University of Sussex
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Participatory crop improvement: the challenges of and opportunities for institutionalisation in the Indian public research sector

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posted on 2023-06-08, 17:16 authored by Harley A N Pope
This thesis considers Participatory Crop Improvement (PCI) methodologies and examines the reasons behind their continued contestation and limited mainstreaming in conventional modes of crop improvement research within National Agricultural Research Systems (NARS). In particular, it traces the experiences of a long-established research network with over 20 years of experience in developing and implementing PCI methods across South Asia, and specifically considers its engagement with the Indian NARS and associated state-level agricultural research systems. In order to address the issues surrounding PCI institutionalisation processes, a novel conceptual framework was derived from a synthesis of the literatures on Strategic Niche Management (SNM) and Learning-based Development Approaches (LBDA) to analyse the socio-technical processes and structures which constitute the PCI ‘niche’ and NARS ‘regime’. In examining the niche and regime according to their socio-technical characteristics, the framework provides explanatory power for understanding the nature of their interactions and the opportunities and barriers that exist with respect to the translation of lessons and ideas between niche and regime organisations. The research shows that in trying to institutionalise PCI methods and principles within NARS in the Indian context, PCI proponents have encountered a number of constraints related to the rigid and hierarchical structure of the regime organisations; the contractual mode of most conventional research, which inhibits collaboration with a wider group of stakeholders; and the time-limited nature of PCI projects themselves, which limits investment and hinders scaling up of the innovations. It also reveals that while the niche projects may be able to induce a ‘weak’ form of PCI institutionalisation within the Indian NARS by helping to alter their institutional culture to be more supportive of participatory plant breeding approaches and future collaboration with PCI researchers, a ‘strong’ form of PCI institutionalisation, in which NARS organisations adopt participatory methodologies to address all their crop improvement agenda, is likely to remain outside of the capacity of PCI development projects to deliver.


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University of Sussex

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