Learning Through Participatory Action Research and Organizing to Craft Stakeholder Partnerships for Urban Agricultural Development in The Gambia
Democratic decision-making inclusive of all possible stakeholders in defining issues, goals, agendas, and implementation of programs is perhaps the key to promoting sustainable agricultural development in Sub-Saharan Africa. In The Gambia, as elsewhere in the developing world, farmers singularly have been, for far too long, assigned a nominal role, largely as passive recipients, in the higher order processes of decision-making for national agricultural policies and practices. Yet the creation of responsive innovations that could contribute to a reversal of the persistent low productivity of agriculture in most of Africa just might be contingent upon farmers having greater influence and voice in the planning and implementation of development interventions. The traditional hierarchical relationship among farmers, central governments, international aid agencies, and agricultural researchers and extensionists should be replaced by a more democratic practice in which stakeholders engage in genuine partnership relationships based on the principles of mutual accountability, respect, trust, and power sharing, and in which individual knowledge and expertise are valued. This dissertation recounts a participatory action research project I initiated in The Gambia to understand and advance democratic partnerships among private and public stakeholders involved in urban agriculture in the Greater Banjul region of The Gambia. As action research, it was conducted in partnership with a community of inquirers consisting of farmers, researchers, extensionist, central government policymakers, and international aid agencies. The approach also blended direct action organizing of farmers to strengthen organizational and entrepreneurial capacities. In this dissertation I make the case that absent this foundational phase, farmers cannot develop the agency required for them to function as genuine partners in agricultural development processes. The inquiry catalyzed the emergence of a culture of farmer-led organizations in the urban agriculture sector of The Gambia. I had multiple roles in this study. The role of chronicler of the research process is the most important to completing this dissertation. This work represents a collective experience, recounted through the many voices of the research partners and participants.
Participatory Action Research; Educational Organizing; Partnerships; Urban Agriculture; Agricultural Development
dissertation or thesis