Development Pathways | EXPLOREit @ ICRISAT /sites/all/themes/icrisat
Development Pathways
Ethiopian farmer Temengnush Dhabi showing her income-generating chickpea harvest.

How do we address the many development issues affecting smallholder farmers in the semi-arid tropics? Defining development pathways is a participatory and dynamic process, from analyzing the situation with the farmers and various development stakeholders to drawing up and implementing development actions to get the right impact for smallholders.

1 out of 3 Poor live in the drylands

850 million - People undernourished or nearly 15 % of the global population

About 1 out of 5 - Children under five in the developing world is underweight

1 out of 7- People in the world are threatened by further desertification


Semi-Arid Tropic (SAT) regions host the majority of the poor and vulnerable population, relying mostly on agricultural activities and facing many social, economic and environmental challenges.Development is about improving people's lives through increasing incomes and food security, reducing malnutrition, building individual skills, ensuring better access to social services and preserving the local environment. What has to happen for ICRISAT's agricultural research to initiate development in the semi-arid tropics? This is the purpose of defining the appropriate development pathway together with farmers and research and development partners.

Understanding the development issues and drivers of change: a holistic and participatory process

The starting point is to understand what development challenges the farming community is facing and what the drivers of development could be so that creative and context-specific solutions can be designed at household and community level.This analysis has to be participatory, starting with the farmers but also other actors of rural development. ICRISAT involves farmers at different stages of the research, such as Farmer Participatory Variety Selection

A thorough stakeholder analysis, mapping social networks and identifying social learning processes, will help reveal how change is driven within a community or a value chain.

Defining a theory of change is context-specific and should be drafted in a long-term perspective to understand the dynamics of farming systems and household economics over time. Village Level Studies  [eg Aurepalle Village at a glance] is one efficient way to understand rural farming systems over a period of 35 years and identify poverty escape pathways.

Holistic model for agricultural research for development

Various factors can spark development, for instance:

  • Adoption of technology (eg improved sorghum seeds);
  • Market;
  • Better knowledge;
  • Institutions like access to better financing [eg Self-Help Group and Bank Linkages in India];  land rights; welfare schemes to improve resilience, an important dimension for SAT farmers;
  • Collective action to better manage natural resources, eg improving water conservation
  • Better nutrition for children and women as this impacts human development

Development pathways are not the same for everyone. Each farming household has different income objectives, consumption patterns and faces different constraints explaining the choices they make in ways of farming. For instance we define different pathways for subsistence farmers and for market-oriented farms.  Gender and other social dimensions have to be considered to make sure the intervention is helping the most vulnerable (inclusiveness).

There are different levels of intervention. From farm household level to community and catchment area, to country level [policies and institutions for scaling up].

Defining the right pathway and implementing it: innovation, adoption and partnerships

Once the issues and opportunities are mapped out and discussed with farmers and other stakeholders, the development pathway is defined through a logical framework. This explains the sequence from proposed development activities and their expected outputs, to development intermediary outcomes and overall goals the project/policy is aiming at.

For example, the CGIAR Research Programme on Dryland Cereals has defined various research targets to improve research efficiency (eg better availability of genetic resources for national research institutes in Sub Saharan Africa and South Asia), and tackle farming constraints (eg managing drought) and institutional constraints (eg seed supply systems). The research outcomes (such as quicker development of improved varieties) will lead to development outcomes (such as  farmers adopting high yielding and stress tolerant varieties) through strategic partnerships with development organisations.  

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Development pathway for CGIAR Research Programme on Dryland Cereals: from research outputs to development impacts(p29 CRP document)

Listing activities and stakeholders is not enough. A development pathway conceptualizes the necessary demand-supply relationships (the arrows) between farmers, research and development partners to enable innovation and adoption.

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Research and development actors in a demand-driven innovation platform for CGIAR Research Programme on Grain Legumes (source : CRP document p 69)

Assessment, evolution and dynamics of development
Adoption of improved technologies or behavioral change requires well-thought out approaches. Innovation platforms facilitate voluntary participation of actors along the value chain, and improve knowledge-sharing and adoption among them. Bhoochetana's farm facilitator extension scheme helped reached out to over 3 million farmers, to improve their soil fertility management and boost their yields. A development pathway is a dynamic concept, which requires regular monitoring and evaluation to ensure we get the right impact on the ground and for everyone. For instance, shifting from subsistence farming to market-oriented farming may have consequences for the resilience of farmers to future economic shocks. Poverty dynamics studies may reveal inequalities along the development process.Also some issues may disappear, new ones may emerge. It is important to stay tuned on prospective threats/challenges, such as climate change, urbanization, increasing water scarcity and land grabbing. 

Social village mapping (Dokur village, Andhra Pradesh India).
Farmer participatory research in Mali.
Kenyan woman farmer started growing drought-resistant pigeonpea thanks to small seed packets.