Community-Driven Science Paves the Way for Sustainable Development

A study that was recently that was published in Frontiers in Ecology encourages researchers to develop research in collaboration in close collaboration with communities within the local area. The researchers conclude that this method will meet the needs of local communities and aid in advancing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals forward.

“In a rapidly changing world, new ways to do ecological research are urgently needed that support local agencies and generate ecological management practices to specific conditions,” Sieglinde Snapp, co-author of the study, told Food Tank. Snapp is the Director of the Sustainable Agrifood Systems Program at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center.

Participatory Action Research (PAR) provides a model that connects communities most affected by research and involves them in generating knowledge. The methodology, according to the authors, “enhances a holistic understanding to derive systems solutions.”

In their study, researchers analyzed the last two decades of PAR focused on rural communities in central and northern Malawi. In total, the study involved hundreds of farmer networks and communities.

Participatory research is a way for communities in Malawi to assess the absence of biodiversity in farms, which causes low soil quality, dependence on fertilizers, and “insufficient dietary diversity.”

In the beginning, the researchers assisted farmers in diversifying their crops, introducing trees to improve soil fertility, and providing wood for burning. Every year researchers and farmers assess the effectiveness of their farms.

Through trial and trial and error, Farmers discovered new crop varieties that could improve soil health. However, they have yet to be widely employed in sustainable agricultural development. “The new options sparked innovations in management practice so as to enhance perennial features of these crops while maintaining food production,” the authors write.

In real-time, Researchers were able to adjust to ensure that farming techniques work for local farmers. Farmers reported that specific agroforestry methods required excessive labor, caused food shortages, and failed to generate enough income for farmers. Based on this feedback, the projects ended using farming techniques that were a mix of tree crops five years later.

The experimentation with new varieties of crops and farming techniques has resulted in many food products that are easily stored and sold. According to the authors, the results encourage local food security, nutrition security, and farmers’ livelihoods.

“Ecologists together alongside social researchers, are looking for a socially responsible and ecologically sustainable alternatives for sustainable farming practices. This is essential to achieving the SDGs,” the authors state. With PAR, they claim the possibility of meeting the needs of people and the world.

“When farmers and researchers co-learn, they can optimize multipurpose nutritional enriched options, enhance climate resilience, and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions,” Snapp says to Food Tank.

Ayudando Latinos A Sonar (ALAS) supports California farmers and the families of their workers by assisting them to cope with extreme weather events.


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