Building trust and innovation at the intersection of formal and informal science

Don Victor, Colomi, Bolivia Feb 2012 (1)

Don Victor from Colomi in Bolivia maintains 39 varieties of native potato (Photo: Paul Bordoni/PAR)

The development and signing a Free Prior and Informed Consent  (FPIC) agreement between farmers and scientists is an effective way to protect farmers’ rights, while also building trust and information to spur reciprocity and innovation.

Bridging formal and informal science can elicit strategies for adapting to climate change that are appropriate, affordable, and sustainable but everyone must be on an equal footing.

Any project needs to create a safe space for dialogue and communication, and start with a formal agreement that defines rights, protections, and the work to be done.  Creating and signing a jointly developed FPIC, represents a fundamental step towards equity and a more respectful way of operating.

Seeking an alliance between farmers and genebanks, an article published in the November 2013 issue of New Agriculturist  describes the results of a PAR project undertaken in collaboration with communities in Bolivia through PROINPA Foundation and in Malaysia through the Sarawak Institute of Agricultural Scientists (SIAS) and  that started with a collectively designed FPIC linking farmers and local genebanks. In both regions, indigenous farmers use and maintain a wide diversity of native and heirloom crop varieties to support food production throughout the year and ensure against crop failures. The aim of the collaboration was to improve the supply, exchange, and conservation of genetic resources, while also learning from traditional agrobiodiversity knowledge and management practices.

Findings from the study helped scientists rethink their assumptions regarding desired crop characteristics, seed exchange, and participatory methodologies. By fostering equity and communication among researchers and farmers, it helped generate technological solutions that work for the farmers, bolster farmer’s self-determination, and counteract the loss of native and heirloom varieties.

“As scientists, we need put ourselves in a condition to safeguard biocultural identity,  which is very precious, and make room for doing things differently to adapt to varying cultural mores” concludes Bordoni. “We have just begun to scratch the surface.”

Follow this link to read the article that appeared on New Agriculturist: Seeking an alliance between farmers and genebanks