliance”.
Professor Per Pinstrup-Andersen, Cornell University, USA
‘An innovative contribution for evaluating one of the most critical and strategic issues for smallholder agricultural development in Tanzania.’
Professor Kjell Havnevik, Nordic Africa Institute, Sweden