In this project in KwaZulu-Natal, we will pilot a model over two growing seasons that ensures smallholders and their communities become integral to decisions made about adopting GMOs. Giving voice to smallholders will be critical to the potential success of GMOs in feeding the world, to avoid the initial mistakes of the Green Revolution. Agricultural economists, rural sociologists, and a plant scientist will collaborate with the leading small farmer organization, Kwa-Zulu Natal Agricultural Union, and academics in Pretoria and Western Cape to integrate three participatory strategies used in agricultural development to consider GM crops. These approaches will underlie a broadly populated Community of Practice (CoP) that includes smallholders, their communities, scientists, and agribusiness and government representatives. The approaches, in a novel adaptation, are 1) participatory research involving on-farm demonstrations to create feedback loops for researchers and small producers; 2) a catalogue of “bright spots” and “dark spots” to examine factors of success and failure in adapting technology; and 3) multi-stakeholder “advocacy coalitions” to define policy alternatives, with the aim of applying locally derived information to influence GMO policy and research. Expected outcomes include changed knowledge and attitudes about GMO adoption among CoP members; an increased voice among small and commercial farmers in GMO-related decisions; and changes in institutional environments for biotech innovation that enhances food security and sustainable livelihoods. Enduring impacts include more balance between scientific knowledge and respect for indigenous perspectives in biotech decision-making; shared knowledge systems among small and commercial farmers, researchers, policymakers, and agribusinesses in GM crop adoption; and increased potential for adapting these knowledge systems to local conditions in developing nations through a proven Community of Practice process.
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